Saturday, 30 June 2012

opinion

Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Senior Anglican Chaplain in Athens, writes for The Church of Ireland Gazette: Greece in crisis – the Churches respond.

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian that Rowan Williams was always an enemy of the liberal state.

Lewis Galloway writes for Day1 about this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-43): Taking Jesus Seriously.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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WATCH petition

WATCH: Women and the Church has launched an online petition urging the House of Bishops to withdraw its amendment to clause 5 of the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure.

The petition can be seen, and signed, here: The House of Bishops [of the Church of England]: Withdraw Clause 5(1)c.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 9:37am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Friday, 29 June 2012

Church Times and women bishops

The Church Times has today published this longer than usual leading article: Women bishops: what should happen next.

THE General Synod is in trouble. In ten days’ time, it is to consider giving final approval to the consecration of women bishops. In the normal run of things, this would be the stage for a general debate in which the participants return to first principles, examine whether the legislation does or does not fulfil their wishes, and vote accordingly. This debate looks increasingly unlikely to happen…

The effect of the amendments has been the opposite of what was intended, however. The failure of opponents to endorse them, understandable though this may be, and the fierce rejection of them by many of the proponents, to the extent that some have been calling for the Measure to be voted down, mean that the Meas­ure might fall in both the Houses of Laity and Clergy. This would be a farcical end to the long, tortuous synodical process, and hard to square with the overwhelming vote in the diocesan synods…

The Synod is in danger of attracting widespread puzzlement if it fails to agree women bishops after such a long process. Put simply, it must not fail. Anxiety has been expressed about the precedent set by allowing parishes to choose their own type of priest (as if this did not happen at present). A far more worrying precedent will be set if Synod members cannot find a way to live in the same Church as those with whom they disagree.

There is also this news item: Women bishops: ‘little silver balls won’t stay in their holes’.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 June 2012 at 1:34pm BST | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Catholic Group in General Synod writes to members

Another letter to General Synod members about the bishops’ amendments to the women bishops legislation is circulating. This time it is from the Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod.

Subject: Women Bishop Legislation

Dear fellow member of General Synod,

Some supporters of women bishops are now urging us to send the draft Women Bishops legislation back to the House of Bishops for them to reconsider their amendments; the same people are advising us to vote against the Measure if the House of Bishops do not withdraw their amendments. We need to reflect very carefully what referring the matter back to the Bishops would do to the Church of England.

What the Bishops have done is entirely reasonable in terms of the synodical process. It is consistent with how the majority of the Synod voted in February: the Southwark motion calling for no amendments at all to be made by the House of Bishop was itself amended by Pete Spiers so as to request that no substantial amendments be made.

The Bishops’ amendments are consistent with the original substance of the Measure; that is the clear advice of the Legal Office (reproduced in the annex to GS 1708-1709ZZ); it is also the decision of the majority of the Group of Six (Archbishops, Prolocutors, Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity). Members of Synod would do well to read the Legal Office’s advice very carefully before forming a view on the amendments.

The House of Bishops’ amendments are consistent with their responsibility to try to hold the Church of England together; their amendments are also consistent with their responsibility to find a way forward that stands a reasonable chance of success at Final Approval. Synod’s voting in May showed that unamended, this Measure was doomed to fail at Final Approval.

The present agitation also provides a warning as to what would lie ahead of us were this Measure to be passed, with or without amendment. The formation of the Code of Practice would become a new battleground. Were the House of Bishops to be forced to retreat over their amendments to the Measure, they would be forced to have the contents of the Code of Practice dictated to them. Even after the Code were initially agreed, it would be open to pressure groups to campaign to whittle away its provisions over time.

A recent survey by Christian Research has found that 69% of CofE members surveyed wanted to see women bishops, and 75% wanted to see proper provision made for opponents so that they are not forced out of the Church of England. We have to ask ourselves: how do we achieve legislation that is faithful to the majority of CofE members? Pressurising the House of Bishops into withdrawing their amendments is most clearly the wrong way. Reliance on a Code of Practice is now looking to be an increasingly shaky and temporary foundation for making provision - which is what the Catholic Group in General Synod and others have consistently said.

The Bishops’ amendments are very modest but welcome steps in the right direction for the Catholic Group, though they do not go far enough. We appreciate the good intentions of the House of Bishops, but we are surprised that even the little they have offered, others are now determined to take away.

With prayers and good wishes,
Simon Killwick.
The Revd. Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester 163)
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 3:45pm BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Charity Commission rules CBS grant to Ordinariate is invalid

The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament has issued a Statement by the Superior-General, Fr Christopher Pearson, at Council-General meeting, 28 June 2012.

The statement can be found on the CBS website, and can be downloaded as a PDF file.

The Charity Commission final decision is available in full here.

…Conclusions

Our review concluded that:

  • The decision to make a grant to the Ordinariate was taken at an inquorate meeting, the majority of the trustees having a (financial) personal interest in the decision. It was also in breach of the charity’s governing document.
  • The meeting being inquorate, the decision was invalid. There was no valid exercise of the power to make a gift to the Ordinariate and the payment was unauthorised.
  • The gift is held upon constructive trust by the Ordinariate for the Confraternity.
  • The objects of the Ordinariate are wider than those of the Confraternity. A gift given to the Ordinariate without restriction could be used for purposes which have no connection with the Anglican tradition at all.
  • The precise meaning of Anglican Tradition is unclear but there is substantial doubt whether the Confraternity could make a grant to the Ordinariate (even with restrictions) which could be applied by the Ordinariate consistently with the objects of the Confraternity.
  • The Commission therefore considered the trustees of both charities were under a duty to take action to ensure the repayment of the money.

An example of the complaints sent to the Charity Commission can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 3:44pm BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Reform and women bishops

Reform has issued this statement saying that the bishops’ amendments are not sufficient and that they will encourage their members on General Synod to vote against the legislation as it stands.

Media Statement: Reform members on GS encouraged to vote against Women’s Measure: REFORM SAYS ‘FURORE’ OVER WOMEN BISHOPS SHOWS NEED FOR BETTER PROVISION
Posted on 27 June 2012

Wednesday 27th June 2012

Reform Chairman Rev’d Rod Thomas said today that “Reform deeply regrets that we have reached such an impasse on women bishops” with the current House of Bishops’ amendments not satisfying the conservative evangelical network’s concerns over their future in the Church of England.

Speaking in advance of a prayer meeting for over 200 Reform members in central London, Mr Thomas said: “We thank the House of Bishops for their work. They have tried to find a way through. But their amendments have not succeeded in persuading our members that there is a secure future for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of women as bishops. In light of that we will be encouraging our members on General Synod to vote against the legislation as it stands.”

Mr Thomas added: “The furore created by some in response to these small amendments reveals most clearly the reason why those who hold to our Biblical position need legislative clarity, not just a code of practice if we are to continue to encourage young people to come forward for ordination.

“There is clearly a desire on the part of some to see any provision for us as strictly temporary, despite the fact that we’re simply seeking to follow the Bible’s teaching about how God wants his Church to be organised. They hope we’ll just leave. However, we believe the majority of Anglicans want to honour the promises made to us over the last two decades to preserve a place for us in the Church of England. As it stands, the draft Measure doesn’t do this – and we’ll be asking General Synod to withhold approval of the draft Measure so that some proper compromises can be agreed.

“We face a very difficult situation, so we are urging our members to pray today for the House of Bishops, the General Synod and for the church’s witness in this country to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.”

The full statement also includes some background notes.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 10:55am BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Gloucester Synod wants bishops to think again

Updated 2 July

Another diocesan synod has passed an emergency motion supporting the adjournment of the final vote on women bishops and a referral back to the House of Bishops. This was Gloucester which met on Tuesday evening this week (26 June) and passed the motion “overwhelmingly”.

Before the debate on the motion Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, gave his presidential address in which he said “If we are not to avoid a debacle that I believe would be a catastrophe for the Church of England, the House of which I am a member must think again.”

Update
There is now a report of the debate on the Gloucester diocesan website.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 10:34am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Anglican Covenant: some updates

First, a report from Australia Brisbane defers the Covenant. The motion they passed in diocesan synod was this:

That this Synod recommends to the General Synod that it:

  • Affirm the commitment of the Anglican Church of Australia to the Anglican Communion.
  • Affirm its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant
  • 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.
  • 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.

Second, Paul Bagshaw has two further articles discussing the recent meeting of the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” which we reported here.

In both these articles, he suggests that there may be conflicts between English charity law (which is what governs the ACC in its constitution) and the interpretations of the Anglican Covenant which the Standing Committee has adopted.

In the first article he also comments on the recent GS1878: report by the Business Committee on the reference [of the Covenant] to the dioceses.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 9:16am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Youth Day at Lambeth Palace

Archbishop Rowan welcomed around 80 students aged 15-18 years to Lambeth Palace for a day of sharing and discussion, reflection and worship, and a barbecue lunch.

The theme of the day (‘Help, my friends think I’m mad!’) looked at what it means to be a Christian in an increasingly secular environment. In his opening remarks the Archbishop talked about science and faith, women bishops, and whether being a Christian means giving up on common sense.

The full transcript of his remarks is available here.

Reports of the day have appeared:

Telegraph Christians must confront their own ‘disgust’ over homosexuality, says Archbishop by John Bingham

Guardian Williams: Christians need to confront shame and disgust over homosexuality by Ben Quinn

The paragraphs relevant to the press coverage are these:

…Then there’s sex; a matter of constant interest to pretty well the whole human race, including not only issues about what you do sexually, but also about gender – about men and women. You’ll have noticed that in the Church of England at the moment we’re in the middle of what looks like a pretty complicated argument about women bishops. I’m speaking as somebody who really very much wants to see women bishops as soon as possible. Like most of you, I am used to a world in which men and women share in decision‑making and discussion without any big issue. I really long to see a time when bishops, as a group, can be like that and feel more like other groups. It is something I am very committed to. I share the frustration of a lot of people, that we’re tangled-up in trying to get the maximum support for it in the Church of England and every move in one direction makes other people move away. It’s like one of those terrible games you get in Christmas crackers sometimes where you have to get the little silver balls into holes – you always get two of them but then the other one goes off somewhere else.

That’s an area where we are in the middle of quite a lot of tangles. Same with same‑sex marriage, where once more we’re used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the Church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it. What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience. So whatever we think about it, we need, as a Church, to be tackling what we feel about it…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:07am BST | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

GRAS writes to General Synod members

GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) have sent the letter below to the members of General Synod to express their opposition to the bishops’ amendment to Clause 5 of the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, and urging Synod members to adjourn their debate to allow the bishops to think again.

GRAS
Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod

27th June 2012

Dear Member of General Synod,

The Act of Synod all over again

It’s the Act of Synod all over again – but worse this time: more divisive, and proposed to be written into law.

Amendment 5(1)(c) in the latest draft of the women bishops legislation (the Draft Bishops and Priests [Consecration and Ordination of Women] Measure) goes beyond the previously agreed form of the Measure in that it invites congregations to judge the theological convictions of the bishops they consider acceptable. This is unprecedented in privileging in law undefined theological positions, and in allowing congregations to sit in judgment over the characteristics of their bishop.

We have worked and prayed for many years for Women Bishops and would find it deeply painful to say No to this Measure. However, many people, who long for the Church of England to have women bishops, cannot support it in its present form.

We urge you to support an adjournment to allow time for the Bishops to reconsider Amendment 5(1)(c). If this does not happen, we ask you to prayerfully consider voting the amended measure down.

With our concern and prayers,
Yours sincerely,
Ruth McCurry
GRAS Chair

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 4:13pm BST | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Senior women clergy write to General Synod members

A group of senior women clergy have sent the letter below to the members of General Synod to express their opposition to the bishops’ amendment to Clause 5 of the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, and urging Synod members to adjourn their debate to allow the bishops to think again.

To all members of General Synod:

Following the House of Bishops’ amendments many people have asked for the perspective of senior women clergy regarding the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure as it now stands.

We the undersigned wish to express our deep dismay at the introduction of Clause 5(1)(c), which has serious implications for the way the Church understands itself and undermines women so profoundly that we are now unable to support the Measure.

We recognise that bishops voted in favour of this amendment in good faith, believing that further assurances for those unable to accept the ministry of ordained women would help secure the Measure’s passing.

However, with the introduction of this clause the Measure is likely to be defeated. It is therefore our hope that the General Synod will adjourn the debate in July and return the legislation to the House of Bishops for further reflection. This will give the opportunity for the Measure (as passed by 42 of the 44 dioceses) to be returned to General Synod for approval later in the year.

The Venerable Christine Allsopp (Archdeacon of Northampton)
The Revd Canon Sarah Bullock (Bishop’s Advisor for Women’s Ministry Diocese of Manchester)
The Venerable Annette Cooper (Archdeacon of Colchester)
The Venerable Penny Driver (Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness)
The Very Revd Vivienne Faull (Dean of Leicester)
The Venerable Karen Gorham (Archdeacon of Buckingham)
The Revd Canon Jane Hedges (Canon Steward & Archdeacon of Westminster)
The Venerable Canon Janet Henderson (Archdeacon of Richmond)
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons)
The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestley (Chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women’s Ministry)
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle (Dean of Birmingham)
The Very Revd June Osborne (Dean of Salisbury)

The Venerable Jane Sinclair (Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey)
The Revd Canon Celia Thomson (Canon Pastor, Gloucester Cathedral)
The Venerable Rachel Treweek (Archdeacon of Hackney)
The Very Revd Dr Frances Ward (Dean of St Edmundsbury)
The Venerable Christine Wilson (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
The Revd Lucy Winkett (Rector, St James’s Piccadilly)

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 4:03pm BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Monday, 25 June 2012

Parish income and ministry stats published

The Church of England has today published (5.6 MB pdf file) its latest information both about parish income and expenditure and about trends in ministry numbers in Church Statistics 2010/11.

The press release states that:

The attendance statistics included were published in January 2012. This year’s financial statistics show that parish giving remained resilient in 2010 despite the general economic situation. With investment income still at the reduced level experienced in recent years overall parish income was marginally ahead of the previous year.

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

Earlier statistics are available here.

Parish income

Despite the difficult economic times, parishioners’ tax-efficient planned giving continued to increase in 2010, by 3.4% to an average of £10.41 a week. When higher inflation is taken into account this does, however, represent a fall compared with 2009 - the first fall in real terms since 2000.

The total income of parishes rose slightly to £897 million, although this is also a real terms decline compared with 2009. Because so much of this comes from the regular, planned giving which continues to be the core of church finances, this decrease was proportionally less than that experienced by many charities.

In 2010, parishes received £305 million from more than six hundred thousand regular givers. Many of these gifts and some one-off donations are given through Gift Aid, resulting in more than £84 million in tax being reclaimed by parishes from HMRC, up by more than £2 million from 2009.

Income from dividends, interest and property dropped by approximately 11 per cent between 2009 and 2010, and parishes received £30 million from this source. This drop reflects low interest rates and stock market returns.

At the same time, parishes made donations of £49 million to external charities and mission organisations.

Ministry and Ordination candidates

At the end of 2011, there were some 28,955 licensed and authorised ministers, ordained and lay, active across the 12,500 parishes and a growing variety of chaplaincies (in local communities, hospitals, education, prisons and the armed forces) in the Church of England.

The number of people ordained to stipendiary (paid) ministry - 264 in 2011 - has remained broadly stable over the past 16 years (see graph p52). This is compared with almost a three-fold increase in those ordained to self-supporting ministry (89 in 1994 to 240 in 2011). About half (52 per cent) of those ordained in 2011 entered stipendiary ministry compared with more than three quarters (78 per cent) in 1994. In total, 504 new clergy were ordained in 2011. 464 candidates were accepted to train as future clergy in 2011, a lower number than in previous years (but provisional figures for 2012 show that numbers accepted for ordination have returned to previous levels). The number of readers in training in 2011 was 349.

The number of women clergy, paid and unpaid, continues to rise. In 2011 there were 1,763 women in full-time paid parochial appointments compared with 1,140 in 2000, an increase of 50 per cent over the decade. Women make up over one in five (22 per cent) of paid parish clergy. Women in 2011 made up more than half of both those in self-supporting ministry (54 per cent) and of licensed readers (51 per cent).

Clergy information by ethnicity for each diocese is published for the first time, with percentage of white and black minority ethnic stipendiary priests.

Survey

The Research & Statistics team are undergoing a process of review and would like your feedback as part of their current “Data Users” survey. This will help them to prioritise what they will publish in the future and hopefully make Church Statistics much more relevant to you.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 25 June 2012 at 10:24am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bishops disagree with Church of England policy on equal marriage

The Telegraph reports today on this.

Ed Malnick and Cole Moreton Bishops rebel against Church marriage policy

Two bishops have broken ranks to speak out against the Church of England’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

They say that the Church’s official position does not speak for them, nor for a substantial number of clergy and churchgoers.

Their intervention comes as critics prepare to challenge the policy at General Synod next month, exposing faultlines within the Church…

Bishop Tim Ellis wrote this on his blog: Not in my name?

There have been many recent statements from senior bishops and others within the life of the Church of England which have raised questions in my mind as to the nature of our Church and its relationship with our country. In response to the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, public statements have been made which purport to give the ‘mind’ of the Church of England…

…So, I am forced to say that those of my colleagues who have spoken out on same-sex marriage do not speak for me and neither, I dare to say, do they speak for the Church of England-they are rehearsing their own opinions.

Bishop Alan Wilson was a signatory to a letter to The Times a few weeks ago, which can be read in full here.

He also wrote on his blog about this, see But mummy, he hasn’t got anything on!

And Bishop Nicholas Holtam spoke about this at a conference recently, see “Making space for an honest conversation”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 24 June 2012 at 7:33pm BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Saturday, 23 June 2012

opinion

Richard Godwin of the London Evening Standard interviews the Archbishop of Canterbury in Goodbye to all that…

Mark Vernon asks in The Guardian ‘Silence is a lovely idea’ – so why have churches become so noisy?

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Dying can be a terribly lonely business. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Friday, 22 June 2012

Same-Sex Civil Marriage and the Established Religious Lobby

Iain McLean and Scot Peterson have written at Politics in Spires about Same-Sex Civil Marriage and the Established Religious Lobby: Providing the Government with Good Information?

On Tuesday 12 June, two days before the end of the consultation by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) on same-sex civil marriage, the Church of England submitted an unsigned response. The response contains a number of arguments, which we feel are deeply flawed or simply inaccurate:

  • Same-sex civil marriage violates the fundamental principle of marriage: complementarity, which arises from the difference between the sexes. If this argument does not depend upon the importance of procreation, and it cannot, then the argument is circular.
  • Legislation on civil marriage will impact religious marriage because the institution of marriage is one and the same for both. But one of the foremost Christian apologists in the Church of England has argued that they should be different, and the Church of England has fought successfully to maintain the distinction between the two.
  • The Church of England’s bishops have supported civil partnership policy in the UK. In fact, they have not.
  • European law may force churches to perform same-sex marriages if the government does so. In fact, the authority that the church relies on leads to exactly the opposite conclusion.
  • Nothing is gained by giving same-sex partners the option of a civil marriage when they already have civil partnership. This argument is wrong, because (a) important benefits obtain in marriage, which do not in civil partnerships; and (b) separate is not equal.

On Thursday 14 June, the consultation deadline, seven Oxford academics, including the authors, Professors Leslie Green (Philosophy of Law) and Diarmaid MacCulloch (History of the Church); the Rev Canon Dr Judith Maltby, Dr Adrian Kelly, and Will Jones, M.Phil., submitted a response to the church’s position, addressing each of these arguments in turn…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 June 2012 at 11:45pm BST | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Worcester Diocesan Synod and the bishops' amendment

Worcester Diocesan Synod met last night and passed this emergency motion by 38 votes to 5.

This Synod calls upon the members of General Synod to support an adjournment of the debate on final approval of the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, so that the House of Bishops can reconsider its recent amendment to clause 5.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 22 June 2012 at 8:57am BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Affirming Catholicism and the bishops' amendments

Affirming Catholicism issued a statement today on the House of Bishops Amendment to the Women Bishops Measure. They say that

the idea that parishes should have statutory authority to demand specific provision of oversight according to particular theological views is a dangerous precedent to be setting, both for the Church of England and for the Anglican Communion as a whole.

The clause 5 amendment raises significant questions about the credibility of the Church of England’s insistence on the historic episcopate as one of the bases for our ecumenical relationships

and conclude that the amendment to Clause 5 proposed by the Bishops “calls into question the catholic nature of the ecclesiology of the C of E”.

On procedure they strongly support the motions in the Convocations and the House of Laity to refer the amended measure to General Synod, but strongly urge Synod to refer it back to the House of Bishops.

The full statement is here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 5:30pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Salisbury Diocesan Synod rejects bishops' amendment

Updated 5pm Wednesday
Thursday morning update The bishop’s presidential address is now available here.

We have been informed us that Salisbury Diocesan Synod last night overwhelmingly passed an emergency motion that “This Synod calls upon the House of Bishops to withdraw its amendment to Clause 5 of the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure”.

Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, said in his Presidential Address, “the Bishops have destabilised the compromise agreed by 42 of the 44 Dioceses”. Both he and Graham Kings, the suffragan Bishop of Sherborne, voted for and welcomed the motion.

WATCH has issued a press release stating that “This emergency motion is the latest indication that the House of Bishops needs to rethink its approach to this important legislation.”

Wednesday Update

The Diocese of Salisbury has this evening issued a press release summarising the bishop’s presidential address, from which the following is extracted.

Revolutionary Talk

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, … called for an end to changes to legislation for women bishops…

Bishop Holtam said: “This is not a matter of pragmatics but of principle and what the House of Bishops has done is to destabilise a very carefully crafted proposal, which already had significant compromise within it to recognise the legitimate place of difference within the Church of England, but which had substantial agreement from the dioceses.”

Referring to a vote on whether to accept the amendments to the legislation, he added: “The motion that has been tabled tonight is in keeping with the strong support this diocese has previously given to the ordination of women bishops and I welcome it as a contribution to what is indeed a very urgent debate.” …

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:14pm BST | Comments (53) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

further media coverage of CofE response to government

Nick Cohen wrote in Sunday’s Observer abour A church fit only for bigots and hypocrites.

Douglas Carswell wrote in the Evening Standard last week that The time is now right to split Church and State.

Cole Moreton wrote in the Sunday Telegraph Will gay marriage end in divorce for church and state?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 at 9:16pm BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Anglican Covenant: Church of England's current status

The press release for the forthcoming General Synod group of sessions includes this statement:

One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

GS 1878 Anglican Communion Covenant: Draft Act of Synod - Report by the Business Committee on the reference to the dioceses has been published, although at this writing it is linked only here, and not over here.

Paragraph 6 may be of particular interest:.

The draft Act of Synod was approved in eighteen dioceses and not approved in twenty-six dioceses. Thus the draft Act of Synod was not approved by a majority of the dioceses and it therefore cannot be presented to the General Synod for Final Approval. For the record, there is nothing in the Synod’s Constitution or Standing Orders that would preclude the process being started over again, whether in the lifetime of this Synod or subsequently, by another draft Instrument to the same effect being brought forward for consideration by the General Synod before being referred to the dioceses under Article 8. The Business Committee is not, however, aware of a proposal to re-start the process in this way.

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Inclusive Church response to government consultation

The response of Inclusive Church to the government’s consultation on equal civil marriage follows the format of the consultation questions, which are reproduced within the response, copied in full below the fold. Also available on the IC website in the latest Newsletter.

Equal Civil Marriage: A Consultation. Inclusive Church’s response

Introduction

Inclusive Church is a network of individuals and organisations whose make-up reflects the breadth and scope of the Church of England and beyond. We come from differing traditions and differing locations but we are united in one aim: To celebrate and maintain the traditional inclusivity and diversity of the Anglican Communion.
Formally we are a charity (number: 1102676) led by a board of trustees,
Partner organisations include: Association of Black Clergy, Modern Church, Changing Attitude, Lesbian& Gay Christian Movement, LGB & T Coalition, No Anglican Covenant, Progressive Christianity Network, WATCH (Women and the Church), Young Inclusive Church.

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony?
IC agrees with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender, having the option of a civil marriage ceremony.

Question 2: Please explain the reasons for your answer.
IC believes that civil marriage in a registry office or other approved premises should be available upon identical terms to all couples, as a simple matter of justice, fairness, and equality. Marriage as an institution has changed and developed substantially over the history of human societies. This proposed change is not inconsistent with the fundamental societal basis of marriage as the public acknowledgement of a permanent, stable, faithful relationship between two people.

Question 3: If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would you wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
See answer to Question 4.

Question 4: If you represent a group of individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would those you represent wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
IC knows of many same-sex couples among its supporters who would wish to have civil marriages, if offered. Some of these couples are already in civil partnerships and others are not. Similarly we know of many LGBT individuals not currently in a relationship who would wish civil marriage to be an option available to them in the future.

Question 5: The Government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
IC disagrees with this proposal. We believe there is a fundamental principle of religious liberty at stake here. Faith groups that believe it is right to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples should not be prevented by law from doing so. The permissive approach recently implemented for civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises demonstrates that such an approach is possible also for marriages. It is of the utmost importance that objections to the principle of same-sex marriages by some religious groups should not be used as an excuse to obstruct other groups from acting in accordance with their own religious views. Each group should be free to make its decision in accordance with its own internal procedures. The ideal solution is to ensure that marriage for same-sex couples is precisely equivalent to marriage for opposite-sex couples: i.e. available on the same terms in religious or civil venues – subject to the inclusion of an “opt-out” possibility by religious groups.

Question 6: Do you agree or disagree with keeping the option of civil partnerships once civil marriage is available to same-sex couples?
IC believes that civil partnerships should be retained ad infinitum. Some of our supporters who are already in civil partnerships, and many others who are not, would not choose to enter into civil marriages, for a variety of reasons, and there is no obvious reason for removing this option, which has proved to be much less controversial than many anticipated.

Question 7: If you identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and were considering making a legal commitment to your partner would you prefer to have a civil partnership or a civil marriage?
See answer to Question 6.

Question 8: The Government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
IC has no view at present on the desirability of making civil partnerships available to opposite-sex couples. We believe that any such proposal should be subject to a full consultation.

Question 9: If you are in a civil partnership would you wish to take advantage of this policy and convert your civil partnership into a marriage?
IC knows that some of its supporters will wish to convert their civil partnership into a civil marriage.

Question 10: Do you agree or disagree that there should be a time limit on the ability to convert a civil partnership into a marriage?
IC believes there should be no time limit imposed on the option to convert a civil partnership into a marriage.

Question 11: Do you agree or disagree that there should be the choice to have a civil ceremony on conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage?
IC believes that those who convert a civil partnership into a marriage should be subject to the same requirements for a civil ceremony as all others entering a civil marriage.

Question 12: If you are a married transsexual person would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while obtaining a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
IC welcomes the fact that Equal Marriage will resolve the very serious legal anomaly that creates such painful difficulties for previously married transsexual couples whowish to remain together.

Question 13: If you are the spouse of a transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage whilst your spouse obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
See answer to Question 12.

Question 14. Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issuesoutlined in this chapter on consequential impacts?

State pensions:
IC supports the backdating of all state pension entitlements to 1978.

Survivor benefits in occupation pension schemes:
IC supports legislation to remove any remaining unfairness in survivors benefits in occupational benefit schemes.

Administrative processes for marriage and civil partnership:
IC believes the processes of registration should be identical for all civil marriages.

International Recognition:
IC believes that all same-sex marriages formed abroad should be fully recognised throughout the UK. We also believe the government should make all reasonable efforts to obtain recognition of UK same-sex marriages (and civil partnerships) by overseas countries.

Devolution:
IC believes that the law on same-sex marriages should be consistent throughout the UK.

Question 15: Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals that we have not accounted for in the impact assessment?
No.

Question 16: Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation? Please respond within 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).
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 Christ and his Church. But we know that exactly the same kind of love is equally possible in a same-sex relationship. A gay relationship based on the same quality of commitment is morally and spiritually indistinguishable from a heterosexual marriage where the partners are unable to have children together. It is important that the State gives equal recognition to both, not only in terms of legality but in terms of human dignity, by opening civil marriage to same sex couples without distinction. We pray for the day when the Church will do the same.

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Anglican Mainstream response to government consultation

From Anglican Mainstream

The article linked above contains (scroll down) the full text of the Anglican Mainstream response, which is also copied below the fold.

A Submission to the Government’s Consultation on Same-sex (‘Equal Civil’) Marriage, on Behalf of Anglican Mainstream

1. Initial Statement

a. Anglican Mainstream, which represents a significant body of evangelical opinion within the Church of England, urges Her Majesty’s Government not to introduce ‘same-sex marriage’ and, further, not to create a distinction between ‘religious’ and ‘civil’ marriages.

b. Our reasons for this do not rest solely on religious faith. We do believe, however, that our Christian heritage has informed and enhanced the understanding of marriage, to the benefit of individuals and society.

c. We would readily agree that marriage is about much more than sex. Nevertheless, since ‘same-sex marriage’ is the matter under consideration, our remarks focus on issues of sexuality and sexual practice, and their relevance to our understanding of marriage.

d. Above all, we need to stress that at the heart of the issue is same-sex acts, not relationships between people of the same sex. Some may find this objectionable as a principle or unsustainable as a distinction, but we believe it is necessary for the sake of clarity in the wider public debate.

2. Marriage, Society and Family Life

a. Hitherto, marriage has been upheld in virtually all societies as providing a fundamental framework for family life, and thus contributing to social stability. At no time was this simply and solely a matter of economics or property. Marriage has always envisaged the sexual expression of desire and love, providing a context for both its authorization and limitation.

b. This has been of particular importance regarding the bearing and nurture of children. Marriage has defined a relationship between biological parents and their children within which parents are committed to one another and explicitly ‘own’ a mutual responsibility for their children, guaranteeing them security and boundaries as they grow up.

c. By contrast, where marriage has declined we see that it is has negative implications for children, particularly where there are multiple manifestations of disadvantage.

3. Marriage, Sex and Procreation

a. Crucial to the notion of marriage in all societies has been a biologically procreative understanding of sexuality. Whilst this is not the sole purpose of marriage, or the only factor in human sexuality, nevertheless it has never, hitherto, been entirely separated from the institution of marriage itself.

b. The existence of childless marriages is not an objection in itself to the principle that our understanding of marriage properly includes this procreative aspect of human sexuality. Indeed, childlessness is often a painful issue, which if it continues (other than where a couple would have had no expectation of having children) often leads to a sense that the marriage lacks an important element.

c. Simlarly, the possibility of adoption ought not to change our understanding of sexuality and its relationship to marriage. Adoption, by its very nature, entails the existence of a number of negative factors, not least that a child is not raised by one or both of its natural parents. Hence although adoption is (usually) driven by altruism, the fact that it is a means of introducing children into otherwise-childless marriages cannot itself determine our definition of marriage.

d. The same is true for surrogacy. Furthermore, we would observe that whilst this makes it possible for some same-sex couples to have children they count as their own, it requires that the child not know, or at least not have a normal relationship with, one biological parent. As in adoption, this has implications for long-term anxiety about identity on the part of the individual concerned. Surrogacy cannot be regarded as the equivalent of marital parenting either biologically or socially.

4. Same-sex ‘marriage’

a. Same-sex relationships clearly cannot, by their nature, be reproductive. Thus, whatever else one thinks of such relationships, they are not the equivalent of the relationships for which marriage has hitherto been instituted and reserved.

b. To create the concept of same-sex marriage will not be, as many are arguing, simply to make a currently ‘restrictive’ view of marriage more ‘inclusive’. Rather, it requires, and will formally establish, a fundamental change in our understanding of sexuality and family life.

c. Specifically, it requires us, against the facts, to accept that ‘same-sex’ sex is intrinsically no different from ‘opposite-sex’ sex, with the implication that relationships and households constituted around the latter are in essence the same as those constituted around the former.

d. We believe that would be to maintain a falsehood and that a social system based on falsehoods is inherently flawed and fragile.

5. The Church of England’s Understanding of Marriage in Society

a. The Church of England has a particular understanding of sex and marriage which is not universally shared in our wider society. As in the Scriptures themselves, we find in various cultures differing views and social arrangements. It is an important part of the Christian tradition that marriage in this respect is a matter of ‘common grace’, found in every society.

b. Nevertheless, we believe that our understanding has been refined over the centuries and perfected by Christ’s own teaching. That teaching, which finds expression in the Church’s life and liturgies, has played a vital part in our society and we believe it continues to have an important contribution to make.

c. Thus, for example, the Christian view of marriage involves an intention of permanence (Matthew 19:7-9, cf Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:17) over against a widespread acceptance of divorce in the first century ad. Again, the Christian view obliged men, on theological principle, to regard their wives as spiritual (and therefore true) equals (cf 1 Peter 3:7). Indeed, at its highest, marriage is seen as a reflection of the relationship (what the Book of Common Prayer calls the “mystic union”) between Christ and the people he has redeemed.

d. Because of the idea of common grace (see 5a), the Church of England does not hold that it has a monopoly on marriage. By the same token, however, we would reject a distinction between ‘civil’ and ‘religious’ marriages. We would (naturally) advocate the Christian understanding of marriage, but we believe that marriage is a shared social institution. This means, however, that all marriages are of the same nature — there is not ‘religious’ marriage and ‘civil’ marriage — and that ideally all marriages ought to partake of the same commitments and responsibilities.

6. The Church of England’s Understanding of Sex in Marriage

a. Unlike the Church of Rome, the Church of England does not insist that every act of sexual intercourse between healthy married couples ought to have the potential for conception. However, it recognizes that the reproductive function of sex is intrinsic to the nature of sexual intercourse and therefore to marriage. The first reason marriage was instituted, according to the Book of Common Prayer, is for “the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord”.

b. Nevertheless, procreation is not the only reason for which marriage was instituted. The second, according to the Book of Common Prayer is as “a remedy against sin … to avoid fornication”, or as the authorized ‘Series One Form of Solemnization of Matrimony’ puts it, “that the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright”.

c. Thus the Book of Common Prayer (which has a formal role in defining the Church’s doctrine), and later liturgies (which do not), both recognize that there is an aspect of sexuality which goes beyond the procreation of children. But they also presume and state that the proper place for its expression is solely within marriage and that there is (at least implicitly) such a thing as a ‘natural’ instinct.

d. Thus it is valid to observe (contra criticism levelled at the former Bishop of Carlisle for pointing this out) that the sexual organs have a ‘natural’ function which relates to their corresponding form in male and female. This function finds its fullest expression in a context where sexual intercourse results, at least on occasion, in conception and childbirth.

e. Intercourse does not always produce children and does have other justifications, including pleasure and bonding — we rightly refer to ‘making love’. But to the extent that, in a particular context, children are either not wanted or not possible, to that extent a sexual relationship is falling short of the fullness of the ‘natural’ function of the physical elements involved.

f. Even in cases where conception does not occur by reason of health or age, the sexual act nevertheless retains a correspondence to this natural function. In the case of same-sex acts, however, that function is necessarily entirely missing from the outset. The latter situation is thus not at all the equivalent of the former and there is no ‘correspondence’ in the use of the organs involved with their natural function.

g. Whilst some may feel this use is nevertheless morally unexceptionable, the Church has always taken the view that the expression of same-sex desires should be a matter of self-control as being, in the final analysis, ‘unnatural’.

7. Sex, Morality and Marriage

a. The social institution of marriage has also carried with it a presumption that our sexual instincts and desires must be subject to a degree of control.

b. Until relatively recently, there was a widespread conviction (even though it was a principle often observed in the breach) that sex was wrong before marriage and that virginity at the time of marriage, at least on the part of women, was to be prized.

c. Even today, adultery — sex in breach of the marriage relationship — generally elicits disapproval. Few people regard physical desire, or even love, for another as sufficient justification in themselves for a breach of the marriage vows.

d. Moreover, the requirement for sexual self-control extends beyond the boundaries imposed by marriage. Thus for example, whilst there are those who undoubtedly experience compelling sexual desires regarding children or animals, our society regards these as inadmissible and penalizes any instances of their occurrence. In the first case, the reasoning is that the relationships are abusive, in the second that they are in some sense, ‘unnatural’.

e. In between those activities which are generally accepted and those which are generally rejected, however, is a whole range of behaviours which constitute something of a ‘grey area’ of disagreement. In this we might include such things as sado-masochism or fetishism, which some find unexceptionable whilst others regard them as morally dubious.

f. Until quite recently, homosexual acts were subject to legal penalty. Even when those penalties were removed, the initial condition was that they should only be engaged in privately. It is not unreasonable at least to ask whether they ought still to be regarded as a ‘grey area’, rather than receive at a stroke the endorsement that same-sex marriage would bestow on them.

g. The Christian tradition, still held by the majority in the Church of England, is that same-sex acts ought to be subject to self-control, and that where they are not this entails a moral wrong. In the 1960s many voices in the Church were raised in support of easing the law sanctioning same-sex acts. But a removal of legal penalties need not imply an endorsement of the actions that were formerly penalized.

h. Nevertheless, opposition within the Church to same-sex acts does not mean hostility towards people who experience same-sex attraction (what is sometimes meant by ‘homophobia’). In one of the places where it most clearly rejects same-sex acts, the Bible includes this reassurance for those in the Church who had engaged in them: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9).

i. Moreover, as we have attempted to show above, such an attitude towards sex and marriage need not depend solely on religious assumptions. There is a ‘secular’ case for keeping the definition of marriage as it is, which we hope will be understood by all those engaged in this debate.

j. We are conscious that the Church is now out of step on this subject with a substantial section of public opinion. The same would be true, however, on a variety of other issues. We believe that the Christian understanding of sex and marriage gives us a particular insight into and motivation for maintaining the traditional view on same-sex acts on the one hand and the nature of marriage on the other, and thus in making an important contribution to the welfare of our society.

k. We respectfully urge the government to think again about its proposed course of action.

Signed

Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor,
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary
Rev John Richardson

21 High Street
Eynsham
OX29 4HE

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Methodist Church response to government consultation on equal civil marriage

The Response from the Methodist Church in Britain to the consultation on “Equal Civil Marriage” can be found on their website as a PDF file, here.

SUMMARY OF THE METHODIST CHURCH RESPONSE

  • The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that
    “marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman”.
  • Our Church governance means that we would not be able to revise this position, even if we wished to, without an extended period of reflection and consultation.
  • Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of beliefs about human sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men.
  • We do not believe that a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriage is a helpful or correct one. Marriage does not have a different definition for religious groups, as against the state. Marriage is a single legal and social entity. Nor do we believe that the Government should determine what is religious.
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Monday, 18 June 2012

Not In My Name

From Inclusive Church:

If you were as angry and disillusioned as were many of us with the Church of England Response to the Government Consultation on Same Sex Marriage please join this campaign by personally disowning the content of the Response.

Pick up a pen.

Write a plain card/ post card/ short note or email to your Diocesan Bishop/ One of the Archbishops / Your General Synod Representatives/ Anyone you know well who represent the “hierarchy of the C of E”

And say simply:

Dear …

NOT IN MY NAME

What on earth is happening to the Church of England , the Church to which I belong?

Why were amendments added to the draft legislation regarding women Bishops when 42 out of the 44 Dioceses had voted for the unamended proposals? Why was the careful work of so many years overturned in a few days? In whose name? These new amendments are NOT IN MY NAME

And who wrote the so called “Church of England” Government Equalities Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage Response? It is NOT IN MY NAME and I dissociate myself from the out of date, intolerant views contained therein. The Government at least consulted gay and lesbian people about their hopes for the future of their relationships , which is more than the Church of England ever does. In this the Government shows a democratic spirit which is the spirit of the times, but which seems to be lost altogether from the present Church of England hierarchy which appears to act as an increasingly clumsy, backward looking “Magisterium” in matters of the utmost human sensitivity and seriousness. In whose name does it act like this?

NOT IN MY NAME.

Signed

Yours in Christ
Name

Baptised and Confirmed Member of the Church of England/ Regularly worshipping member of the Church of England

This task is not meant to be onerous but to register with the Bishops and other members of the hierarchy our distrust and anger over recent moves and statements made by them as if they carry the authority of the whole church.

If you are very busy just write one card or contact one Bishop.

If you are less busy please write to as many hierarchs as you can.

Put anything you like on the card but include the words NOT IN MY NAME so that they get the message. The more humorous and distinctive the card the better, without of course being rude, or simple plain little while card will do.

Please try to get friends/ members of your groups/ other congregation members to do the same.

Flood them………..we have to show we care!

See also the online petition Church of England? Not in our name

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other legal views of the CofE response to government

See text of response, and some initial press coverage here. Subsequent coverage here, and then here.

Several articles disagreeing with the legal views expressed in the CofE document:

Adam Wagner Will the European Court force churches to perform gay marriages?

Paul Johnson Church of England’s argument against gay marriage is without foundation

…The CoE’s argument regarding canon law is without any foundation. Canon law, under the Government’s proposals, will be left untouched. The CoE could even, should it wish to, strengthen the heterosexual exclusivity of its canon law on marriage through the introduction of new Measures prohibiting same-sex marriage on its religious premises in the future; the proposed statutory legislation on same-sex civil marriage would provide no bar to it doing this. Like others, I believe that this would be regarded as acceptable by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In light of this, the focus on canon law in the CoE’s response to the consultation must be seen as a cynical strategy designed to stall this important development in civil marriage law. It is a tactic that attempts to obscure and mystify the relationship between canon and statutory law in order to convince of the CoE’s legal authority in marriage. Yet neither canon law nor the CoE has any legal influence in respect of civil marriage which remains regulated solely by common and statutory law.

Whilst the CoE’s response to the Government’s consultation demonstrates its trenchant ideological opposition to the social evolution of marriage, its reliance on canon law reveals how threadbare its arguments have become. In place of robust and rational argument, the CoE have resorted to incoherent and flawed legal claims which, once subjected to scrutiny, fail to provide any justification for preventing gay men and lesbians in loving, permanent and life-long relationships from contracting civil marriage.

Karen Monaghan Leading QC contradicts equal marriage critics - proposals will not force Church to marry gay couples

“…the protection afforded by Article 9 to religious organisations is strong…I consider that requiring a faith group or a member of its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages contrary to its doctrine or the religious convictions of its members would violate Article 9. Any challenge brought on human rights grounds seeking to establish a same-sex couple’s right to marry in church would inevitably fail for that reason. In balancing the rights of a same-sex couple and a religious organisation’s rights under Article 9 (in particular, in relation to a matter such as marriage, so closely touching upon a religious organisation’s beliefs) the courts would be bound to give priority to the religious organisation’s Article 9 rights.”

And Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said:

The debate around same-sex marriage becomes hysterical when people don’t understand relevant law and principle. As this country’s national Human Rights organisation, we have a long tradition both of promoting equal treatment and defending the rights of those whose opinions we do not share.

We are not religious experts - but frankly- neither are the Bishops human rights lawyers. The Church of England should have greater confidence in the strength of freedom of conscience protection under Article 9. As our leading QC’s opinion clearly demonstrates, provision for gay marriage in the UK could never result in religious denominations opposed to it being ordered to conduct such ceremonies.”

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General Synod and women bishops

Updated Tuesday

Two press reports look at what might happen to the women bishops legislation at next month’s General Synod.

Gavin Drake has written in Church Times that Women-bishops supporters might send Measure back.

John Bingham has written in the Telegraph that Church of England: new row could set women bishops plan back five years.

Opinions on the bishops’ amendments include these three.

Modern Church has published this paper by Jonathan Clatworthy: When is a bishop not a bishop (also available as a pdf).

Jeremy Fletcher has blogged Women Bishops – What I think I think.

Michael Sadgrove (the Dean of Durham) has blogged Where are we now on Women as Bishops?

And looking further ahead, last Friday’s edition of Today in Parliament on BBC Radio 4 included an interview with Ben Bradshaw MP about what might happen if the women bishops legislation as amended by the bishops reaches the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. The programme can be downloaded as a 12 MB mp3 podcast, or listened to on the BBC iPlayer. The interview starts with an introduction at 6 min 41 sec.
Update WATCH has provided a transcript of this interview.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 11:50am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 16 June 2012

opinion

Joe Lycett writes for The Huffington Post that The Church of England is a Drunk Bloke in a Wetherspoon.

Nelson Jones writes for New Statesman about God’s Peculiar People.

In The Guardian Sarah Ditum asks What do you do when you find cash in the street?

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about The bodily God of Thomas Hobbes.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 16 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Friday, 15 June 2012

Agenda for July 2012 General Synod

The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England today, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business to be transacted, and one item not on the agenda.

I have listed in a separate article the available online papers.

For those interested in the legislation to allow women to be bishops, I draw particular attention to the paper background Q & As which inter alia lists the possible outcomes at the July Synod.

Agenda for July 2012 General Synod
15 June 2012

General Synod meets in July for final stages of women bishops legislation, with an agenda that also includes world mission, church growth, the August 2011 riots, manifesting faith in public life, church schools, Palestine and Israel.

The General Synod will meet at York University from 5.15 p.m. on Friday 6 July until lunchtime on Tuesday 10 July. The meeting will be preceded by meetings of the House of Laity and the Convocations (provincial synods) of Canterbury and York at 2 p.m. on Friday 6 July.

The Agenda provides for the Synod to deal with the final stages of the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of England while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. If the legislation is approved, by simple majorities, by the House of Laity and the Convocations, the way will be clear for it to be presented for final approval on Monday 9 July. As with the women priests legislation in 1992, the whole of the morning and afternoon sittings has been allocated to the Final Approval debates. (See background Q & As).

As in July 2011, part of the Saturday morning has been structured in such a way as to foster a culture of listening and reflection in the Synod. The groups that met last year, each comprising twelve members and led by a bishop, will reflect, in the context of worship, on a Bible passage and on the Church’s contemporary mission.

This will be followed by a debate on the role of mission agencies and on partnership between the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mission theme will continue on the Saturday evening with a debate on the ‘fresh expressions’ movement, which encourages new ways of being the Church within the contemporary context, in the light of a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church.

Further aspects of the Church of England’s engagement with society - corporately and individually - will be considered on the Sunday and on the Monday. The Synod will debate a report on the Church’s role in local communities in the context of the August 2011 riots and a Private Member’s Motion expressing the conviction that it is the calling of Christians to manifest their faith in public life as well as in private. It will also receive a presentation on the report ‘The Church School of the Future’, which looks at ways in which the Church of England could extend its role in the education system, in the context of the current changes to that system.

On the Sunday afternoon the Synod will be invited to authorize new Eucharistic Prayers for use from 1 September at services at which there are significant numbers of children present - at a Communion service in a church school, for example.

The Synod will also debate a Private Member’s Motion affirming support for the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, for agencies working for justice and peace in the region, and for Palestinian Christians and organizations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.

Other items of legislative business will be taken on the Saturday afternoon. These include the final approval of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and of a draft Measure giving the Church Commissioners power to make financial provision for the mission of the growing Diocese in Europe.

The Synod will also receive presentations on the annual reports of the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners, and will be invited to approve the Council’s budget for 2013. It will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion relating to the size of the committees that elect diocesan representatives to participate in the choosing of diocesan bishops.

If the Synod completes its consideration of the women bishops legislation in July, there will be no need for a third group of sessions in November, and this will therefore be final occasion at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside, with the Archbishop of York, at a meeting of the General Synod. Dr Williams will preach at the Eucharist in York Minster on the Sunday morning. The final business for the group of sessions will be a motion, to be moved by the Archbishop of York, expressing the Synod’s gratitude to Dr Williams and offering him and Mrs Williams its best wishes for the future.

One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

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

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

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General Synod - July 2012 - online papers

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

Updated Tuesday 19 June to add link to GS 1878 (Business Committee report on diocesan synod voting on the Anglican Communion Covenant)
Updated Friday 22 June to add more papers

Update Wednesday 27 June A zip file of all papers is available. As well as papers listed below it includes the first five notice papers and a list of recent appointments.

The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1864) includes a forecast of future business, and I have copied this below the fold.

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

GS 1863 Full Agenda

GS 1864 Report by the Business Committee [Friday]

Women Bishops legislation

GS 1708C Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Monday]
GS 1709C Draft Amending Canon No.30 [Monday]
GS 1709D Draft Petition for Her Majesty’s Royal Assent and Licence for Adoption [Monday]
GS 1708-1709ZZ Report from the House of Bishops on Article 7 reference

Other papers for debate

GS 1814B Draft Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure [Saturday]
GS 1814Z Report by the Steering Committee

GS 1822A Additional Eucharistic Prayers [Sunday]
GS 1822B Report by the House of Bishops

GS 1853A Draft Diocese in Europe Measure [Saturday]

GS 1859A and GA 1859B Private Member’s Motion: Manifestation of Faith in Public Life [Sunday]

GS 1862 Annual Report of the Archbishops’ Council [Sunday]

GS 1865 World Shaped Mission [Saturday]

GS 1866 Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure [Saturday]
GS 1877 Draft Amending Canon No. 31 [Saturday]
GS 1866X/1877X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1867 The Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Amendment) Rules 2012 [Saturday]
GS 1867X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1868 The Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2012
GS 1869 The Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2012
GS 1868X/1869X Explanatory Memorandum
[items only to be debated if a synod member requests this]

GS 1870 Fresh Expressions and Church Growth: Report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council [Saturday]
GS 1871 Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church

GS 1872 The Archbishops’ Council’s Draft Budget and Proposals for Apportionment for 2013 [Sunday]

GS 1873 Testing the Bridges: Understanding the Role of the Church amidst Riots, Disturbances and Disorder [Sunday]

GS 1874A and GS 1874B Private Member’s Motion: Palestine and Israel [Tuesday]
GS 1875A and GS 1875B Diocesan Synod Motion: Vacancy in See Committees [Tuesday]
GS 1876A and GS 1876B Private Member’s Motion: Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956 [Contingency Business]

GS 1878 Anglican Communion Covenant: Draft Act of Synod - Report by the Business Committee on the reference to the dioceses.

Church Commissioners’ annual report 2011 [Saturday]
The Church School of the Future Review [Monday]

Other Papers

GS Misc 1020 Membership of Boards, Councils and Committees

GS Misc 1023 Dioceses Commission Annual Report

GS Misc 1024 Activities of the Archbishops’ Council

GS Misc 1025 Pursuing the three Quinquennium Goals

GS Misc 1026 The Report of the Meissen Commission 2007-2011

GS Misc 1027 A response from the Church of England on the Government Consultation on Same-Sex Marriage

GS Misc 1028 Background Press Questions and Answers re: Women in the Episcopate

GS Misc 1029 Clergy Discipline Annual Report

GS Misc 1030 Analysis of Mission Funds and Appendix A and Appendix B

GS Misc 1031 Higher Education Validation Partnership

HB (12) M1 House of Bishops: Summary of Decisions

Forecast of future General Synod business

This forecast should not be read as more than a broad indication of business that may come to the Synod in 2013.

Legislative business
February 2013
  • Miscellaneous Provisions Measure – Revision Stage
  • ? Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure: Code of Practice
  • ? Amending Code of Practice under the Clergy Discipline Measure (to reflect changes made by the Amending Measure)
  • ? Amending Rules under the Clergy Discipline Measure (to reflect changes made by the Amending Measure)
  • Amending scheme in relation to the Diocese in Europe Constitution (deemed business)
  • Report of the Standing Orders Committee
July 2013
  • Miscellaneous Provisions Measure – Final Drafting and Final Approval
  • ? Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield Reorganisation Scheme, with related Vacancy in See Committees Regulation and provision for synodical representation
  • Fees Orders
Liturgical business
  • Additional Texts for Holy Baptism
Reports
  • February 2013: The Anglican Communion Covenant: Report on the Reference of the Draft Act of Synod to the Dioceses
  • The Church School of the Future: implementation (Education Division)
  • Fresh Directions in Local Unity inMission (Council for Christian Unity)
  • Going for Growth: national mission strategy: follow-up to the resolution on Mark Ireland’s PMM on Mission Action Planning in the Church of England (Mission and Public Affairs Council)
  • ? Re-imagining Ministry (Ministry Division): Presentation
  • ? Debate on the Economy (Mission and Public Affairs Council)

Diocesan Synod Motions and Private Members’ Motions
One or more Diocesan Synod Motions and one or more Private Members’ Motions are customarily included in the Agenda for each group of sessions.

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Church Times on the CofE response to government

Madeleine Davies has this news report: ‘C of E’ gives an opinion on same-sex marriage

GOVERNMENT plans to legalise same-sex marriage threaten to “cut one of the threads of the Establish­ment”, senior church officials have said.

On Tuesday, the officials sub­mitted a response, purportedly from the Church of England, to the Government’s consultation, which closed yesterday. The response, which is unattributed, was accom­panied by a covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Within 24 hours, a petition ob­jecting to the views in the response paper had attracted more than 1000 signatures.

The paper argues that to permit same-sex marriage would “dilute” marriage for everybody. It criticises the “fallacious assumption” that religious marriage differs from civil marriage. And it warns that the Government’s promise to limit same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would face the “serious prospect” of a successful challenge in the European Court of Human Rights…

…The claim that the response represents the official view of the Church of England has already been challenged. On Tuesday, the Revd Ian Stubbs, Priest-in-Charge of All Saints’, Glossop, posted a petition dissociating himself from the official submission. “I am bitterly dis­appointed by the Church’s shameful and outdated response to the pro­posals for gay marriage.” When the Church Times went to press, it had attracted 1076 signatures.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition criticised the “scandalous lack of con­sultation” in the preparation of the response. The failure to recognise that same-sex couples seeking mar­riage wanted “something deeply spiritual which strengthens both the couple and society” had “impover­ished” the Church’s teaching on marriage.

On Tuesday, Stonewall published a poll of of 2074 adults suggesting that 71 per cent of people, and 58 per cent of “people of faith”, in their sample supported the proposals to legalise same-sex mar­riage. The char­ity argues that the “vitriol” seen in statements by “some senior clerics” in relation to the proposals is evidence of a “deeply worrying pre­judice toward gay people”. It argues that extending the right to marry to gay people is an “appropriate remedy” to discrimina­tion.

There is also a leader: Gay marriage: whose views are these?

MANY churchgoers woke on Tuesday morning to learn about their adamant opposition to same-sex marriage. Whether they agree with its position or not, they will find the paper submitted to the Government’s consultation on their behalf to be tendentious and poorly argued. In brief, it says that the government consultation on same-sex marriage is flawed (it is); that marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman (it has); that matters such as consummation will be hard to work into a new definition (they will); and that there is a false distinction being made between civil and religious marriage (there is, although this is the Government’s clumsy attempt to preserve the Church’s right to discriminate).

Besides these points, however, the paper makes a number of unsupported claims. In just one example, it states that the view of marriage as “a lifelong union of one man with one woman” is “derived from the teaching of Christ himself”, first without citing which teaching, and second without any apparent embarrassment over the use of the word “lifelong”. The impression that Church and state have walked hitherto arm in arm up and down the aisle can be sustained only by ignoring the huge chasm over divorce that opened in the 19th century. Much is made of the Church’s supposed susceptibility to legal challenge; but again, this has not been its experience when clerics have refused second marriages in church. Hardest to follow are the paper’s arguments that the benefits society derives from heterosexual marriage will somehow be absent if marriage is extended to same-sex couples.

Whether its legal arguments hold water, the paper is right to suppose that pressure will increase on the Church to comply. Had the Church been as welcoming of civil partnerships as this paper implies, this crisis might have been averted. By declining to bless them, the Church contributed to the impression that civil partnerships were mere legal arrangements, and not declarations of love and commit­ment. It is patronising to dismiss the desire to emphasise this as merely answering an “emotional need”.

There are many in the C of E, and in the country at large, who hold traditional views of marriage. These ought to be respected. But so, too, should the views of those who, in conscience, see gay partnerships as comparable with marriage to the extent that the use of the same word now seems right. It is astonishing that the unnamed authors of the submission refer to themselves as “the Church of England” on a subject so contentious that two reviews are in progress to discover what people in the Church of England actually think.

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

CofE Bishops and Civil Partnership Legislation

There has been considerable discussion lately about whether or not the Lords Spiritual supported the Civil Partnership legislation.

Richard Chapman, Secretary for Parliamentary Affairs for the Church of England has compiled a memorandum, which can be found in its original form here, and which we have transcribed as a web page.

His introduction:

The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation

The following is a timeline that summarises the speeches and votes of bishops in the House of Lords on civil partnership legislation from 2002 - when a Private Member’s Bill was first brought before the House by Lord Lester of Herne Hill - to the passing of the Government’s Civil Partnership Act in November 2004.

The bishops, consistent with their place as independent and non-whipped members neither spoke nor voted as a bloc on these issues when they were before the House. The Government’s 2004 legislation that resulted in the introduction of civil partnerships was welcomed at Second Reading by the Bishop of Oxford and with more qualification, by the Bishop of Peterborough. More critical speeches followed from the Bishops’ Bench during the Bill’s subsequent stages. Six bishops voted in favour of (and one against) what was widely considered to be a ‘wrecking amendment’ to the Bill at Report stage; however when the Commons removed the amendment and returned the Bill to the Lords in November 2004, eight bishops voted in support of the decision taken by the Commons (two voted against). Extracts from speeches by the Lords Spiritual and links to the parliamentary record of the speeches and votes are below.

Our transcription is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 2:13pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Bishops support Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala: Bishops want shelved anti-gay Bill dusted

Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.

Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.

“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.

The clerics also appealed to all the churches in the country “to remain steadfast in opposing the phenomena of homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex union”.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was proposed by Ndorwa West PM David Bahati and has become a subject of international discussion with most Western powers describing the Bill as barbaric…

Care2.com has Ugandan Catholics Want “Kill the Gays” Bill Revived

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) was effectively shelved last year by the government, following sustained pressure from international donor countries. Despite repeated claims to the contrary, including some unfortunate mainstream reporting, the last version of the bill contained the death penalty in some circumstances.

The Catholic Church had previously been the sole major religion in Uganda in opposition to the bill. But according to the Daily Monitor, at the annual conference of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Bishops resolved that it should be retrieved from the long grass.

The UJCC said that the bill was needed to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage.”

The Vatican came out strongly and publicly against the bill and, Wikileaks revealed, even lobbied against it. Uganda watchers say that the change by the Ugandan Catholic church is “very serious” and that the UJCC resolution was pushed by an Anglican Bishop…

Religion Dispatches has Ugandan Bishops Push Notorious Anti-Gay Bill

… The reported support for the bill from the Uganda Joint Christian Council is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to “a Christian caring approach to this issue,” though he also said “We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.”

And The Africa Report has Uganda: Religious leaders seek return of anti-gay bill.

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women bishops: some views from Fulcrum

Fulcrum has recently published several articles about the women bishops legislation. Two in particular are worth noting:

Stephen Kuhrt Women Bishops Legislation

Women bishops will, I hope, turn the Church of England completely upside down. My prayer is that its dramatic empowerment of the skills, gifts and insights of women will revitalise the church and change it forever.

As I write this, I can feel waves of anxiety increasing, not just from it opponents but many of those who claim to be its supporters. ‘No, that’s an unhelpful point’, many will say, ‘things will carry on much as they have before but with women simply able to exercise a full ministry alongside that of the men’.

But I maintain the point. My experience, in the church of which I am vicar, is that when women’s ministry is allowed to flourish to the full, the entire atmosphere of a church is transformed. Preaching, pastoral care, sacramental ministry, the occasional offices, the nature of services and, above all, the strategy and direction of the local church are all enriched beyond measure. Various practical reasons can be advanced for this. But at a theological level it is because the male and female both being allowed their full role, is bringing about a much deeper reflection of the image of God and a much greater anticipation in our worship of the new creation. It is this that has brought about the transformation within many local churches that have experienced the full ministry of women.

Where such transformation is now most badly needed is within the higher leadership and structures of the Church of England. I am extremely excited about the impact that women bishops will have upon the leadership of Areas and Dioceses where the gifts and talents of women, at last able to have a more strategic impact, will undoubtedly bring a greater humanity and relevance to the face of the church and care of the clergy.

But the change I expect to be most transforming of all is to that of the nature of the House of Bishops. Reinforced by its representation of only one gender, many within this body are hopelessly out of touch with both parishes and clergy and increasingly characterised by what has been accurately termed ‘delusions of adequacy’.

Hence my distraught response to the fact that it is the greatest symptom of the problem that women bishops will address, that has seen fit to amend the legislation in the way that it has. It is bad enough that the amendments have been made at the eleventh hour and fly in the face of the clear will of the elected General Synod. But where the real problem lies is in this group of men deciding to use their power to ensure that women do not become bishops on the same footing as them.

My strong suspicion is that there are factors at work here that go beyond the desire to safeguard the most obvious opponents of the measure. Those in possession of power are usually very intuitive to danger, and the current set of bishops know that there will be far less places for them to hide if women are allowed to join them as equals. Better to allow women in but with areas of vulnerability preserved to keep them beholden to their male colleagues. From this perspective the amendments are less to do with protecting the minority who oppose women bishops (who would be quite adequately covered by a Code of Practice), than trying to ensure that the impact of this development is kept ‘safe’ and away from changing any more than it has to about the status quo…

Elaine Storkey Women Bishops Legislation

I am on the horns of a considerable dilemma. We are now at the point where it should be possible to admit women to the office of Bishop, and thus to full participation in the ministry of the Church of England. Like so many others, I have become convinced, over the years, that this is the outworking of biblical vision for the church, something I have written, worked and prayed for, hoping that we would know the unity of the Holy Spirit as we moved on together. Each time the issue has come before the General Synod I feel we have moved closer to understanding the key issues. We have discussed them from the standpoint of theology, ecclesiology, pastoral care and mission. We have looked carefully at ways in which we can make provisions for those in the church who remain opposed to women’s full inclusion. We have sent the Measure around the dioceses for their scrutiny and approval. And we have done all this under the bemused gaze of the media, who wonder why on earth it takes us so long and why we don’t get on with it; when generations of convinced but bewildered parliamentarians, eager to ratify this change constitutionally, have been and gone. And now, after two decades of debate, six years of consultation, two years of careful scrutiny of submissions by the revision committee, twelve months of painstaking drafting, more months of discussion in deaneries and parish councils, with diocesan approval finally signed and sealed, and the day of decision fast approaching, I feel I cannot support the Measure in the amended form that it now comes before us.

So how has this sea-change come about? The process must seem odd in the extreme to anyone outside the procedures of Synod. At the end of the final drafting stage, the House of Bishops - an all-male assembly – has met behind closed doors, and brought forward new proposals in the shape of amendments, which cannot now be further amended by Synod. In my twenty-five years on Synod, I have never known this to happen – it is constitutional but unprecedented. It has been left to a group of six people, representing the convocations of clergy, bishops and the house of laity to decide, by majority, whether the amendments changed the Measure presented to the dioceses. It was hardly a representative group, since it included the two Archbishops who were party to the amendments, so the outcome was inevitable. Yet the groundswell of opinion outside that group is that Clause 5 now does change the Measure substantially, however subtly it is worded…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 7:26am BST | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Roman Catholic response to equal civil marriage consultation

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Responds to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage.

In his accompanying letter to the Home Secretary, the Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith says:

“In the interest of upholding the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we strongly urge the Government not to proceed with legislative proposals which will ‘enable all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony’”.

Equal Civil Marriage Consultation: Archbishop Smith’s Cover Letter

Equal Civil Marriage Consultation: CBCEW Response

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Welsh bishops respond to equal civil marriage consultation

The bishops of the Church in Wales have responded to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation. The full statement is available here and is copied below.

The Church in Wales
Response to:
EQUAL CIVIL MARRIAGE: A CONSULTATION
(Government Equalities Office, March 2012)

Introduction

This is a response from the Bishops of the Church in Wales.

We note that at no point in the consultation document is the Church in Wales mentioned: paragraph 2.10, for example, refers exclusively to the Church of England. The Church in Wales is in an almost identical position to the Church of England with regard to the solemnisation of marriages. The Church in Wales’ concerns about the legal implications are therefore the same as those of the Church of England. We have taken note of these, and would seek assurances that the Government would specifically include the Church in Wales in any provisions for the Church of England under the proposed legislation.

Purpose of this Response

The purpose of this response is not to engage in the debate about the nature of marriage, or the recognition of same-sex relationships, from a theological perspective. Christian churches, groups and organisations represent a wide variety of opinion on same-sex relationships. This debate will continue within the Christian community whatever changes are made to the legislation of England and Wales.

The Church is concerned with all members of society and with how society operates. The Church in Wales is present through the parish system in every community in Wales. It relates to people at all stages of life, and is practically involved with births, marriages and deaths through baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as being an organisation to which many people turn in times of personal stress or practical difficulty, including around marriage and sexuality. In addition to the well-known work of parish churches themselves, the Church in Wales runs many programmes and initiatives which engage with the wider community, operating with specialised professionals as well as local volunteers. These including parenting education, children’s work, and relationship counselling; and the Church has links with other organisations providing services in the community, either through the involvement of churches or church members as hosts, volunteers or trustees, or through policy fora.

The purpose of this short response is to participate in the consultation as one of the institutions and groups of people in a democratic society who will be affected by the proposed change in the law.

Scope of the Consultation

We regret that the consultation focuses only on the practice of registering and recognising same-sex marriage, and does not invite comment on the principle. The question of why, and whether or not it is desirable to introduce the concept of marriage for same-sex couples should also be open to public consultation and debate.

In a consultation on legislation which potentially affects everyone, it is anomalous that the questions set in the consultation document are very restrictive. Eleven of the 16 questions are presented with a multiple-choice answer consisting of ‘Yes’, ‘No,’ or ‘Don’t know’/‘Doesn’t apply to me’. Only one of them allows a more detailed explanation (number 1), and where questions invite free comment (in only 4 of the 16) this is restricted to around 200 words. Six questions are exclusively aimed at people who either are or could be in a same-sex relationship (including transsexuals and their spouses). This suggests a strangely isolated approach to the institution of marriage, which is above all an institution in society, rather than a private arrangement between individuals.

Issues

The consultation document refers throughout to an alleged ‘ban’ on same-sex couples contracting marriages. In normal parlance, for something to be banned, it must be possible but disallowed –such as the ban on smoking in public buildings, or the ban on carrying liquids on to an aeroplane, or the ban on alcohol or gambling on many religious premises. (It could be argued that there is a ‘ban’ on the inclusion of religious content in civil marriage or partnership ceremonies.) This legislation does not lift a ban; it proposes the creation of a new state, ie marriage between persons of the same sex. A more accurate description would be, as in para 1.9(iii), that a same-sex relationship constitutes a ‘bar’ to marriage: it is a situation in which marriage cannot at present take place. It would be correct to acknowledge that the proposed legislation aims to bring into being a state which did not exist before.

Similarly, despite the number of jurisdictions which have already introduced same-sex marriage, it is disingenuous to say that ‘marriage for same-sex couples is not a new idea’ (para 1.8. p4). In the history of formally recognised social relationships it is very new indeed.

It is appreciated that the Government is attempting to allow churches and other faith groups to adhere to their traditional teaching on marriage, and to continue to promote marriage as they understand it. However, the consultation document on ‘equal marriage’ refers throughout to a new (and false) distinction between civil and religious ‘marriage’. There is no such distinction in law. There are no rights and responsibilities which apply to marriages contracted in civil ceremonies which do not apply to marriages in religious ceremonies, and vice-versa. The present law recognises civil and religious marriage ceremonies, but the marriages themselves are treated as identical, provided that they accord with the law.

It is not at all clear in what ways same-sex marriage will be different in substance from existing arrangements for civil partnerships. They already appear to be in all respects the same, in the rights and responsibilities conferred on the parties; and with only very minor distinctions in the methods of registration, or the reasons for dissolving the relationship. Nor is it clear what will be the purpose of retaining the category of civil partnership alongside same-sex marriage, especially since it is not proposed that heterosexual couples be allowed to enter into a civil partnership. In the context of equality of access to registered relationships, this appears to create a new inequality.

The Church in Wales is committed to providing pastoral care and support to all who commit themselves to the important task of maintaining exemplary and faithful relationships, and nurturing family life. Arrangements for recognising and supporting these relationships are to be welcomed, but such provision already exists, and beyond raising the dangers of significant confusion and debate, the current proposals do not add to these provisions.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 9:32pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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more coverage of CofE statement on equal civil marriage

There has been a deluge of coverage in the media since yesterday morning.

On Channel 4 News last night, The Bishop of Leicester and The Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Archbishops’ Council, were among those interviewed. The several reports are all linked from this page.

This morning the Telegraph reports Ministers signal gay marriage could take place in church.

And the Independent reports We do… MPs to give strong show of support to same-sex marriage.

The Daily Mail has Cameron CANNOT protect Church against gay marriage laws (says his own Justice minister)

The Guardian has this editorial today: Gay marriage: progress v the pulpit

The Independent has this leading article: Nothing but hyperbole on same-sex marriage

Yesterday the Guardian reported Church of England accused of scaremongering over gay marriage.

Simon Jenkins wrote The marriage of church and state is anything but gay.

Adam Wagner wrote Gay marriage: the Church of England’s argument dissected.

Giles Fraser wrote The Church of England says it is against gay marriage. Not in my name.

In the Telegraph George Carey wrote Gay marriage is a threat to the bonds of Church and state.

Steve Doughty wrote in Mail Online Is it any wonder that the Church doesn’t trust the Government on gay marriage?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 7:35am BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Planned interruption of service

On Wednesday morning between the hours of 9 am and 1 pm (London time) there will be a planned interruption of service from this website. This is due to essential maintenance being performed by the Internet Service Provider to which our server is connected.

Please do not be worried….

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 8:19pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Church of England responds to government on Equal Civil Marriage

The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage.

The full text of its response can be read as a PDF file here. The response starts with this:

A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Summary

The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

The consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. This is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage. The assertion that “religious” marriage will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.

To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents. And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally.

Our arguments are set out in greater detail below…

The previous background statement is still available here.

The Church of England has also issued a press release, the text of which can be read here, and which is copied below the fold. Note the quotation marks in the headline: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Press coverage of this is extensive, with front page stories in many cases:

Independent Gay marriage is one of the worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England

Telegraph Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England and
Editorial comment: Church and state collide over same-sex marriage

Guardian Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

The Times is not available online except by subscription but you can see its front page here. As you can see, the headline is Gay Marriage plan could divorce Church from State

BBC Church of England warning on gay marriage

Daily Mail Plans to allow gay marriages ‘could force Church to split from the state’ for first time in 500 years

Church of England press release
A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England

Embargoed until 00.01 am 12/06/12

In its submission to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, which closes on June 14, the Church of England states it cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.

It adds that the consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious” - “this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage”. Changing the State’s understanding of marriage will, therefore, change the way marriage is defined for everybody and, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, will change the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship.

The official Church of England submission sent to the Home Secretary under a short covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York also points out:

  • Several major elements of the Government’s proposals have not been thought through properly and are not legally sound. Ministerial assurances that the freedom of the Churches and other religious organisations would be safeguarded are, though genuine, of limited value given that once the law was changed the key decisions would be for the domestic and European courts.
  • Such a change would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many, the possibility of procreation. The law should not seek to define away the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women.
  • The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by civil partnerships.

The submission concludes that “imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise”.

ENDS

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 1:04am BST | Comments (100) | TrackBack
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Monday, 11 June 2012

Women bishops legislation: WATCH Statement of Concerns

The National WATCH Committee has released a paper setting out its position on the House of Bishops’ amendments to the draft legislation on female bishops: A Statement of our Concerns.

The paper is quite long, but here are the conclusions (from page 7).

WATCH’s conclusions

The bishops have argued that they have not changed the substance or intention of the Measure, and hope that when looked at dispassionately and carefully everyone will agree with them.

Our conclusions, after consultation and careful and dispassionate consideration, are these:

1. The House of Bishops has made changes that are significant in how the draft legislation might work in practice. In so doing, it has de-stabilised the legislative process: there is no clear way forward towards July’s General Synod.

2. The amended draft legislation comes to General Synod for approval this July. It is not possible for Synod to amend the legislation further at this stage – though it could be referred back to the House of Bishops for reconsideration.

3. WATCH consistently supported the unamended Measure that was supported by 42/44 dioceses, as an act of generosity to those opposed and a compromise from our preferred route of the simplest possible legislation.

4. The bishops were repeatedly informed by those supporting the Measure that any amendment along these lines would put the Measure at greatly increased risk of defeat in July. They are now expressing surprise at our reaction. We wonder what it is that stops the House of Bishops hearing and taking seriously the voices of ordained women and all who support their ministry.

5. Our principal concerns about Clause 5(1)c are:
i) It legitimates negative theologies about women and expects women to live with permanent institutional uncertainty about their orders. This is bad for women and bad for the Church.
ii) It opens the way for parishes to require a bishop and priest in accordance with their theological convictions. This is a new and unwelcome departure for our Church that will lead to conflict and increasing fragmentation.

6. The amendment to clause 5 means that the legislation no longer meets the objective of the Manchester Report (2008) that legislation should ‘avoid any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness by the Church towards women priests and bishops.’

7. WATCH has grave concerns about the amendment to Clause 5 and the WATCH committee cannot support the Measure as it now stands. However, it will fall to General Synod members, to make up their own minds and decide whether, in good conscience, they can support the legislation as amended.

8. Our consultation suggests that the amended Measure is at grave risk of being voted down by the very Synod members who most strongly support women becoming bishops. It is a tragedy that after so much work and so much compromise, this should be the situation a month before the final vote.

9. Despite our disappointment, WATCH remains committed to working constructively with others to find a way forward that does not further institutionalise discrimination and create a Church divided in law.

National WATCH Committee
11 June 2012

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 11 June 2012 at 3:15pm BST | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Denmark: Same-Sex Marriages in Church

From Politiken.dk: Homosexuals get church weddings

The Danish Folketing has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a full ecclesiastical marriage service in the national Evangelical-Lutheran church for homosexual couples, to be instituted as a full, official marriage equal to that of heterosexual couples.

After a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, which ran some three hours over its expected time, 85 members voted in favour of the law, 24 against and with two abstentions.

Homosexuals in Denmark have not hitherto been able to enter into marriage, but only into registered partnerships. The new law means that homosexual couples can choose whether to be married in church or at a town hall.

Both the Liberal and Conservative parties removed their party whips for Thursday’s vote due to internal differences, leaving the decision to their individual members’ convictions.

Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen (SocLib), who has used much of his ministerial tenure to develop and defend the proposal, says the parliamentary decision is historic.

“This is along the lines of when we got women priests. I am really happy. It is something all three government parties have wanted for many years,” Sareen says…

and in the Telegraph: Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.
Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”

Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church.

The far-Right Danish People’s Party mounted a strong campaign against the new law, which nonetheless passed with the support of 85 of the country’s 111 MPs…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 June 2012 at 6:43pm BST | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Canadian, African, and American Bishops in Dialogue

A Sacrament of Love: Our Continuing Testimony of Grace

This statement was released by the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue after their third meeting June 4 to 7 in Toronto, Ont.

The statement is also available as a PDF file.

The list of participants is at the end of the statement.

The Anglican Journal reports: Anglican communion ‘a gift from God’

This week, the Anglican Church of Canada hosted the third Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue. And judging by the bishops’ comments, the future looks bright for the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Growing out of Lambeth 2008, which uncovered divisions and disagreements between African and other Anglicans on the issue of human sexuality and same-sex relationships, the dialogue held its first meeting in London in 2010 and it second last year in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The group was originally organized by Archbishop Colin Johnson of the diocese of Toronto, who is also metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario.

After their meeting at the Manresa Retreat Centre, a Jesuit facility east of Toronto, almost 20 African, American and Canadian prelates and their associates attended a Communion service at Church House, the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada in Toronto…

And the Anglican Church of Canada website has this: Canadian, African bishops affirm common mission.

On one level, the first wedding held at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national offices will resemble many other weddings, with finery, music, and celebration. But it is a moment of Anglican Communion harmony that might not have happened 10 years ago: the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, will conduct the marriage service for the Primate of Central Africa, Archbishop Albert Chama, and his childhood friend Ashella Ndhlovu, a resident of Toronto.

The June 8 event is a happy postscript symbolizing the deepening friendships emerging from the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue. The bishops held their third meeting at the Manresa Jesuit Spiritual Retreat Centre in Pickering, Ont., June 4 to 7.

Seventeen bishops from Africa, Canada, and U.S. met for prayer and discussion of two topics: mission and the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 June 2012 at 5:39pm BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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opinion

Simon Barrow writes for The Guardian Let’s reclaim the jubilee.

Kristin M Swenson writes for The Huffington Post about The Inspiration of Chagall’s Mystical Stained Glass.

Savi Hensman writes for Ekklesia about Ordaining women bishops: safeguards and tangles.

Mark Goodacre asks How would Jesus have proved his own existence?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 9 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Friday, 8 June 2012

Anglican Covenant rejected in Scotland

The official notice from the SEC website: General Synod votes against adoption of the Anglican Covenant.

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church today voted against the adoption of the Anglican Covenant. Following a variety of views expressed by members of General Synod, the Motion that Synod agree in principle to adopt the Anglican Covenant was put to vote - 112 votes against; 6 votes in favour; 13 abstentions. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane then presented a resolution on the Anglican Communionin support of Motion 27, saying “The Anglican Communion matters deeply to us in the Scottish Episcopal Church. We invoke the history of Samuel Seabury, consecrated in 1784 by the Scottish bishops as the first bishop of the church in the United States of America. We want to be part of the re-founding - the bringing to birth of a new phase of Communion life.”

The Primus’ full speech on the Anglican Communion is available below as a PDF document.

Primus address on Anglican Communion (PDF)

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Archbishop Alan Harper to retire

Church of Ireland press release

Archbishop Harper To Retire

The Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan, The Most Revd Alan Harper, OBE, has announced his intention to retire later this year. The decision will take effect from 1 October 2012.

Archbishop Harper, who is 68, has been a bishop for 10 years having served as Bishop of Connor from 2002 to 2007; he was elected as Archbishop of Armagh in January 2007 and enthroned in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on 16 March 2007. A former Chairman of the Historic Monuments Council for Northern Ireland (Member 1980–1988, Chairman 1988–1995), he was awarded an O.B.E. for services to Conservation in Northern Ireland in 1996. The Archbishop is married to Helen and has four children and ten grandchildren.

Archbishop Harper will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as normal until 30 September 2012.

The Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider in due course the selection of a successor…

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Archbishop's sermon from St Paul's Cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon at the National Service of Thanksgiving held in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen (and copied in full below the fold).

In it the Archbishop paid tribute to the selfless dedication of Her Majesty who, he said, ‘has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others’ throughout her reign.

‘Dedication’ is a word that has come to mean rather less than it used to. Those of us who belong to the same generation as Her Majesty’s older children will recall a sixties song about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ – as though to be ‘dedicated’ just meant to be very enthusiastic. But in the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

And so to be dedicated to the good of a community – in this case both a national and an international community – is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sermon for
the National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate
the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some words from St Paul: ‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’

There will be other occasions to remember the splendour and the drama of the Coronation; today’s focus is different. What we remember is the simple statement of commitment made by a very young woman, away from home, suddenly and devastatingly bereaved, a statement that she would be there for those she governed, that she was dedicating herself to them.

‘Dedication’ is a word that has come to mean rather less than it used to. Those of us who belong to the same generation as Her Majesty’s older children will recall a sixties song about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ – as though to be ‘dedicated’ just meant to be very enthusiastic. But in the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

And so to be dedicated to the good of a community – in this case both a national and an international community – is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’

It is an ambitious, even an audacious thing to aim at. It is, of course, no more so than the ideals set before all Christians who try to model their lives on what St Paulsays about life in the Body of Christ. That doesn’t make it any easier to grasp or to live out; but the way St Paul approaches it should help us see that we’re not being encouraged to develop a self-punishing attitude, relentlessly denying our own goals or our own flourishing for the sake of others. What’s put before us is a genuine embrace of those others, a willingness to be made happy by the well-being of our neighbours.

‘Outdo one another in showing honour’, says St Paul. Compete with each other only in the generous respect you show to one and all; because in learning that respect you will find delight in one another. You will begin to discover that the other person is a source of nourishment, excitement, pleasure, growth and challenge. And if we broaden this out to an entire community, a nation, a commonwealth, it means discovering that it is always in an ever-widening set of relations that we become properly ourselves. Dedication to the service of a community certainly involves that biblical sense of an absolute purge of selfish goals, but it is also the opening of a door into shared riches.

I don’t think it’s at all fanciful to say that, in all her public engagements, our Queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others; she has responded with just the generosity St Paul speaks of in showing honour to countless local communities and individuals of every background and class and race. She has made her ‘public’ happy and all the signs are that she is herself happy, fulfilled and at home in these encounters. The same, of course, can manifestly be said of Prince Philip; and our prayers and thoughts are very much with him this morning. To declare a lifelong dedication is to take a huge risk, to embark on a costly venture. But it is also to respond to the promise of a vision that brings joy.

And perhaps that is the challenge that this Jubilee sets before us in nation and Commonwealth. St Paul implies that we should be so overwhelmed by the promise of a shared joy far greater than narrow individual fulfilment, that we find the strength to take the risks and make the sacrifices – even if this seems to reduce our individual hopes of secure enjoyment.

Moralists (archbishops included) can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety. This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.

One crucial aspect of discovering such a vision – and many still do discover it in their service of others, despite everything –is to have the stories and examples available that show it’s possible. Thank God, there are many wonderful instances lived out unobtrusively throughout the country and the Commonwealth. But we are marking today the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication – a dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here. We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found. To seek one’s own good and one’s own well-being in the health of the community is sacrificially hard work – but it is this search that is truly natural to the human heart. That’s why it is not a matter of tight-lipped duty or grudging compliance with someone else’s demands. Jesus himself says ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me’, and that’s what is at the heart of real dedication.

This year has already seen a variety of Jubilee creations and projects. But its most lasting memorial would be the rebirth of an energetic, generous spirit of dedication to the common good and the public service, the rebirth of a recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good.

Listen again for a moment to St Paul. ‘We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us … the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness … Outdo one another in showing honour … extend hospitality to strangers … Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another … take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.’ Dedication to the health and well-being of a community is all this and more. May we be given the grace to rediscover this as we give thanks today for Her Majesty’s sixty years of utterly demanding yet deeply joyful service.

© Rowan Williams 2012

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 6 June 2012 at 7:46am BST | Comments (34) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 2 June 2012

opinion

Savitri Hensman writes in The Guardian that Inter-church alliances are not always blessed.

Dave Bookless writes on the A Rocha blog about Mission: Saving souls or saving seals?

Esther J Hamori writes in The Huffington Post about Biblical Standards for Marriage.

Bishop Peter Selby writes in the New Statesman that Money has changed – that’s the issue.

Andy Robertson writes for the Church Times about computer games in worship in Not to be consoled as to console.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Friday, 1 June 2012

Anglican Communion: Standing Committee meeting

The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ meeting met for three days this week. The Anglican Communion News Service has issued these bulletins summarising the committee’s proceedings.

2012 Standing Committee Bulletin - Day 1
2012 Standing Committee Bulletin - Day 2
2012 Standing Committee Bulletin - Day 3

The Anglican Communion Covenant was discussed on Wednesday (day 1):

The Standing Committee received an update on the progress of the Anglican Communion Covenant. It was noted that eight Provinces had endorsed the Covenant to date, in some cases with a degree of qualification. They were the only responses received so far by the Secretary General…

There was general agreement that no timeframe should yet be introduced for the process of adoption of the Covenant by Provinces. The Standing Committee will return to this question following ACC-15.

An implication of the first paragraph is that the Church of England has not yet notified the Secretary General that the covenant was defeated in the dioceses.

Note: ACC-15 is the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council to be held in New Zealand from 27 October to 7 November 2012.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 1 June 2012 at 10:10pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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