Monday, 30 April 2012

Two views of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme had an excellent segment on the recent conference, by Gavin Drake. Available as a podcast from this page. The segment starts about 4 minutes into the programme.

Here’s the BBC blurb:

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, meeting in London, say they’ll offer alternative spiritual leadership to dissaffected members of the Church of England. They also want an alternative to the Archbishop of Canterbury as chairman of the Anglican primates meeting. Is this a way of keeping the Anglican communion together or splitting it asunder?

Paul Bagshaw has written an analysis on his blog, at Reading the FoCA tea leaves. He concludes the article thus:

…Therefore there will be no schism in the sense of one organization separating itself out from another on a certain day, followed immediately by either or both bodies setting up new structures and legal identities.

Instead there will be a steady continued tearing of the fabric as distinct ecclesial units (parishes, dioceses and provinces as well as individuals) align themselves explicitly with the FoCA. The legalities will depend on the law of each country (property and pensions being governed by secular law) and on the ecclesiastical structure of each Church.

I anticipate that the FoCA churches will thrive, purposeful and enthusiastic for at least the medium-term foreseeable future. It will thus be self-legitimating.

On the other hand I guess the remaining churches will flounder for a while before accepting the reality that there will be no accommodation between the two Anglican entities. Then they too will revise their own relationships, structures and communications and will settle into the new geography of Anglicanism where, in most places, there will be one dominant Anglican Church and a minority owing allegiance to its mirror image.

I don’t think who is appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury will make much difference to this process - except, perhaps, to the timing.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 30 April 2012 at 7:11pm BST | Comments (112) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bishop Mark Lawrence & Bishop John Guernsey

From Titusonenine:

A Crucial Apr. 25 Presentation—Bishop Mark Lawrence, S. Carolina, and ACNA Bishop John Guernsey

The Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship invite you to an An evening with Bishop Mark Lawrence (TEC Bishop of South Carolina) and Bishop John Guernsey (ACNA Bishop of Mid-Atlantic) On 25th April 2012 at 8 pm At Holy Trinity Claygate, Church Road, Claygate, Surrey, KT10 0JP

We are delighted that Bishop Mark Lawrence, the Episcopal Church Bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina, and Bishop John Guernsey, the Anglican Church in North America Bishop for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, have agreed

  • to bring us up to date with developments amongst Anglicans in North America;
  • to tell us why some orthodox Anglicans have considered it appropriate to work within TEC whilst others have considered it appropriate to work within ACNA; and
  • to explain to us how people within the two organisations who hold similar views are generally able to continue to support each other in spreading the Gospel.

Kendall Harmon adds:

Please note this is is a long evening of some 1 hour and 40 minutes. During the introduction the following people are mentioned—it is opened by Philip Plyming, vicar of Holy Trinity, Claygate, and then chairman, Stephen Hofmeyr, QC. There is then a message from Bishop Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford given by the Ven. Julian Henderson, Archdeacon of Dorking. Both Mark Lawrence (who goes first) and John Guernsey then give presentations of some twenty minutes which takes you to approximately one hour. After that there are questions from those present to the two bishops about the matters at hand. Archdeacon Julian Henderson then offers brief concluding remarks.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 6:21pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 28 April 2012

More on the government's equal marriage proposals

Last week, the Church Times carried this article by Linda Peace: Treat them like other couples

AS A committed, Bible-believing Chris­tian, I am ashamed and ap­palled by the debate about gay marriage. My views are not those of my son, who is gay and who is now an atheist, but result from some ten years of reading, prayer, dis­cussion, and serious thought.

My son came out at the age of 20, having spent much of his previous ten years knowing that he was not growing up to feel attracted to girls, but to boys. I don’t think he even knew the word “gay” at the be­ginning of this process, but he knew that he was growing up differently.

I am now convinced that homo­sexuality is a developmental condition that is not amenable to change at any psychological level; it is not a matter of choice; and is something that has caused many boys and girls to live in shame and fear from their early teens onwards. I know that my son had no access to other gay people through his adolescence, and that it was only at university that he was able to talk this through with hetero­sexual friends, finally coming to the conclusion that he was gay.

We, the Church, over centuries have perpetrated a great wickedness on these children and developing adults, forcing many to live by deceit, in failed heterosexual marriages, and even in an inability to form rela­tionships because of their own private hell.

At least the gay-rights cam­paigners have had the courage to stand up and work on some sort of social change. It is a pity that the Church did not do this in the first place…

The Bishop of Norwich and his suffragans have written a letter about the consultation. See Pastoral letter on marriage to all clergy. It concludes:

…We believe it important to avoid ill-considered and bellicose reactions to the Government’s proposals and to think through how such reactions are heard by gay people themselves. It is surely to the benefit of the whole of our society if gay people live in faithful, stable and publicly recognised relationships. Indeed, some gay relationships are a model of faithfulness compared with the serial monogamy so prevalent among heterosexual people. Civil partnerships were introduced less than six years ago and seem to have won rapid acceptance in wider society. They are frequently referred to as ‘marriage’ but there is a significant distinction since the registration of a civil partnership is not accompanied by any formal promises as in marriage. The Government proposes retaining civil partnerships (but not extending them beyond same sex relationships) as well as introducing same sex marriage. The rapidity of these developments makes us wonder how well considered they are.

We are sympathetic to the full inclusion of gay people in our society and the provision of appropriate means to enable them to maintain stable and lasting relationships. We believe, however, that the redefinition of marriage itself in the law of the land raises other important issues about the nature of marriage itself. The way in which the Government is going about it appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage, a novelty liable to generate more problems than the present legislation will solve.

Elizabeth Fry wrote at the Independent that Same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church

…So we should take immense hope from the fact that some members of the Anglican church are taking the lead in embracing change for once. It seems the church is beginning to recognise that change is inevitable and that if they are to continue their good work they will have to accept the change, just as they have with contraception and divorce. Such a loud voice from such an unexpected place only emphasises how the attitudes of society towards this issue are changing…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 5:23pm BST | Comments (50) | TrackBack
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Anglican Covenant: final two diocesan synods

Updated with final diocesan synod vote (Newcastle)

This Saturday the final two English diocesan synods voted on the Anglican Covenant motion: Newcastle and York.

Newcastle: covenant rejected

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against
Clergy: 8 for / 18 against
Laity: 14 for / 15 against

York: covenant accepted

Bishops: 4 for / 0 against
Clergy: 26 for / 5 against
Laity: 38 for / 5 against / 1 abstention

The final tally of Church of England votes is that 26 diocesan synods voted against the covenant and 18 in favour.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 11:49am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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opinion

Huffington Post has two articles about a new translation of the Bible: ‘The Voice’: New Bible Translation Focuses On Dialogue by Bob Smietana and Taking ‘Jesus Christ’ Out of the Bible by Christian Piatt.

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian Can liberal Christians please stop banging on about gayness?

Also in The Guardian Andrew Brown writes about The persistence of superstition in an irreligious Britain.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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"Stay Together" says Bishop Greg Venables

The Church of Ireland Gazette has an audio interview this week with Bishop Greg Venables of Argentina.

The 22 minute interview can be heard via this page.

There is a major article based on this interview in this week’s Gazette, headlined Church of Ireland must stay together, Bishop Greg Venables tells Gazette. This is subscriber-only but here is an excerpt:

The Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, a leading theological conservative in global Anglicanism, told the Gazette last week that, should the General Synod adopt a liberal approach to the issue of same-sex relationships, those of a more conservative view should stand together but remain within the Church of Ireland, because their position was “the original Anglicanism – Prayer Book, Bible, original 39 Articles Anglicanism”.

Bishop Venables, who, along with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, was visiting Ireland to address a ‘First Things’ evangelical conference held last Saturday (21st April) at the Jethro Centre in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, was speaking to the Gazette editor before the conference.

Bishop Venables said in the interview that if the forthcoming General Synod, which it is widely expected will address the issue of same-sex relationships, were to take a less strict approach to the subject, then “those that don’t agree have to review their position and ask themselves how they are going to respond to that situation, but do it in a collegial, consultative, gracious, united way”.

However, he also stressed the need, in such circumstances, for dialogue with those of different views on the subject.

Bishop Venables said that, in the context of the current controversy in the Church of Ireland over samesex relationships, “there must be discipline, there must be consequences, and there must also be a way for things to be put right … That implies repentance, that implies recognizing that something is wrong and repenting of what is wrong and putting things right in that way.”

He also spoke about the need for the Church generally to focus on fundamental issues, especially because of cultural shifts that had taken place in recent times, and commented on current Anglican Communion affairs, in particular in relation to the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The Bishop noted how two distinct ways of being Anglican had now emerged. The first held to scriptural authority and the second saw Christianity as “an ongoing development which is related to the Scriptures, but which isn’t founded on the Scriptures”, he said.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 8:40am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Friday, 27 April 2012

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Leaders Conference Statement

The GAFCON conference at Battersea has concluded by issuing this press release: The movement begins its mission and this Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Leaders Conference Statement and Commitment (PDF).

From the press release:

…In a plenary address, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali concluded that the Anglican “Instruments of Unity” have failed dramatically and that the FCA is called to model an alternative way for the churches of the Anglican Communion to gather and relate to one another in such a way as to carry out the Great Commission in the coming decades.

In their final conference ‘Commitment’, the leaders resolved to work together in an ever-strengthening partnership, to stand by each other and to engage in a battle of ideas on behalf of the Biblical Gospel.

The next Global Anglican Future Conference was also announced. The event, with invitees including clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, is scheduled for May 2013.

From the Statement:

…We received from Anglican leaders accounts of terrorism leading to death and destruction in Nigeria, and of persecution and ostracism of believers in Islamic and Hindu societies; we heard from a Christian prolife and pro-marriage advocate who has been maligned by the secular media in England, with precious little support from the Church establishment. We heard numerous accounts from Anglican leaders around the world who have been harassed by their own bishops and fellow clergy for their Gospel witness, yet have been grateful for the stance of the FCA. We note that The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are proceeding post-haste to approve same-sex blessing rites with total disregard for the conscience of their own members, for the moratoria mandated by the official Instruments of the Anglican Communion, and for the broken state of communion where more than half the world’s Anglicans are represented by the FCA…

And this:

…In a plenary address on “Jesus, the Lord of the Church and his Mission,” Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali noted that St Paul presents the church as an exalted communion known to God, the Jerusalem above (Gal 4:26), and also as an earthly community of believers gathered together for the preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments duly administered, and effective church discipline (Article XIX; Second Book of Homilies). Applying this pattern to the current Anglican situation, Bishop Nazir-Ali concluded that the Anglican “Instruments of Unity” have failed dramatically and that the FCA is called to model a biblical way for the churches of the Anglican Communion to gather and relate to one another so as to carry out the Great Commission in the coming decades. This way needs to address different forms of missional leadership, gathering the church with traditional episcopal leaders as well as leaders exercising oversight in parochial and non-parochial ministries. The Primates’ Council will have responsibility for planning, directing and driving this agenda…

And this:

…Archbishop Jensen, the FCA General Secretary, challenged participants to agree on a “statement in the form of a commitment.” In affirming this statement, we commit ourselves to the following:

  • to reaffirm the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement
  • to commend the Jerusalem Declaration to others as the basis for resolving the spiritual crisis currently besetting the Anglican Communion
  • to invite Anglicans around the world to join FCA in order to serve Christ and his mission
  • to promote and fund the networks in their various aims to strengthen the Church
  • to create a network for ministry among young people
  • to pray for the work and ministry of FCA and for each other.

At the conclusion of the Leaders Conference, it was announced that a second Anglican Future Conference will be held in May 2013. This Conference will further the work of the FCA to renew and reform the Anglican Communion. This leads to a further specific commitment from leaders and their churches:

  • to gather for GAFCON 2 in May 2013
  • to obtain funding and resourcing for GAFCON 2.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 April 2012 at 6:13pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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More about GAFCON and AMiE

The Church Times has this report by Ed Thornton We should elect our chair, say Primates (and scroll down for sidebar on Archbishop Wabukala’s keynote address).

…The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who was chairing the press briefing, sought to clarify that the Primates were suggesting the election of a chairman of the Primates’ Meeting, not “some sort of super-leader of the Anglican Communion. . . We’re not talking about a chairman of the Anglican Com­munion, but a chairman of the Primates’ Council, and one therefore able to gather the Primates.”

Asked if any Primate, such as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, would be eligible to stand as chairman, Dr Wabukala said that the position should be open to “those who subscribe to what the Anglican Communion stands for”.

Asked to elaborate further, he said that the Jerusalem Declaration, which was drawn up at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in 2008 (News, 4 July 2008), “captures exactly what almost every­body is looking for”. When asked about Primates who would not endorse the Declara­tion, Dr Wabukala said: “That means self-exclusion. It’s not a covenant to sign to ex­clude you, but it is the faith that people pro­fess to which you may not be comfortable.” He went on: “Of course, the fact that one [chair­man] is elected, that means he is ac­cepted by all of us.”

Spokespeople for Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office both declined to comment on the idea suggested by the two Primates.

Amaris Cole reported for the Church of England Newspaper Conference: ‘It’s time for us to elect the chairman of the Primates’

…The FCA asserts this leader will not replace the traditional role Archbishops such as Dr Rowan Williams have played, a figure who will still be ‘respected’. Speaking before the conference, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said: “He will not be an Anglican Pope.” Instead they hope this figure, whom Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Chairman of GAFCON, said would have tenure of four to five years and be elected by the Primates themselves, will be the next step of the ‘forward-looking’ movement. “The Commonwealth has changed and they now elect somebody to lead without prejudice to Her Majesty the Queen and so it is the same thing,” Archbishop Okoh said. “The Church of the independent countries are no longer in the British Empire – we must make some changes.”

The Archbishops hesitated when asked what would happen if the elected chairman were to be a member of the American Episcopal Church, but it was decided as this figure would be elected by all the Primates, it’s unlikely such a chair would be selected. The conference was also used to announce that the FCA is calling for GAFCON II in May next year, although the location is unknown. This meeting has been called ‘in the face of revisionist attempts to change basic doctrines and turn Christianity merely into a movement for social betterment.’ The Archbishops did not deny that these ‘revisionist attempts’ were partly because of the handling of homosexuality, but said: “the Bible is very clear.” The FCA hopes to bring the Communion back to its primary calling – to preach the Gospel, with social action being secondary to this. The Archbishops again argued they are in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The GAFCON website has some audio, videos and photos of the event all linked from here.

This Statement at the Celebration of the Anglican Communion at Emmanuel Centre, Westminster was issued by the Anglican Mission in England yesterday. The full text is copied below the fold.

According to this report LONDON: FCA Leaders will not break with Canterbury

Fellowship of Confessing Anglican leaders meeting at St. Mark’s Battersea heard Bishop Michael Nazir Ali say that the intention of the FCA is not to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion but they will continue to support orthodox dioceses and parishes in liberal and revisionist provinces like the US and Canada.

Despite a media blackout, VOL has learned that the 200 global Anglican leaders including archbishops from Australia, (Peter Jensen) Nigeria, (Nicholas Okoh) Kenya, (Eliud Wabukala), the US (ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan) Latin America (Hector “Tito” Zavala), Congo, (Henri Isingoma), and (Onesphorus Rwaje) Rwanda and a slew of bishops from the US, Canada and the Global South, FCA’s goal is to ensure that orthodoxy prevails and those who are suffering as a result will be supported and given spiritual and ecclesial aid even though the days of cross border “violations” has ended.

Some of the US bishops included Mark Lawrence of South Carolina and Keith Ackerman formerly of Quincy. The largest contingent is from Nigeria.

While it has not been publicly raised, the intention is that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will, in time, be recognized as a legitimate province of the Anglican Communion…

And this:

…Asked what the group thought of the possibility of the 62-year old Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York becoming the next Archbishop of Canterbury the reviews were mixed.

Sentamu is seen as a black evangelical twin of Dr. Rowan Williams, that is, he is evangelical and orthodox as well as socially conscious but he is an institutionalist at heart and he won’t rock the boat. “I don’t see him disciplining the American or Canadian Anglican provinces for their heretical acts. He will not come down on them; he will continue to support them for the sake of maintaining Anglican unity. The FCA will provide the needed support in the ongoing realignment and they will continue to support the faithful.”

Writing at Changing Attitude Colin Coward comments on the parish venue for the conference:

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Leaders Conference is meeting from 23 to 27 April at St Mark’s Battersea Rise, South London.

St Mark’s is the next parish to St Barnabas Clapham Common where the Revd David Page was the Vicar for 17 years. David was the first chair of Changing Attitude trustees and Changing Attitude’s first office was in St Barnabas vicarage.

The congregation of St Mark’s Battersea Rise know little about the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans or the GAFCON movement. The Vicar, the Revd Paul Perkin, chooses not to inform the congregation of his key involvement with these groups. St Mark’s is a congregation which includes a number of lesbian and gay people, including couples in civil partnerships. Paul Perkin is fully aware of their presence. They worship there because at the grass roots, they experience St Mark’s congregation as being open and welcoming.

The Church is the people. The people are defining the nature of Christian ethos and witness in each parish, not the clergy (though this is a great fantasy for clergy). The people, not the hierarchy, are building in each place a church of the people and for the people, inspired by the Spirit of God working in the heart of each person…

AMiE Statement from here:

The next few months will increasingly reveal the direction being taken by the Church of England regarding two matters:

  • its position regarding issues of marriage and sexuality, especially in the light of the church’s response to the government consultation and recent letters from a small group of mainly retired bishops,
  • and secondly the provision or not for the inclusion of those who hold to traditional understandings of the bible on matters of ministry.

We have established, and this week confirmed the principle that orthodox Anglicans who despite repeated efforts cannot receive oversight in the Church of England can continue to belong together with other orthodox Anglicans and minister with recognition within the global Anglican communion.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in this region is a fellowship of those anywhere in the UK and Ireland, including the Diocese of Europe, who can affirm the Jerusalem Declaration. Within it the Anglican Mission in England is not an institution, but a framework that is taking shape as it responds to those needing to receive help in their own dioceses. AMiE has two particular features:

  • It is a registered Mission Society dedicated to support growing and planting churches, and providing ministers and oversight for those churches, and secondly
  • It has a Panel of Bishops authorised by the FCA Primates Council to provide that oversight

The Primates of the FCA have assured us that, through instruments now available in this country, including the panel of bishops of the Anglican Mission in England and the FCA UK, those who might otherwise have been under pressure to leave the Church of England can remain within the family of global Anglicanism and be recognized by that body as faithful to the Church of England itself.

At the FCA Leadership Conference this Monday, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala reported in his Chairman’s keynote address: ‘Last year, it became clear that provision needs to be made for England too. The Anglican Mission in England was formed last June after four years of discussion with senior Anglican leaders in England had failed to find a way in which those genuinely in need of effective orthodox oversight in the Church of England could receive it’.

The AMiE has already acted to provide oversight to churches, including arranging the ordination of some ministers. For the future it is ready to extend this ministry, and to expand its panel of bishops accordingly. Parish Incumbents who affirm the Jerusalem Declaration are invited to meet on Wednesday 27th June to pray and make progress together.

So we pledge our support for all those who are orthodox in faith, who are experiencing pressure, and who wish to continue as Anglicans with international affirmation from the worldwide Anglican church. You have a clear identity as Anglicans through our common commitment to the faith contained in the Jerusalem Declaration.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 April 2012 at 9:48am BST | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Chair of CNC for Canterbury appointment announced

No 10 Downing Street has announced that Lord Luce is to be the chair of the Crown Nominations Commission for its selection of the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

See of Canterbury appointment

Thursday 26 April 2012

Rt Hon the Lord Luce to become Chairman of the Crown Nominations Commission for its selection of the next Archbishop of Canterbury to succeed the Most Reverend and Rt Hon Rowan Williams

The Prime Minister has appointed the Rt Hon the Lord Luce KG, GCVO to be Chairman of the Crown Nominations Commission for its selection of the next Archbishop of Canterbury to succeed the Most Reverend and Rt Hon Rowan Williams. Dr Williams has announced that he will stand down on 31 December 2012.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Luce said:

“It is a great privilege to have been invited by the Prime Minister to chair the Crown Nominations Commission for the selection of the next Archbishop of Canterbury. I approach the task with humility and a strong sense of the responsibility that I and my colleagues on the Commission share.”

“I am very conscious of the significance of the Archbishop’s role both nationally and across the world. It is, of course, of great importance both to the Church of England and to the wider community in our country, given the Church’s contribution to our society at all levels. The Archbishop is also the head of world-wide Anglican Communion. And the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury also means a great deal for other Christian denominations and for other faiths.”

“Archbishop Rowan has made an outstanding contribution in all of these spheres. Finding a worthy successor will not be an easy task for the Commission.”

“The responsibility of chairing the Commission is, of course, a heavy one. But I am fortified by the knowledge that I will be supported and advised by the other members of the Commission who have a wide range of talents and experience.”

The announcement also includes some notes that are copied below the fold.

Notes for Editors

Richard Luce, age 75, has long experience in public affairs. In the House of Lords he sits on the Cross Benches as an independent Life Peer. He is currently High Steward of Westminster Abbey. His career spans the overseas civil service, business, Parliament (Conservative MP for 21 years), a Minister for 10 years (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Minister for the Arts and Minister for the Civil Service), Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar.

He retired in 2006 having served six years as Lord Chamberlain to The Queen, the senior official in the Royal Household. He is serving, or has served, as President, Chairman or Trustee of a number of charitable bodies. In 2008 The Queen made him a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter.

Richard Luce is a lifelong Anglican. He and his wife, Rose, who is a lay minister in the Church of England, worship at a parish church near their home in West Sussex.

The appointment has been made by the Prime Minister after taking soundings of senior figures in the Church.

The Crown Nominations Commission will put its recommendation for the next Archbishop to the Prime Minister, who will seek the agreement of Her Majesty The Queen. It is expected that the name of the new Archbishop will be announced in the Autumn.

The Commission is a largely Church-elected body, including both clergy and lay members and representatives of the worldwide Anglican Communion. For the See of Canterbury the Prime Minister appoints its chair.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 11:39am BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Conservative reaction to Times letter and ban on adverts

Robert Booth reports in the Guardian that Boris Johnson faces legal action over banned anti-gay bus adverts

…The groups behind the “Not gay … and proud” adverts, which were pulled by the London mayor earlier this month, said they were likely to seek a judicial review of the mayor’s decision on the grounds that it breached their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression as guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.

Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust, whose supporters advocate that gay Christians seek counselling and treatment to curb or even reverse homosexual instincts, said it might also take legal action for breach of contract against the advertising company that booked the adverts, CBS Outdoor.

“Since Boris Johnson intervened, there seems to be a much broader issue about freedom of speech at stake and that is weighing heavily upon us,” said the Rev Lynda Rose, a spokeswoman for Anglican Mainstream. “We feel it is not right that people are not able to express legitimate views that are not an incitement to hatred.”

In their latest press release (links below) AM and CIT state:

Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust reject absolutely the accusation of Boris Johnson that they are intolerant, labeling homosexuality a disease. They affirm the right of individuals to seek change, and to reduce homosexual behaviours, feelings and desires, using both pastoral support and counselling, and psychological therapies administered by professionals. They are actively considering an action for judicial review against the Mayor on the basis that his decision was unlawful, and an interference with their rights under Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing freedom of religion and expression.

And in relation to the letter to The Times of last Saturday the Guardian reports:

The row over the adverts blew up during the government consultation on opening up marriage to same-sex couples, which continues until June, and Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust are set against the proposals. On Tuesday, they accused liberal bishops of imposing a “neo-pagan worldview” by supporting gay marriage and claiming there should be “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships”.

On Saturday, a group of Church of England bishops wrote to the Times complaining that recent statements by church leaders had given the mistaken impression that the Anglican church was universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.

“The fact there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian church,” said the letter, signed by the Very Rev Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans, the Right Rev Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham, and 13 other senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod.

In response, Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust issued a statement warning that the liberal clergy were trying to “unacceptably redefine Judeo-Christian belief”.

“They do not have the standing either to rewrite or reinterpret the clear teaching of the Bible, which the Church has always understood to prohibit any and all sexual relations outside the union for life of one man and one woman,” said Canon Dr Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream.

The press statement mentioned above is headlined Evangelical groups accuse rebel liberal bishops of bully-boy tactics and neo-paganism. It can be found at Anglican Mainstream, at Core Issues Trust and as a PDF.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 8:51am BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

GAFCON proposes to reorganise the Anglican Communion

Ed Malnick set out the background to this event a week ago in the Sunday Telegraph Traditionalist Anglican leaders to meet over homosexual bishops ‘crisis’.

This weekend, the BBC Sunday radio programme interviewed the Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen (go here for a podcast the interview starts about 10 minutes into the programme).

And the BBC reported Leaders of a dissident Anglican movement meet in UK.

The meeting opened yesterday. There is a press release, and the full text of the keynote address:

John Bingham explains in the Telegraph: Archbishop of Canterbury to lose worldwide Anglican role under traditionalist plans.

A coalition of bishops and leaders from Africa, the Americas and Australasia said it was time for a “radical shift” in how the church is structured away from models of the “British Empire”.

They criticised what they called “revisionist attempts” to abandon basic doctrines on issues such as homosexuality and “turn Christianity merely into a movement for social betterment” during Dr Williams’s tenure.

And they said it was now clear that the leadership in England had failed to hold the 77 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion together, leaving it in “crisis”.

They spoke out as 200 clergy and laity from 30 countries gathered in London to discuss what they called the “present crisis moment” in the church…

And this:

…They also outlined plans for an overhaul of church structures, replacing the Archbishop of Canterbury as chairman of the worldwide Anglican primates with an elected chair.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, leader of Kenya’s 13 million Anglicans, said there needed to be a “radical shift” in how the church is run.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the leader of 23 million Anglicans in Nigeria, said that while the historic position of the Archbishop of Canterbury would always be respected he should be seen as “one of” many primates.

Likening the overhaul to the way in which the Commonwealth now elects its leadership, he said: “It is the same thing, the church of independent countries – no longer the British Empire – must make some changes.”

He went on: “It is not something that should remain permanent that the Archbishop of Canterbury – whether he understands the dynamics in Africa or not – remains the chair and whatever he says, whether it works or not, is an order.

“No I think if we are to move forward we have to reconsider that position.”

He added: “At the moment it seems that the Church in England isn’t carrying along everybody in the Communion and that is why of course you can see that there is a crisis, so if we must solve the problem we must change our system.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 9:13am BST | Comments (38) | TrackBack
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Monday, 23 April 2012

More analyses of Sentamu and the vacancy at Canterbury

Updated Tuesday morning

Two substantial comment articles on Archbishop Sentamu as a candidate for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury have appeared during the day:

George Pitcher wrote If Dr John Sentamu isn’t made Archbishop of Canterbury, it won’t be because he’s black.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the race card was played as candidates jostle for best position to succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.

It comes from Arun Arora, who has served as Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu’s chief spin doctor and is about to take the top PR post at Church House, which houses the Church of England’s civil service.

He says that Dr Sentamu, who is from Uganda, is the victim of criticism that amounts, at worst, to ‘naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.’ Rev Arora cites an Oxford don calling Dr Sentamu ‘brutish’ as an example of this latent racism…

…I’m probably as close as anyone to Church gossip about the runners and riders for Canterbury and I’ve not heard a single racial slur, directed at Dr Sentamu or anyone else.

If anything, the situation has been rather the reverse. My impression is that those who have had criticisms or reservations of Dr Sentamu’s candidacy have largely kept them to themselves over the past couple of years, precisely because they fear that they may have been accused of racism if they expressed them. Political correctness has served Dr Sentamu well.

Lately, it’s true that some of his critics have concluded that their views are as valid and innocent as if he were a white man. And so I’ve heard these words: Capricious, impulsive, vain with the media and quick to temper (as well, I might add, as words such as prophetic, inspirational, generous and kind). None of these words has anything to do with Dr Sentamu’s ethnicity.

For what it’s worth, my feeling is that the moment has passed for John Sentamu and Canterbury. He celebrates his 63rd birthday in about seven weeks’ time, meaning that he would be pushing compulsory retirement age by the next Lambeth Conference in 2018. He’s not been blessed with the best of good health lately and, most importantly, I really don’t think he wants it anymore. We really shouldn’t have another Archbishop of Canterbury who doesn’t want to be…

Andrew Brown wrote The fight to become the new archbishop of Canterbury is getting dirty.

…The style that people object to is autocratic, and prelatical. The idea that God blesses success, and that might therefore shows forth righteousness, is embedded in a lot of African religious culture. Sentamu’s younger brother, for example, is a hugely successful “Prosperity gospel” preacher in Kampala, with a mansion, a Mercedes, and a church where journalists are searched on entry. Authority, in such a church, is fawned on sooner than questioned.

There’s nothing essentially African about this. For one thing it is the opposite of Desmond Tutu’s manner; for another, it was the natural behaviour of archbishops of Canterbury up until about the retirement of Geoffrey Fisher, in 1961. But it hasn’t worked in England since then. It suited all the instincts of George Carey, but without an audience prepared to suspend its disbelief, he just looked pompous and absurd. The Church of England has never suffered from a lack of leadership. What it has quite run out of now is followership.

Carey has now emerged as one of Sentamu’s backers. Orotund to the last, he told the Times that “I am quite appalled. If there is a besmirching campaign then it is abhorrent and I, for one, will challenge this”.

Carey’s memoirs revealed his angry hurt at the sneers of metropolitan smoothies who couldn’t understand the obstacles that he had overcome or admire him for doing so. Sentamu and Arora both in their different ways share this sense of exclusion and hostile distrust of the establishment…

…But as a journalist I dislike people who cannot decently conceal their ambition to manipulate the press. When “sources close to the archbishop” told the Telegraph that “he has only stepped down [from the committee choosing the archbishop of Canterbury] as he did not want to be seen to be influencing the appointment”, I wonder what kind of idiots the “sources” takes us for.

Update

This analysis by Paul Vallely was published much earlier in the month, but is highly relevant: Dr John Sentamu: Next stop Canterbury?

…The big question is whether his style is suited to coping with the polarised camps in the Church. “He’s established a court at Bishopthorpe,” said one senior insider. “He’s trebled the staff, which has caused unease among senior churchmen at the amount of money he’s spending. But he lacks the diplomatic skills to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He’s autocratic and doesn’t like to be contradicted. He has a temper. His senior staff of bishops and archdeacons in the Diocese of York haven’t found him an easy man to work with, or for. He’d be a disaster managing Anglicanism’s factions.”

All that has not been lost on the powers at Lambeth Palace, which is run more like a chief exec’s office in a major corporation. There the Archbishop of Canterbury has so much in his diary set by the formularies of diocese, nation and international Anglican Communion that the incumbent has nowhere near the scope to follow his own agenda as York does. Lambeth officials have been leaking their fear of a Dr Sentamu succession.

There is another problem. The Anglican Communion gathers every 10 years at the Lambeth Conference. At the next, in 2018, John Sentamu will be just months from compulsory retirement at age 70 and unable to implement the programme the decennial conference decides. But the younger generation – Stephen Cottrell, Nick Baines, Stephen Croft and Stephen Conway, bishops of Chelmsford, Bradford, Sheffield and Ely respectively – are not seen as quite ready, according to someone with close contacts inside the Crown Nominations Commission which makes the decision.

That said, all bishops under the age of 66 have been told to get their CVs up to date and send them off to the CNC. Insiders there are tipping James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, as a more judicious option than the volatile Dr Sentamu. But it is the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James – “very competent and a safe pair of hands” – who is the real favourite…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 10:21pm BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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House of Lords Reform and the Church of England

Today, the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill issued its report, which can be read in full, starting here.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • The Committee, on a majority, agree that the reformed second chamber should have an electoral mandate, provided it has commensurate powers (para 6.1).
  • If the reformed House is to be elected, 80% of members should be elected and 20% nominated. The size of the House should be 450 and members should serve for 15 year non-renewable terms (6.17-19, 6.31-34).
  • The Committee agrees with the government’s proposal for election under the STV system. In addition, it recommends that voters who wish to vote for candidates by political party rather than individually should be free to do so. The Committee recommends that the STV system currently used in New South Wales should be adopted. This allows voters not only to rank individual candidates, but to vote by party and also to rank the parties so as to control where “excess” party votes are allocated (6.25-6.26).
  • A majority of the Committee recommends that the decision to elect members of the House of Lords should be submitted to a referendum(6.87).
  • Election of 80% of a reformed House will make the House more assertive and affect the balance of power between the Houses in favour of the House of Lords. But a majority of the Committee consider the existing conventions and other pillars on which Commons primacy rests would suffice to ensure its continuation (6.3, 6.10-6.11).
  • The Committee agrees that conventions governing the relationship between the Houses cannot be legislated for and that such conventions will evolve further once the House of Lords is reformed (6.6-6.7, 6.13-6.16).

More from the official summary can be found here.

The section dealing with the Lords Spiritual is Section 17, which can be found here.

The conclusions of that section are:

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

288. The Committee agrees that, in a fully elected House, there should be no reserved places for bishops.

289. The Committee agrees, on a majority, that bishops should continue to retain ex officio seats in the reformed House of Lords.

290. The Committee agrees, on a majority, with the Government’s proposal that the number of reserved seats for bishops be set at 12 in a reformed House.

291. The Committee recommends that the Appointments Commission consider faith as part of the diversity criterion we recommend at paragraph 249.

292. The Committee recommends that the exemption of bishops from the disciplinary provisions be removed, as requested by the Archbishops.

293. The Committee recommends that any approach to the Government by the Church to modify the provision on the named bishops be looked upon favourably.

294. The Committee recommends that Clause 28(4) be left out of the Bill so as to allow greater flexibility in transition arrangements so that any women bishops and the wider pool of diocesan bishops can be eligible for appointment in the second transitional parliament.

The Church of England has issued a press release, Statement on report from Joint Committee on the Government’s Draft House of Lords Reform Bill.

…The Lords Spiritual welcome the Joint Committee’s endorsement of the Government’s proposals for continued places for Church of England bishops. We are grateful too that the Committee has accepted the Archbishops’ suggestions on how the Bill could be changed to allow more flexibility in how Lord Spiritual are chosen to serve, and to bring the bishops in line with other members on the disciplinary and tax measures.

Whilst it is disappointing that more has not been made by the Committee on how to deliver a greater breadth of representation across civil society, the recommendation to increase membership from 300 to 450 is to be welcomed, as this will provide better opportunity for those with outside professionalisms and experiences to bring those interests more to bear in the work of the House. The Church of England does not have a declared view on the merits of a referendum on House of Lords reform, though as both the Joint Committee and the Alternative Report have both recommended one, we trust that the Government will look very seriously at the suggestion…

The alternative report mentioned above can be found here. The Bishop of Leicester is one its authors.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 2:07pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Archbishop Sentamu and the Canterbury vacancy

The Telegraph has a report this morning: Archbishop of York to be considered for Canterbury by Jonathan Wynne-Jones and John Bingham.

Dr John Sentamu has repeatedly refused to confirm whether or not he would be throwing his hat into the ring to lead the Church of England when Dr Williams steps down later this year.

But last night it emerged that he had stepped down from the body responsible for the appointment – meaning that he can formally be considered.

It follows mounting speculation that the 62-year old archbishop would not stand as a candidate due to his age and recent bouts of poor health.

The Ugandan-born prelate has also been the target of a whispering campaign since Dr Williams announced his resignation, which some supporters claim is partly motivated by racism within the Church.

His decision to stand aside from the Commission, the group of clergy and churchgoers who secretly choose bishops and archbishops, confirms him as a front-runner for the most senior job in the Church of England…

Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph had reported this: Archbishop of York victim of ‘naked racism’, claims ally by Richard Eden, and Edward Malnick along with this editorial comment: Toxic whispers in the Church.

…People from many different backgrounds have reached high office in the Church in recent years. But these charges are given some credence by the unfortunate phrases employed by two senior churchmen interviewed by one of our reporters. They both referred to Dr Sentamu’s ethnic background in a way which made it appear that they thought it would cause problems were he to become the Church’s primate. One suggested that Dr Sentamu had the temperament of “an African chief”.

It is an unhappy truth that allegations of racism sometimes surface during an appointment process, and can be deployed as a crude form of blackmail: “Pick this candidate, or be branded a racist.” We hope that is not happening here. But the Church of England needs to establish that the process of choosing its most senior prelate is not going to be distorted by corrosive allegations, and also that it is genuinely free of the taint of racism.

The original article by Arun Arora to which reference is made was previously reported here.

Other media reactions today to these reports:

Independent Church plays down racism claim

…A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The blog from Arun Arora quoted in the story is a month old and has already been widely quoted in a range of publications.”

Northern Echo Archbishop says he has never experienced racism

THE Archbishop of York says he has never experienced racism from fellow clergymen, despite comments from a retired bishop that he would be “unsuitable for the church’s top post because he is quite tribal and the African chief thing comes through”.

Dr John Sentamu says he will not comment on speculation following a story in a Sunday newspaper in which two bishops questioned his suitability to be the successor to Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury…

The Yorkshire Post has Church bids to allay racism fear over Sentamu’s hopes of top job.

…The Church of England confirmed it was aware of Mr Arora’s blog, and added: “There is a comprehensive process for selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury, details of which are available online, and involves an extensive consultation process.”

Daily Mail Is racism damaging Sentamu’s chances of leading the church? Black archbishop ‘is facing offensive smear campaign’

…An aide said: ‘He would like to make it clear that he has never experienced racist views from within the Church – and no one within the Church has made such comments to him publicly or privately before.’

The allegations mean that the race to succeed Dr Rowan Williams as leader of the CofE and the worldwide Anglican Communion has descended into harsh abuse in little more than a month…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 8:49am BST | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bishop of Salisbury on equal marriage

Nick Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, spoke in support of equal marriage at yesterday’s Cutting Edge Consortium conference. CEC have published the text of the bishop’s talk as a Google document, and we have made it available as a more convenient webpage.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 22 April 2012 at 4:40pm BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Truro Anglican Church, Fairfax and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Truro Anglican Church, Fairfax and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced a settlement of their property dispute on 17 April and issued this joint statement.

Joint Statement from Truro Anglican Church, Fairfax and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

4/17/2012

Truro Anglican Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced today a settlement that concludes five years of litigation that arose after Truro Anglican and other parishes left the Episcopal Church in 2006 to become part of what is now the Anglican Church in North America.

The settlement follows a January ruling in which the Circuit Court of Fairfax County held that all real and personal property held by the parishes at the time they left the denomination belongs to the Diocese.

Under terms of the settlement, the Diocese has given Truro Anglican a rent-free lease of the church buildings at 10520 Main Street in Fairfax, as well as two rectories, until June 30, 2013. Truro Anglican will deed the properties to the Diocese by April 30, 2012, and will pay the operating costs of the properties during the term of the lease. In addition, the Diocese has the option to use a small portion of the church building during the lease, as determined between the Rev. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Anglican, and the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Virginia.

Additionally, Truro Anglican has agreed to pay $50,000 to resolve diocesan claims for liquid assets due under the court’s order. The parties had already agreed on division of the tangible personal property held by Truro Anglican.

In several previous settlements, Anglican parishes that leased Episcopal property agreed to sever ties with all Anglican bodies during the term of the lease. Under today’s settlement, however, the parties have agreed that Truro Anglican will maintain its affiliation with the Anglican Church of North America and its Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. Because the Diocese and Truro Anglican are part of different ecclesiastical bodies who share the Anglican tradition, they have agreed to follow a process during the term of the lease by which bishops may visit Truro Anglican with the permission of Bishop Johnston.

An important feature of this settlement is that both sides have agreed to enter into a covenant of mutual charity and respect. This document will frame the way the Diocese and Truro Anglican will deal with one another and speak of one another. The covenant is being drafted by the Rev. Baucum and Bishop Johnston.

“This is an important step for the Diocese of Virginia and Truro Anglican,” said Bishop Johnston. “What the Diocese has sought since the court’s ruling has been a ‘witness’ and not merely an ‘outcome.’ The parties have carried on a public dispute for five years and it is important that we publicly begin to make peace.”

Bishop Johnston and the Rev. Baucum have been meeting together for prayer and conversation for over a year. “Bishop Johnston and I have become friends,” said the Rev. Baucum. “In spite of our significant theological differences, we care for and are committed to each other as brothers in Christ.”

“We are grateful for the Diocese’s generosity in allowing us to continue to use the property for another 15 months at no cost,” said the Rev. Baucum. “This allows us time to make a good transition to interim facilities and then to our new church home.”

“Tory and I believe that this is an opening for a transformative witness to many across the worldwide Anglican Communion,” added Bishop Johnston.

A settlement in another property dispute also involving the diocese of Virginia was announced the previous day: Diocese Settles with St. Paul’s Church, Anglican, Haymarket.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 4:50pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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more on tax relief cap

I wrote earlier about the cap on tax relief on charitable giving included in the Budget.

Madeleine Davies writes about this in the Church Times: One-size tax-relief cap won’t fit all, warns C of E adviser. This article copies a letter to the Telegraph which can be more easily read here: Proposed cap to charity tax relief will damage philanthropy.

Robert Watts writes in today’s Telegraph that George Osborne calls for talks on charity row.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 4:21pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Anglican Covenant: two more diocesan synods

This Saturday two more diocesan synods voted on the Anglican Covenant motion: Chichester, and Southwell & Nottingham.

Chichester: covenant accepted

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy: 29 for / 9 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 39 for / 25 against / 1 abstention

Southwell & Nottingham: covenant accepted

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy 15 for / 5 against / 0 abstentions
Laity: 31 for / 6 against / 1 abstention

25 diocesan synods have now voted against the covenant, and 17 in favour. The remaining two dioceses, Newcastle and York, will vote next Saturday (28 April).

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 12:59pm BST | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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more on VAT changes

I wrote earlier about the changes made in the Budget to VAT on alterations to listed buildings.

Madeleine Davies writes about this in the Church Times: VAT change throws spanner into works at listed churches. The Church Times has also published an editorial: Another raid on church finances.

Other press reports during the last week include these.

Philip Johnston in the Telegraph George Osborne puts the fabric of Britain at risk with the ‘heritage tax’

Nicholas Cecil and Joe Murphy in the London Evening Standard Bishops revolt over Osborne’s VAT on church improvements

Richard Waite in The Architects’ Journal Angry Bishops battle government over VAT on listed buildings

James Chapman in This is Money Ministers to make U-turn on churches compensation and VAT on caravans amid turmoil over Osborne’s Budget

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 12:30pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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opinion

Andrew Brown asks in The Guardian Are evangelical Christians on another planet?

Daniel Schultz writes in the Revealer So Long, Rowan Williams.

Diana Butler Bass writes for USA Today about When spirituality and religion collide.

Paul Oestreicher asks in The Guardian Was Jesus gay? Probably.

Giles Fraser starts his new series Loose canon in the Guardian with On a new demand-free service.

Mark Vernon writes in The Tablet Why religion is good for you.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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"God’s grace seen in gay marriage, say bishops."

Today’s Times carries a letter from a group of Church of England bishops, senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod. It argues for “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships” and “that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples”.

The letter is behind the Times paywall, but we have been given permission to republish it here.

To: The Editor
The Times

Sir,

A number of recent statements by church leaders past and present may have given the mistaken impression that the Church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. We believe that does not adequately reflect the range of opinion which exists within the Church of England.

Marriage is a robust institution which has adapted much over the centuries. It has moved beyond the polygamy of the Old Testament and preoccupation with social status and property in pre-Enlightenment times.

While the Prayer Book states that marriage was ordained first for ‘the procreation of children’ the modern marriage service begins by emphasising the quality of relationship between marriage partners ‘that they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind.’

The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. Growing in this kind of love means we are growing in the image of God. So the fact that there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.

We welcome current moves by the House of Bishops to consider again its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the Church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage.

We also welcome recent reported statements by the Bishop of Salisbury and the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral calling on the Church to affirm same-sex couples who want to take on the commitment of marriage.

It is our belief that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they should respond pastorally to such a change in the law.

Sincerely

Canon Giles Goddard, General Synod, Southwark
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
The Rt Rev Michael Doe
The Rt Rev John Gladwin
The Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth
The Rt Rev Peter Selby
The Rt Rev David Stancliffe

The Very Rev David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth
The Very Rev Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich
The Very Rev Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford

Mrs April Alexander, General Synod, Southwark
The Rev Stephen Coles, General Synod, London
The Rev Clair Herbert, General Synod, London
Mr John Ward LLB, General Synod, London

Ruth Gledhill has an article on the front page of The Times. This too is behind the paywall, but SkyNews has published a photograph.

The letter has already been reported elsewhere in the press.

Andrew Hough in The Telegraph Church of England should ‘rejoice’ over gay marriage, Bishops say

Press Association Clergy group backs gay marriage

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 9:54am BST | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Church in Wales gives “amber light” to Anglican Covenant

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales debated the Anglican Communion Covenant this morning and has now issued this Press Release.

Church gives “amber light” to Anglican Covenant
April 18 2012

A plan to protect the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion was given an amber light, rather than a green light, by the Church in Wales today (April 18).

Members of its Governing Body voted to affirm their commitment to the Communion and the Covenant process, but asked questions of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in October. They feared the recent rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England jeopardised its future and clarifications about that were now needed before a decision could be made.

The Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron, who proposed a motion which was amended in the light of the Church of England decision, said, “We have given the Covenant an amber light rather than a green light but in doing so we are being honest about where the Church is today. However, I think we need to reaffirm our strong commitment to each other through the saving power of Christ revealed in the Gospels. That is what I believe the Covenant ultimately calls us to do and I hope one day the Church in Wales will be able to vote for it.”

The amended motion, which was carried overwhelmingly, was that the GB:

i) affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion;
ii) Affirm its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant;
iii) Request clarification from the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to the status and direction of the Covenant process in the light of the position of the Church of England;
iv) Urge upon the Instruments of Communion a course of action which continues to see reconciliation and the preservation of the Communion as a family of interdependent but autonomous Churches.

The published agenda gave this text for the original unamended motion:

That the Governing Body:

i) affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion, and subscribe to the Anglican Communion Covenant;
ii) invite the Standing Committee to monitor the Church in Wales’s participation in the Covenant on an annual basis.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 5:11pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Archbishop of Wales: Gospel must be good news for gay people

From a Church in Wales press release:

Christians need to show how the Gospel of Jesus is good news for gay people, the Archbishop of Wales said today (WEDNESDAY APRIL 18).

Dr Barry Morgan said he was concerned about the welfare of gay people whom he feared could feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in churches over the coming months as Government proposals for same-sex marriage are debated nationally.

In his presidential address to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body in Llandudno, the Archbishop said same-sex relationships was a moral issue facing the Church and the world, on which there was no single Christian opinion. His concern, however, was that the Church should offer gay people pastoral care and support…

The full text of the address by Archbishop Barry Morgan is available here.

Also from the press release:

Dr Barry Morgan said the Church would not be able to ignore the new legislation on civil marriage proposed by the Government, despite the fact that the legislation would not allow gay couples to marry in church. He called on the Church to discuss how it would respond.

He said, “If the legislation to allow civil marriage is passed, I cannot see how we as a church, will be able to ignore the legality of the status of such partnerships and we ought not to want to do so.

“The question then as now is, will the church protect and support pastorally, faithful, stable, lifelong relationships of whatever kind in order to encourage human values such as love and fidelity and recognise the need in Christian people for some public religious support for these. As Helen says in the novel “Nightwatch” by Sarah Walters – a novel written in 1947, ‘what could she do to say to the world that Julia was hers?’ She could have gone on to ask ‘what can the church do to show that this relationship is not simply something between my partner and I but that somehow God is in our midst as well and longs for our wellbeing?’ It is a discussion we need to have.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 at 12:00pm BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 April 2012

CofE appoints new Communications Director

Press release from Church House Westminster: Director of Communications appointed.

The Revd Arun Arora has been appointed to serve the Church of England as Director of Communications at Church House, Westminster, following a competitive process.

The Communications Office, previously led by Peter Crumpler, provides direct support to the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners and Pensions Board, and works closely with Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces, other bishops’ offices, diocesan communications officers and cathedrals. Arun will take up the Director’s post in the summer.

Welcoming the appointment, the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and lead bishop on communications, said: “Arun Arora is a person of great and varied talents. His skills as a communications professional are matched by the insights he has gained since ordination. I know his appointment will be warmly welcomed within the Church of England and well beyond it, too.”

Arun currently serves as the Team Leader of Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries, a fresh expression of church based in Wolverhampton City Centre. Prior to his move to Wolverhampton, Arun served his curacy in Harrogate where he also served for three years as Director of Communications to the Archbishop of York and prior to that for four years as Bishop’s Press Officer and Director of Communications in the Diocese of Birmingham…

Here are two recent articles written by Arun Arora:

The Besmirching of John Sentamu

Why Sentamu Was Right to Write for the Sunday Sun

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 April 2012 at 11:39am BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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tax relief on charitable giving

Updated Monday afternoon

In addition to the extension of to VAT to alterations to listed buildings in the budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also put a limit on the tax relief that higher-rate tax payers can claim on donations to charities.

James Kirkup and Tim Ross reported in The Telegraph this weekend that George Osborne’s charity tax plan is unfair, says Church of England. This article quotes remarks from “the chief finance officer of the Church [Commissioners]” which were made as a comment to an article by Tania Mason for Civil Society Media: Osborne provides evidence of aggressive tax avoidance to justify tax relief cap.

The weekend papers have published a number of other articles about this limit.

The Guardian
Dalya Alberge and Daniel Boffey Nick Clegg to go on charm offensive amid fury over charity tax cap
Press Association Charity tax relief cap: Tory treasurer adds voice to criticism
Marina McIntyre Charity tax relief plans attacked by philanthropists
Patrick Wintour and Hélène Mulholland Ministers look at measures to protect charities from tax changes

The Telegraph
Roya Nikkhah, Julie Henry and Robert Watts Charity tax relief cap under fire as philanthropists warn of funding crisis
Patrick Hennessy, Robert Watts and Roya Nikkhah Ministers sound retreat in charity tax row
Charity tax row: Government will ‘find solution’, says William Hague

Mail Online
Rob Cooper Tory treasurer turns on George Osborne in revolt over plans to cut tax relief on charitable donations

Explanatory note: In the UK those who pay income tax can gift-aid their donations to charity, and the charity can claim back the income tax that has been paid at the standard rate (which is 20%). So for every 80p of donation, the charity can claim 20p (ie 25% of the donation) from the taxman. For those who pay income tax at a higher rate, the charity can still claim 25% of the donation, and the taxpayer can claim the difference between this and the actual tax paid. It is this last amount the budget will cap.

Update
There is an e-petition to HM Government opposing the Chancellor’s proposal.
Patrick Wintour reports in The Guardian that Charity tax plans to be reviewed.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 April 2012 at 10:15am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Finding the Crown Nominations Commission leaker

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, has written a letter to the Editor of the Guardian.

The text of the letter is at Church should track down source of leak. It concludes:

…Following Colin’s death and the publication of this memorandum, the journalist who received the leak was honourable enough to publish a statement that Colin was not his source. The archbishop of Canterbury set up the Fritchie inquiry with alacrity when it was suspected that Colin Slee was the leaking member of the CNC. It would be good to know that steps are being taken to identify the real culprit and ensure that he will not be involved in nominating the new archbishop or in any further appointments.

There is a news article about it, see Stop Church of England leaks before choosing archbishop, says gay cleric by Matthew Taylor.

…An inquiry into the 2010 leak was carried out by Lady Fritchie, a crossbench peer, but its findings were never published. A Church of England spokesman said on Sunday the report was never intended to be made public and was “a private document for the archbishop and CNC members”.

The spokesman added that there were no plans to start a fresh investigation into the 2010 leak. “In these sorts of situations anyone on a committee could theoretically have spoken to a third party who then passed it on. That means we are talking about potentially hundreds of people,” he said…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 15 April 2012 at 10:50pm BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Updated Tuesday morning

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his budget on 21 March that value added tax (VAT) (at the standard rate of 20%) will be extended to alterations to listed buildings. This will particularly affect the Church of England, which issued this press release.

Statement on Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Unexpectedly the Chancellor announced in the Budget that approved alterations to listed buildings - which, unlike repairs and maintenance are currently zero-rated - will be charged at the standard rate of 20 percent. This will cost Church of England congregations up to £20 million per annum on works to its 12,500 listed church buildings, assuming of course parishes and cathedrals can now afford to go ahead and undertake the works required.

This is a real blow to communities who are seeking to maintain and develop their churches (including improved lavatory, kitchen, disability and energy saving facilities) to enable churches to be more widely used by the community. The 20 percent VAT charge will also negatively impact bell hanging and organ building, both traditional craft industries, where some schemes currently enjoy zero rating.

The day after the Budget the Bishop of London and Second Church Estates Commissioner wrote to the Chancellor asking him to keep alterations to listed churches zero-rated.

The accompanying Treasury Document also stated that the Government was ‘extending’ the scope of the Grant Scheme administered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to include alterations. It did not; however specify any increase in funding of the scheme. Without a cash increase to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which is already inadequate to cover all repair claims, the current scheme will simply be divided into even smaller amounts among a larger group of claimants. So, far from being additional help for churches, the effect of the extension will be to reduce the proportion of the VAT costs refunded for repairs and maintenance…

Subsequently there have been these two further CofE press releases.

Sign the e-petition to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed churches
Going for a song: CofE YouTube recording calls on Government to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed buildings

There was not a lot of press reaction to this initially, but recently the media have been taking more interest in this tax change.

Mark Hughes in The Telegraph Budget 2012: VAT increase on listed buildings will ‘discourage improvements’
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church of England faces £20m annual tax bill following Budget
Madeleine Davies in the Church Times Outcry as Church faces £20-million extra VAT bill
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church petition against VAT on alterations surpasses 10,000 signatures
The Telegraph Labour urges rethink on VAT for work on listed churches
Daily Mail Cameron faces revolt from his local church pulpit over £20m Budget tax raid
Jason Beattie in The Mirror Tories face the wrath of God after slapping VAT on church alterations
Luke Heighton in The Sun Fury at Tory ‘stealth tax’ on churches
Chris Mason for the BBC VAT rise ‘could jeopardise Church renovation projects’ and Fears VAT ‘may halt church repairs’
ITV News VAT changes for listed buildings

Update

From the Church in Wales Archbishop petitions against “heritage tax”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 3:34pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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opinion

Giles Fraser writes in The Independent that The cross is a symbol of cruelty, not a club badge.

Richard Beck writes about Wisdom and Sin.

Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post that Religion and Politics Are Inseparable: Get Over It.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 April 2012

Now a lawsuit against the Mayor over the bus adverts

Updated twice Sunday morning

Jerome Taylor at the Independent has this: Christian group to sue Boris Johnson over ‘gay cure’ bus advertisements

The Christian group behind the recent attempt to place “gay cure” adverts on London buses have instructed lawyers to sue both the Mayor of London and the company that initially agreed to host the adverts after they were banned at the last minute, the Independent can reveal.

Aughton Ainsworth, a Manchester based law firm with a long track record of taking on controversial religious cases, have been hired by Anglican Mainstream to issue legal proceedings against both Boris Johnson and CBS Outdoor…

Savi Hensman has written for Ekklesia ‘Gay cure’ advertising proves misleading.

‘Ex-gay’ movement advertisements which were to have appeared on the sides of London buses have been blocked by the Mayor of London, to the relief of many. Mayor Boris Johnson is chair of Transport for London. However Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, which placed the ads with backing from Anglican Mainstream, accused him of “censorship”.

Tension can sometimes arise between freedom of expression and protection of sections of society from discrimination and the wider public from offence. Getting the right balance in such instances can be difficult.

What is surprising in this case, however, is that the Advertising Standards Authority had apparently cleared the ads in the first place. These read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” This implies that, if one is attracted mainly to the same sex, changing one’s sexual orientation is possible and desirable.

This is borne out by Core Issues Trust’s commitment to “support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression”. The Anglican Mainstream website, announcing the advertising campaign, claims that “sexuality is far more fluid than has hitherto been thought”.

So the claim touches on science, as well as religion and ethics. And on this basis, since matters of fact as well as opinion are involved, this campaign would have fallen foul of the rule that ads must not mislead.

Channel 4 News had an excellent report on Friday night, including video interviews with representatives from Stonewall, Index on Censorship, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream, see Transport for London bans ‘anti-gay’ adverts.

…TFL found they had breached two clauses of their advertising code: firstly that it was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence to members of the public” and secondly that it contained “messages which relate to matters of public controversy and sensitivity”.

TFL’s spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We have an advertising code over what we are comfortable with. In this case we felt it would be offensive to parts of our customer base.”

“We have decided that it should not run on London’s bus or transport networks. We do not believe that these specific ads are consistent with TFL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London.”

‘Context and audience’

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, whose advert was mimicked, told Channel 4 News: “On balance I think Boris [Johnson, London’s mayor] has probably got it right, but whether the advert of itself should automatically be banned - that’s an argument about context and audience.”

Mr Summerskill argued freedom of speech is a nuanced issue. “It’s a question of balance,” he said. “It’s probably right it shouldn’t be on London’s iconic buses, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be published in, say, the Spectator.”

“If they’re seen in the wider public space, where clearly they do undermine young people who are growing up to be gay, that is a serious issue - the mental health of young gay people is often significantly overlooked,” he added…

The BBC Radio Sunday programme also had a discussion of this, with representatives from Changing Attitude, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream. Go to this page for downloads of the audio file. The item is at the end of the programme, go forward about 34.5 minutes…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 4:52pm BST | Comments (38) | TrackBack
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more on Dr Glynn Harrison's views about homosexuality

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times today about his concerns, see Can orientation really be changed?

Professor Glynn Harrison is very careful with his words. He does not believe in the concept of a “gay cure” or “gay conversion”, he says. Rather, he thinks that “there is evidence that some people with un­wanted same-sex attraction can achieve significant change.”

The True Freedom Trust, on whose council of reference Professor Harrison sits, was founded in 1977 by Martin Hallett. The website explains: “Martin was involved in a homosexual lifestyle for over nine years before Jesus dramatically changed his life in 1972.”

The fact that Professor Harrison is one of those chosen by the General Synod to help to choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury is what has brought his approach under the spot­light. His views may be similar to those of a significant minority in the Church of England, but they do not seem to be those of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, of which he is a Fellow…

Colin Coward writes at Changing Attitude about Dr Glynn Harrison’s views on homosexuality and his membership of the Crown Nominations Commission.

Last week a Guardian reporter phoned me to consult me about Dr Glynn Harrison’s membership of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), the body that will select the next Archbishop of Canterbury (and appoints other diocesan bishops). The Guardian was concerned about Glynn Harrison’s CNC place because of his beliefs about gay people…

Dr Harrison’s own views can be found at the website of the Christian Medical Fellowship, which published the booklet Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction: Issues of pastoral and counselling support he authored jointly with Andrew Goddard, mentioned by Colin Coward in the article above. Three other articles are available here.

Dr Harrison is connected with the True Freedom Trust, as shown here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 9:27am BST | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 12 April 2012

CEC conference: LGBT Lives: Achieving our Equality

This article was originally written for publication by Ekklesia.

The Cutting Edge Consortium will hold its third national conference on Faith and Homophobia on Saturday 21 April, at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL from 10 a.m (register from 9.30 am) until 5 p.m.

This year’s conference is titled LGBT Lives: Achieving our Equality, Challenging Faith-Based Homophobia and Transphobia.

Quite a mouthful, and the daylong programme is packed too. There will be three keynote speakers, two plenary discussions each with a panel of speakers, and two separate workshop sessions with about six events running in parallel.

The full spectrum of Cutting Edge’s membership is reflected in the programme: faith organisations, secularists, trade unions, and LGBT groups.

The cost is very moderate, for individuals, no more than £15 for the day, and that includes a lunch. But advance booking is essential for the caterers to plan!

The keynote speakers are:

  • The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who will lead off the day with a talk entitled Same sex partnerships: making space for the conversation in the Church
  • Aidan O’Neill QC, from Matrix Chambers, an expert on European Law, whose talk is titled Reasonable Accommodation – is this a way forward?
  • Angela Eagle MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, and a humanist, who will talk about Working together to challenge faith-based homophobia

Panel members for the plenary session in the morning are:

  • Canon Giles Goddard from Inclusive Church
  • Andrew Copson from British Humanist Association
  • Jennifer Moses from NASUWT the Education Union
  • Julia Neal from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

And in the afternoon:

  • Elly Barnes from Schools Out
  • Phyllis Opuko-Gymah from Black Pride and the Public and Commercial Services Union
  • Yusef Gojikian from Imaan
  • Sharon Langridge from Bi Quakers

Workshop topics will include

  • The Marriage Debate: speakers from the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism
  • Equal Access to Public Services after the Equality Act: speakers from the police service and trade unions
  • Faith in Schools and Public Life: speakers from ACCORD and One Law for All
  • Humanist-Faith Dialogue on Secularism and Equality: speakers Richard Norman and Savi Hensman
  • Good Practice in Schools: speakers from Preston Manor, Schools Out and LGCM

And lots more.

Did I mention that advance booking is essential for the catering? Please book as soon as you can via our website at cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk

Or send an email to cuttingedgeconsortium1@googlemail.com .

A PDF booking form can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/IBhJSM .

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 11:41pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Bus advert campaign bites the dust before it starts

Updated again Friday morning

The Guardian reports that an attempt to run a bus advertising campaign by Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust has been stopped by the Mayor of London. see Anti-gay adverts on London buses blocked by Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor, has pulled an “offensive” Christian campaign advertising “gay conversion” which was due to appear on London’s buses next week.

Revelations that adverts asserting the power of therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people were due to be driven around the capital came as Johnson, who is seeking re-election in May, was due to appear at a mayoral hustings organised by the gay campaigning group Stonewall on Saturday.

The mayor immediately put the wheels in motion to halt the campaign after being alerted to the plans by the Guardian, and made clear that such advertising had no place in a tolerant city.

A clearly angered Johnson said: “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.”

And the earlier story was Christian group books anti-gay ads to appear on buses.

London buses have been booked to carry a Christian advertising campaign expected to start next week, which asserts the power of therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people.

The full length advert, which will appear on five different routes in the capital, is backed by the Core Issues Trust whose leader, Mike Davies, believes “homoerotic behaviour is sinful”. His charity funds “reparative therapy” for gay Christians who believe that they have homosexual feelings but want to become straight. The campaign is also backed by Anglican Mainstream, an worldwide orthodox Anglican group whose supporters have equated homosexuality with alcoholism.

The advert will say: “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” Post-gay and ex-gay are terms used by Christians and some psychotherapists and psychiatrists to refer to homosexual people who have undergone spiritual or pastoral therapy and, according to an Anglican Mainstream definition, have “now left a homosexual lifestyle [and experienced] an increased emotional and sexual attraction to the opposite biological gender and possibly a reduction in or loss of same-sex attraction.”

Earlier Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill had responded to the announcement of this campaign as follows:

“It’s sad that any self-styled “Christian” group promotes voodoo “gay cure therapy”, which has been discredited by the BACP, the UK’s leading professional body for counselling psychotherapists. Life would be much easier if these organisations just admitted that they don’t like gay people.”

Updates

The Guardian has two more articles:

Does the scientific support cited by anti-gay campaigners add up?

Conservative Christians are becoming more confident in the political arena

Further reports from Press Association, BBC, Independent, Telegraph.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 6:31pm BST | Comments (87) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dean of Ely

It was announced from Downing Street this morning that the next Dean of Ely is to be the Revd Canon Mark Bonney.

Mark, 55, is currently the Canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, an office he has held since 2004. Educated in Ipswich and at Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1985 and priest in 1986. He was Chaplain and then Precentor at St Albans Cathedral between 1988 and 1992, vicar of Eaton Bray (1992-96), and Rector of Great Berkhamsted from 1996 until he moved to Salisbury. He was a member of the General Synod from 1995 until 2010, serving as a Chaplain to the Synod for five years, and as a member of the Liturgical Commission for four years. He is Chair of the Salisbury DAC and is the Cathedral’s representative on the diocesan Sudan Committee which promotes the diocese’s link with Sudan.

Canon Bonney, who is married with two teenage daughters, will be installed as Dean of Ely in September.

Further information can be found on the Ely website.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 9:00am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Dr Glynn Harrison's views on homosexuality

Updated with additional links

The Guardian has published an article by Robert Booth headlined Archbishop panel member believes gay people can ‘change’ sexual desire.

A leading member of the Church of England who believes some gay people can be counselled to suppress or possibly change their sexual orientation is helping to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Glynn Harrison, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, is on the powerful Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), which will chose a successor to Rowan Williams to be approved by the prime minister and the Queen.

Harrison’s role on the 16-strong panel has triggered alarm among liberal Anglicans who fear it could deepen existing divisions over homosexuality in a church already riven by the issues of holding gay civil ceremonies in churches and the ordination of gay bishops…

A lengthy statement (quoted in the news story) issued by the press office at Church House, Westminster, on behalf of Dr Glynn Harrison can be read in full here (PDF).

Professor Glynn Harrison does not believe in concepts of ‘gay cure’ or ‘gay conversion’ and has never been involved in offering any formal counselling or ‘therapy’ in this area himself. Such descriptions, because they depend on inappropriate notions of ‘sickness’, convey simplistic and stigmatising views. In addition, as he has made clear, all bullying and prejudice toward people, whatever their sexual interests and attractions, is a violation of the inclusive call of the Christian Gospel and the way of Jesus Christ.

Professor Harrison, who supports the current teaching of the Church of England in Issues in Human Sexuality, began investigating the area of faith and human sexuality when asked by the Anglican Communion Office in 2007 to contribute to a forthcoming book (‘The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality’). This was being prepared for the 2008 Lambeth Conference as part of the ‘Listening Process’. Since then he has written other articles on faith and human sexuality. A recent example, written with Dr Andrew Goddard, was published in the Church Times on December 9th 2011 and accompanies this statement…

The Church Times article mentioned is now behind a paywall again, but for subscribers the link is here: Now for the ‘B’ picture.

The book mentioned in the statement was reviewed in 2008 by Dr Michael King and this review can still be read here: Is the Church Listening?

…Trailing at the end is the “witness of science” on the biological basis of sexuality. As scientists, we might welcome such an approach but before the Church changed its mind on slavery or women priests did it debate the biological basis for race and gender? I suspect not. It appears here because of homosexuality’s persisting image as a deviation from nature’s heterosexual plan. But never mind. Just what have these chapters to tell us? The first by David de Pomerai and Glynn Harrison is a reasonable enough summary of what neuroscience and genetics can tell us about homosexuality and is fair to the literature. The second by Glynn Harrison is of much lower quality. Here we have an academic psychiatrist bending over backwards to suggest, on the basis of the weakest sort of evidence, that sexual orientation can be changed. I suspect if he were reviewing evidence of similar quality for the efficacy of a new medication he would dismiss it out of hand. And so unsurprisingly, he finds what he sets out to find – namely that given enough willingness there are treatments out there to make homosexual people into heterosexuals, or at the very least stop them wanting sex…

Dr King has today commented on the most recent statement about Dr Harrison linked above as follows:

  • Treatments (of whatever form, including counselling) should never be offered on the basis of “anecdotal” evidence of change, particularly in controversial areas of ethical practice such as this one. I am sure Prof Harrison would object to the use of anecdotal evidence as a basis for other psychiatric treatments.
  • If he wants to use anecdotal evidence then there is also plenty such evidence for harm – our research showed that many people and their families have been harmed by such treatment. (there are also several videos to this effect on YouTube if he feels such evidence is valuable!)
  • He takes no consideration of the fact that views such as his are deeply alienating/stigmatising to LGB people of all or no faiths, as they explicitly frame a same-sex orientation as undesirable and less God-given than heterosexuality. They help to reinforce the prejudice and discrimination that LGB people suffer.
  • Would he support those bisexual people who want to move in a more same-sex affirmative position and offer counselling for them to do so?
  • It would seem that reported sexual orientation can change. However, one has to be very cautious in accepting this evidence – as we all know, people feel able to talk about their sexuality more and less frankly at different periods of their lives and to different audiences. They may deny ‘unacceptable’ parts of themselves at one time and later be franker about them. We only have self report to go on when we measure sexual orientation. Therefore it is naive scientifically to see this as representing some sort of concrete change in a given reality.
  • Framing this counselling as a way to celibacy is also a smoke screen for the real thing – to make homosexual people heterosexual. For example, catholic priests don’t need psychotherapy to be celibate. They believe celibacy is a ‘call’ that people find in faith. So why do LGB people who want to be celibate on faith grounds need this counselling? To my knowledge, there is no known scientific evidence that any form of counselling or psychotherapy is effective in helping people to be celibate (straight or gay).

Updates

The Royal College of Psychiatrists, of which Dr Harrison is a Fellow, has these statements on its website:

and this:

Anyone who is interested in Dr Harrison’s own research may find this useful: Publications for Professor Glynn Harrison.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 1:37pm BST | Comments (69) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 8 April 2012

Religious people more likely to be leftwing says Demos thinktank

The Observer reports today on a new research report from Demos under the headline Religious people are more likely to be leftwing, says thinktank Demos . Research undermines commonly held view that faith group members are more conservative.

The report itself titled Faithful Citizens can be found on the Demos website as a PDF file. Demos itself summarises the report thus:

Religiosity has always been closely associated with conservatism: the Church of England is sometimes described as ‘the Conservative party at prayer’. In the United States, the Republican party and the religious right have become increasingly interdependent, but a similar trend has not occurred on this side of the Atlantic. This report, based on original analysis of the Citizenship Survey and the European Values Survey, investigates the different relationship between religion and politics in the UK and Europe.

The report presents two key findings. First, religious people are more active citizens – they volunteer more, donate more to charity and are more likely to campaign on political issues. Second, and more counter-intuitively, religious people are more likely to be politically progressive. They put a greater value on equality than the non-religious, are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours and when asked are more likely to put themselves on the left of the political spectrum.

Based on this, Faithful Citizens recommends that progressive politicians should work with faith groups on issues which they are particularly engaged, including immigration, women’s rights, international development, the environment and youth work. Faith group members, the report argues, will be key to any future, election-winning, progressive coalition.

Mary Reid has already blogged about this report here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 6:37pm BST | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Easter Sermons and Messages

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Sermon is available here: Archbishop’s Easter Sermon 2012 - God raised Jesus to life.

The Archbishop of York has three video messages. See Archbishop’s Easter Video Messages. And he wrote this column for the Sun: Archbishop’s Easter Joy.

The Anglican Communion News Service has published a roundup of several other Easter messages, including one from the Archbishop of Uganda.

We will add more when we find them.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 12:04pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 April 2012

opinion on Holy Saturday

Daniel Burke in The Huffington Post asks What Did Jesus Do On Holy Saturday?

Paul Handley writes in The Guardian that Holy Saturday is a good time for Christians to reflect on worldy failure.

Benny Hazlehurst has this Soundtrack for Holy Week - Peter.

Tina Beattie writes in The Tablet about Towards the shining city: Rural and urban in the Easter story.

Sam Charles Norton writes about The stupid and ungodly culture of the Church of England.

Alan Wilson writes for The Guardian that The Church of England needs a reboot, not a rebrand.
And, starting with some references to Bishop Wilson’s article, Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that The Church of England needs its own rebirth.

John Milbank writes for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about After Rowan: The Coherence and Future of Anglicanism.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about going Back to the heart of the C of E.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Cathedral attendance statistics

The Church of England has published the latest cathedral attendance statistics and this press release.

Cathedral attendance statistics enjoy over a decade of growth

03 April 2012

Attendance levels at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals have steadily increased by 30% since the turn of millennium, a growth of approximately 3% on average each year, according to the latest statistics, published today. In 2011, figures for ‘average normal midweek attendance’ were at their highest levels since records began in 2000 for both adults and children; the figure for Sunday attendance was up slightly, too, for adults.

There is more good news in the figures for Christmas and Easter attendance, both showing stability across the decade, with Christmas attendance up 17% in 2011 compared with 2010.

The statistics are published online here.

Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics, said: “These figures demonstrate how cathedrals are very much a vibrant centre of spiritual life in our cathedral cities.”

The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester and chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said: “Cathedrals are wonderful places in which to worship and fascinating places to visit - and all are invited to join us as we mark Holy Week and Easter with special services.”

The remainder of the press release, summarising the statistics, is below the fold.

Sunday and total weekly attendance

Sunday services in Cathedrals are usually attended by 15,900 adults and 2,200 children and young people. Including those who only attend midweek services, the total attendance figures rise to 28,000 and 6,800 respectively. Westminster Abbey adds, on average, 2,000 people each week to these numbers.

Cathedrals are key places of daily Christian worship outside Sundays, and Midweek attendance continues to be very significant, the statistics reveal. In 2011, those attending just midweek services increased total attendance levels by 92%, adding an additional 76% to the number of adult attenders and more than doubling the number of children over the whole week.

Easter and Christmas 2011

In 2011, approximately 129,100 people attended services in cathedrals on either or both Christmas Day and Christmas Eve while services over Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, attracted attendances of 776,400. This is an increase of over 17% compared to 2010 and is probably due, at least in part, to good weather and Christmas day falling on a Sunday. Attendance at Easter 2011 was 47,900, slightly higher than the previous year. Many cathedrals have been offering additional services to respond to the space restrictions that continue to limit attendance levels. Westminster Abbey adds over 8,000 adults, children and young people to Christmas Day/Eve attendance and more than 29,000 over the Advent season.

Comparable figures from parish churches are currently being collected and collated.

Baptisms

In 2011, approximately 740 baptisms (and thanksgivings for the birth of a child), 330 marriages (and blessings of marriage), 340 funerals and 90 memorial services were conducted by cathedral clergy. The number of baptisms of young people and adults (over 13 years of age) and of child baptisms (aged 1 to 12 years) have increased by about one third over the decade, whilst the number of baptisms of babies under one year of age remained broadly stable. As a result, overall, the number of baptisms in cathedrals has increased by 9% over the decade.

Educational events

In 2011, 286,450 children attended educational events at cathedral, a reduction of 1% compared to 2010, with Westminster Abbey adding a further 11,770. In addition, a further 9,720 children are being educated at schools associated with cathedrals. Over 2,000 of these children and adults are involved week by week in providing cathedral music. In addition, 850 children (under 16 years of age) are involved in singing in other Cathedral choirs and 1,360 are voluntary choir members.

Volunteers and visitors

Over the last 10 years the number of volunteers involved in the mission and ministry of cathedrals on a regular basis has increased by 24% to 14,500, an average of 345 volunteers for every cathedral (down slightly on the high point in 2009 when there were 15,040 volunteers). In contrast, over the last 10 years, the number of visitors reported has gradually reduced by approximately 1.9 million to 9,520,980, that is, around 44,900 for every cathedral. With the addition of Westminster Abbey and other Royal Peculiars and, given the imprecise nature of visitor counting, the estimated total number of visitors to cathedrals remains at the 2010 level of 12 million.

The statistics and associated graphs are available in full here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 10:59am BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Commission to Communion: "Tell us your views on next Archbishop of Canterbury's ministry"

Updated to add clarification

A press release from the Anglican Communion Office states:

Members of the Anglican Communion around the world are, for the first time in history, being invited to share their views on the ministry of the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Crown Nominations Commission of the Church of England—the body that nominates the next Archbishop of Canterbury—traditionally asks for the views of all Primates and Provincial Secretaries of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

On this occasion, however, not only has a Primate been invited to join the Commission, but a letter has also been sent to Provinces to be read in Anglican Communion churches inviting everyone to share their thoughts about the ministry of the next Archbishop.

The letter, sent by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion* Canon Kenneth Kearon on behalf of the Commission, states: “The Archbishop of Canterbury exercises many roles—he is Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, Primate of the Church of England, and Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion.
“The process of seeking the next Archbishop is led by the Crown Nominations Commission of the Church of England and extensive consultations within the U.K. have begun with various representatives of the Church of England, other Christian denominations, other faiths and wider church life. Members of the Church of England are also invited to share in this process.

“The Commission wishes to offer the same opportunity to other members of the Anglican Communion. It is seeking your views on the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop to enable the members of the Commission to have as rich a picture as possible as they begin their work.”

The hope is that clergy will receive the letter (translated in several languages) from their Primate or bishop and read it out in church so Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world know of and can respond to the Commission’s request.

Anglican Communion members will be able to contact the Commission via both electronic and traditional means before 30th April. All views that are received will be collated and included in a report to the Commission.

Notes to Editors

*The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion is a non-voting member of the Commission

For more information about the procedures for appointing a new Archbishop of Canterbury visit: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2403/outline-of-procedures-for-appointing-a-new-archbishop-of-canterbury

The Anglican Communion Primate who joins the Commission is elected by the Standing Committee. As the Standing Committee is not scheduled to meet in person until May, the whole procedure, both nomination and election, occurs by email.

The Anglican Communion comprises around 85 million members in 38 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 165 countries. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/

Update

Episcopal Café reports receiving the following:

UPDATE: Clarification from The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office:
The letter from the Secretary General to members of the Anglican Communion seeks opinions on the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop. The responses to that will be available to the members of the Crown Nominations Commission. This is the first time this has been done.
In a separate letter to all Primates and Provincial Secretaries the same question about the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop is asked, together with a request for nominations, as on previous occasions.

Sincerely,

Kenneth.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 12:45pm BST | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Rowan Williams and identity politics

The Telegraph published a news report by John Bingham headlined Rowan Williams: fixation with gay rights, race and feminism threatens society. A fixation with gay rights, feminism and separate racial identities is threatening to “fragment” British society, the Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.

Subsequently, Comment is free published Is Rowan Williams right to warn about excessive identity politics? with contributions from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Sunny Hundal and Peter Tatchell.

Lambeth Palace has transcribed the comment that these articles refer to, from the audio recording, all available here.

Identity is a very slippery word, as everybody has brought out. I heard some voices raised, I think very importantly, against what people now often call ‘identity politics’: this is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me.

Identity politics, whether it’s the politics of feminism, whether it’s the politics of ethnic minorities, or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last ten or twenty years. Because, before that, I think there was a sense that diversity was not really welcome. And so minorities of various kinds and - not that it’s a minority - particularly a group of women, began to say ‘well, actually we need to say who we are in our terms, not yours’. And that led to identity politics of a very strong kind and the legislation that followed it.

We’re now, I think, beginning to see the pendulum swinging back, and saying: well, identity politics is all very well but we’ve got to have some way of putting all that together again, and discovering what’s good for all of us, and, as I said at the beginning, sharing something of who we are with one another so as to discover more about who we are.

That’s just one point that struck me in listening to this excellent conversation – identity isn’t just something sealed off and finished with. Identity is something we bring to the task of building up a fuller identity all the time. It’s always a work in progress, always a project, never something done with. Once we start saying ‘This is my identity and that’s it,’ then I think we’re in danger of really fragmenting the society we belong to.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 3:58pm BST | Comments (100) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

House of Lords reform and the bishops

Updated

The Church Times reports that the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform has recommended retention of 12 seats for bishops.

See Bishops’ dozen in reformed Lords.

…The draft Bill proposes that the bishops are to remain able to claim allowances as other peers do. In matters of the “serious offence pro­vision”, the draft Bill assumes that the bishops would be “subject to the disciplinary procedures established by the Church of England”.

The General Synod would need to reconsider how bishops were appointed to the Lords in future, he said, and in particular whether it kept seats for the two Archbishops, and the Bishops of Winchester, London and Durham, as has always been the case.

Last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the joint select committee on the draft reform Bill that the House of Bishops accepted the need for “a proportionate reduc­tion”, but he said that bishops “would have to face how we best facili­tate the participation of smaller numbers of bishops in a more demanding regime” (News, 2 December).

Dr Williams said that the bishops “are not there to represent the Church of England’s interests: they are there as bishops of the realm, who have taken on the role of attempting to speak for the needs of a wide variety of faith communities.”

Not everybody is pleased about this, including the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association.

Today’s Observer has an article by Catherine Bennett titled Lords reform: Will nobody finally rid us of these bumptious buffoons? and a strap line: As bishops remain in the upper house, hopes of any substantial change in this antiquated chamber are dying fast.

Yet more evidence for the power of prayer: Anglican bishops are to remain in a newly legitimised House of Lords. How else do you explain it? It seems unlikely, anyway, that popular, sublunary opinion was involved in this decision by the joint committee on House of Lords reform. Polls indicate that three out of five think these religious professionals should not have seats in the legislature. Last week the BBC reported that there would be, contrary to previous reports, room for 12 bishops in a reformed house, down from the current 26. Not so much a reform then, as an economy.

Guaranteed places for a dozen male prelates who are guided by religious laws and selected by a church hierarchy which denies equal rights to women and gay people and the dying, but incapacitated: if this is any measure of the democratic zeal of the joint committee on House of Lords reform, you wonder if they shouldn’t just give up now to save disappointment, or legal challenges, later. If the churchmen, with only historic precedent to justify their seats, can survive in a much smaller, reformed house, then a similar case can be made – and apparently is being made – for the continued existence of the Lords’ vast numbers of bumptious hereditaries, placemen, poltroons, soaks, spongers and, in a smaller yet equally tenacious way, perjurers and thieves? Not forgetting a host of eminent appointments from the world of telly. Brown’s protege, Lord Sugar, for example. He has voted 14 times out of a possible 273. And now Lord Fellowes, who appears to have spoken four times in the last year (keen for a lord) since being honoured for his services to Downton Abbey…

According to the Observer last week though, those who attend least frequently will be the first to be ejected, see Lazy peers to face axe first in Lords reforms.

Chris Bryant writing in the Indendent yesterday though the bishops should go:

…There’s a lot of moaning in the Lords, and it’s not just the threat of the Lords Reform Bill that is causing coronetted coronaries. There’s also the matter of their lordships’ recess as there is a threat that they will rise early before the new session. This is going down badly as peers lose £300 every day the House is not sitting. This includes the bishops, even though they are paid full-time stipends by the Church of England and are provided with rent-free palaces, cars and chauffeurs (or a chaplain).

Last October, for instance, bishops claimed £15,300 in attendance allowance, including the Bishop of Chester’s £2,700, Leicester’s £2,250 and most extraordinarily, London’s £900. Which brings me to the joint committee on Lords reform, which has voted to keep 12 of the 26 bishops. I just don’t get it. How can a national legislature have the representatives of just one church from only one of the four nations?

Wouldn’t it be kinder to release them from their rochet and chimere duties so that they can tend to their dioceses? After all, the Catholic Church seems to make a far more effective political splash than the CofE and its clergy are not allowed to sit in a parliament.

George Pitcher, writing in the Mail thought otherwise, see Our bishops have been handed a God-given chance in the House of Lords to end religious bickering.

Update

Andrew Copson has just published Getting the Bishops out.

I’ve just come back from a series of local BBC radio interviews on the place of Bishops in House of Lords reform. This is following the disappointing news that the parliamentary Joint Committee on Lords Reform is to recommend Bishops remain in a reformed chamber. I gave oral evidence to the committee last year but obviously they liked Rowan Williams’ evidence more.

I can’t think of a single good argument for automatic places for bishops remaining in a reformed chamber. We don’t know what the committee (one of the members of which is himself a bishop) will give as the rationale for its poor decision but it’s bound to be one or more of the following fatuities (all of them were made by the Bishop of Hereford at some point this morning)…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 2:21pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England