Sunday, 31 March 2013

Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland

The Irish Government has established a Constitutional Convention to consider a number of possible changes to the Irish Constitution. These issues are varied and include changes to the electoral system, the removal of the offence of Blasphemy, and provisions for same-sex marriage. The latter may or may not be precluded by Article 41 of the Constitution as currently worded.

Changing Attitude Ireland has made a written submission to the Convention, which can be read or downloaded as a PDF. Here’s the Executive Summary:

  • CAI strongly supports the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.
  • The existing inequalities between civil partnership and civil marriage have a realworld detrimental impact on the lives of same-sex couples, and even more on children being raised by them.
  • Allowing churches and other faith groups to ‘opt in’ to registering same-sex marriages, while protecting them from any attempt at compulsion, is the best way to respect the religious freedoms of both those who support and those who oppose same-sex marriage. This is particularly important in the Irish context, where there is a history of civil marriage law being used to discriminate against religious minorities.
  • Like many other Christian bodies, CAI supports marriage equality not despite its faith background, but because of it, believing marriage and stable relationships to be one of the bedrocks of society.
  • Although there is significant faith opposition to marriage equality, this must be understood in the light of the long Christian history of opposition to equality under the law and outright homophobia.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the Guardian reports Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage to be challenged by Amnesty in court.

Amnesty International and gay pressure groups have warned that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government will soon face a human rights legal case over its refusal to allow gay couples to marry.

Unionist parties have voted at Stormont to ensure Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are excluded from the same-sex marriage bill, which was passed in the Commons in February…

Paul Johnson at ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog has more legal detail: ECHR complaint is likely if same-sex couples cannot marry in Northern Ireland.

Possible court action could be brought under the Human Rights Act in the domestic courts and, if that failed to remedy the situation, a complaint could be made to the European Court of Human Rights. Such a complaint to the Court would present a novel legal issue which it has hitherto not considered: the existence of different arrangements for same-sex marriage within a nation state. Whilst the Court has so far been reluctant to recognize a right to same-sex marriage under Article 12 of the Convention, the existence of differences in treatment in marriage within the jurisdictions of the UK based solely on sexual orientation could make a more compelling Article 14 case than those argued in previous applications. What would the Court make of a situation whereby citizens of a Council of Europe state could contract same-sex civil marriage in one part of the state but not in another?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 31 March 2013 at 7:00pm GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of Ireland | equality legislation

The men should have believed us

I should not blame the men for not believing us, but I do. The story was, coldly considered, incredible, but then the last year had been equally unbelievable. Jesus. His life, his death, all unbelievable. Yet, after all we had heard and seen and gone through, the men should not have turned to us and told us we were hysterical and not to be believed.

We had done what we always do. We had taken ointments for flesh that will never heal, perfumes that we know too well the stench of death will drown. Why? But we do. We cannot help it. I remember that Jesus told somebody to leave the dead to bury the dead, but no, we could not.

It was all the more grim because of the delay. We had done the best we could for his shattered body on the Friday, but we had little more than moments.

It was the Sunday, early. If you need do terrible things, do them as soon as possible. Go as soon as you are awake, without eating. If you have not slept, that will be early, before the light starts up. Best to go before the day starts to heat up, before the body starts to decay further. Understand, we know death. We know it as an intimate enemy, even as an occasional friend, but we know how death works. And then — none of us wanted to go that near the site of the execution. Remember how close the site of the execution was to the tomb, nestled in a dog-leg of the wall.

Rolling back the stone was not a challenge to women like us. But when we got there, the city making its first stirring noises behind the wall, the light starting to wash grey gently in, the stone was already rolled back. We were, oh, worried, but then he had so many who loved him, who might be there first, and what else could we do but go in?

There was no person. There was no body. And there was the shroud, lying there. Even had somebody moved the body, they would have kept it in the shroud. We had been steeling ourselves for the unwrapping of the shroud, now, over a day later, and after a hurried committal.

I don’t know when we began to take in the shining figures. It seemed absurd afterwards that they were not the first thing we saw, but they were not. When we did see them, another kind of fear filled us.

They spoke. They asked why we would look for a living person among the dead. Our hearts filled with images our minds could not grasp. Light, and water, and dazzle. Fear transformed to awe. Awe to something so stupendous that neither mind nor heart could rise to its level. I no longer know if we dared to leave the shining figures, or if they went as silently as they came. The next thing I remember is running back to the rest, to the men.

When we burst in through the door of the house where we lodged, with the words of angels ringing in our ears, and the shining reflected in our faces, and a growing confidence in our voices, the men should have believed us. But they did not. Not then.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Sunday, 31 March 2013 at 5:00am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 30 March 2013


Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Jesus is not destroyed by our hatred.

Rosemary Hannah writes about Turning off King Lear.

The leader in The Spectator is Twitter vs Easter.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Atheists need to run an Alpha course of their own.

Benny Hazlehurst writes about Taking offence…

Jo Bailey Wells writes for Continuing Indaba about Living with the conflict, in hope and sacrifice.

Hugh Rayment-Pickard writes in the Church Times that churches should Have the nerve to follow the early Christians.

ABC Religion & Ethics asked a number of theologians and lay people to offer their thoughts on Rowan Williams and their hopes for Justin Welby: What now for the Archbishop of Canterbury? Reflections on Rowan Williams and Justin Welby.

Graham Kings has been to South Sudan: Learning Together in South Sudan.

Ralph Jones writes in The Independent that The Church of England is in desperate need of a modern dictionary.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Friday, 29 March 2013

Another Pointless Death?

Just another pointless death. A provincial prophet, a failed rebel, a stirrer-up of trouble is brutally executed by the imperial regime. A story that has been repeated innumerable times before and since. What did he and his followers expect? What did he think he could achieve against the power and privilege of the establishment even in such a minor, far-flung trouble spot? What a waste.

But here we see Jesus of Nazareth continuing to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is near you, among you, he had preached. The kingdom of God exists wherever God’s will is done; a place where the hungry are fed and where each forgives the wrongs done to them by others. A place where that forgiveness is immediately recognized by sitting down and eating together, breaking the barriers.

And this is how Jesus dies: breaking bread with his friends and forgiving those who executed him. Here in this one day (by the reckoning of the ancient world), beginning at sunset on Thursday evening and culminating on a hillside outside the city a few hours later. Here is the epitome of the kingdom.

And so, as Jesus dies on the Cross proclaiming Love, this is no less than the inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Friday, 29 March 2013 at 10:07am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Last Supper: God’s landscape in a meal

Maundy Thursday commemorates the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before he was arrested by Jerusalem’s temple guards, a meal at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover. It’s a meal which has gone on since to be ritualised by Christians as the eucharist, our defining ritual.

As with many things administered by organisations, meaning can be the first casualty of the systems which support it. Many years ago I asked a class of schoolchildren what they already knew about the eucharist, and they told me it needed a priest, and folk had to be confirmed in order to participate. What I took from this was that the regulations had obscured the meaning.

In fairness, the ease with which churches sat in British culture, until the 1960s and even some time after, meant that it would take a considerable leap of the imagination to understand the subversive character of a faith conceived in opposition to imperial domination, and the radical power of the rituals which it conceived. The eucharist I grew up with had been domesticated into a rite designed to foster personal piety.

These days, as we recover our identity as counter-cultural bodies, churches are developing eyes to see how potentially inflammatory our primary rite is. We can now imagine what it must have been like, in occupied Jerusalem, for the Roman authorities to anticipate a festival which was the subjugated people celebrating their identity. Passover was nothing less than a re-telling of their origins as a people, a people liberated from subjugation from an imperial power. This festival, in the context of occupied Judea, made it potentially seditious.

Setting the fourth gospel aside for the sake of brevity, Mark, with Mathew and Luke following him, style the Last Supper as a Passover meal. As with other meals which passed through Jesus’s hands, bread and wine, no less than loaves and fishes, are shared out in accordance with the idea that there is enough for all. The land is God’s, says the Torah, we are tenants and the distribution of its bounty is according to God’s justice, which is to say, enough for all. In a country where the land was being commercialised by the Romans and the Jewish aristocracy, God’s food for all is an unwelcome, and counter-cultural, conviction.

For Christians, the primary acts of Jesus’s meal, the sharing of bread and wine as body and blood, and for it to be shared with all, even Judas, is saying that to live counter-culturally is to court violence upon yourself. The meal is an enactment of denying self and taking up your cross, ‘for those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’ (Mark 8:35) It is an attempt to bring all his followers into step with his way through death to new life.

Just as the Passover meal was food for the journey, so bread is about belonging together, and wine, representing blood, is a reversal of the old sacrificial notion that blood should be left on the altar as representing divine life-force. By sharing the wine Jesus is telling his followers to take divine life-force into themselves and to be empowered by it.

Maundy Thursday takes us back into the cauldron of occupied Judea, to the opposition of the Empire of Caesar and the Kingdom of God, and this rite embodies all the challenges which arise from that collision.

To recover and to enact all those meanings of the rite is far more important than who is authorised to make the rite happen, and who is permitted to partake in it.

Andrew Spurr is the Vicar of Evesham in the Diocese of Worcester

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Thursday, 28 March 2013 at 6:00am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The power of prayer

Updated Wednesday evening

The Church of England has published the results of a survey by ICM which are available in full as a PDF file here.

The press release which accompanied this is here: Four out of five believe in the power of prayer.

Four out of five British adults believe in the power of prayer, according to a new ICM survey in the run-up to Easter. Holy Week and Easter are the most important period in the Christian calendar, marking the last days of Jesus’ ministry, his death on the Cross and resurrection to new life…

As the notes to the press release explain:

The question asked was: “Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?.”

There has been some criticism of the claims made in the press release, see

Huffington Post Church Of England Accused Of ‘Dishonesty’ In Prayer Survey

British Humanist Association Church of England spins Prayer Survey

New Statesman Church of England commits sins against statistics

TA readers may wish to study the full results of the survey for themselves and comment on whether they think the wording of the press release was justified.


The British Religion in Numbers website has published this detailed critique by Clive Field of the press release and the survey, and of other reports of it in the media: Prayer in a Spin.

…The Church based its claim on a misreading of the fact that 81% of the 2,015 adult Britons interviewed online by ICM Research on 13-14 March 2013, in a poll commissioned by the Church, had replied ‘something’ in answer to the question ‘irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?’ This was slightly below the figure (85%) in the equivalent poll this time last year…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 1:22pm GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Honest to God at 50

Honest to God, by Bishop John Robinson, was first published in 1963, and has been in print ever since, selling over a million copies. To celebrate this anniversary, the publisher SCM Press is sponsoring a commemorative evening in April at St Martin-in-the-Fields and has assembled a panel to discuss its influence and contemporary resonance.

Free event — everyone welcome
Monday 29 April, 7:00pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ

The panel includes popular authors Francis Spufford and Mark Vernon, Archdeacon of Canterbury Sheila Watson, and vicar of St Martin’s the Revd Dr Sam Wells. It will be chaired by BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge.

More details at

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 11:44am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Update on progress on women bishops legislation

The Church of England issued this update this afternoon.

Update on progress on women bishops legislation
26 March 2013

The consultation document on women bishops issued on 8 February generated 376 responses by the closing date of 28 February. Of these, 10 were from organisations and three from bishops. Of the remaining 363 submissions, 154 were from General Synod members and 209 from others.

The working group has met twice in March and has further meetings scheduled for April and May. It remains on track to report to the House of Bishops before the meeting of the House on 20/21 May, when the House will be deciding what proposals to bring to the Synod in July. At its April meeting the group is having further facilitated conversations with those who joined it for the earlier discussions at the beginning of February.


The consultation document on women bishops was issued as below

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 5:50pm GMT | Comments (31) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Passion and Passion

Today we begin our Holy Week journey with Jesus, following the Way of the Cross. It’s a week when people like me, who are a clear ‘T’ or Thinking type personality, have to let our intellectualising take second place to our emotions. We need to feel first, and then strive for some modest measure of understanding afterwards.

Once again I’m indebted to that great saint, Francis of Assisi, for showing the way. For beyond the sentimental image of Francis preaching to the birds and befriending the animals is the reality of a man who took the Way of the Cross into the heart of his life. When Francis prayed that he might feel in his own body as much as he could humanly bear of what Jesus felt on the cross, he did so not out of perverted masochism, nor even like those contemporary flagellants who sought to punish their bodies as an expiation of sin. Francis embraced suffering because he knew that this was the only way in which he would be able to feel in his own body as much as he could humanly bear of the love that held Jesus to the cross, and held him there with a force no nails could equal. What Francis had found was that the cross is not some intellectual solution to the questions of Judgement and Salvation, instead it is the place where divine love shows itself in its fullness, and so doing conquers all.

If two individuals as different as St Paul and St John can be united in placing love at the apex of their theology, then we need to accept Francis not as just some medieval mystic, but as one of our prime theologians. But it’s a theology that forms and grows in the heart long before it finds a lodging place in the mind. And so my focus this Holy Week, and one I commend to you, is to so enter into the Passion of Christ that we enter also into the heart of his love, into that more contemporary understanding of the very word ‘passion’. Yet, as one whose faith ever seeks understanding, I want to take with me on this week’s journey a particular question, the question of why there must be suffering at all.

For I think I’ve received a glimpse that such answer as there may be lies in that preeminence of love. Can it be that the world is as it is, with all the pain, evil and corruption that afflicts it, because in no other world could love be freely given and freely received? Can it be that the true question is not that of how a God of love can allow bad things to happen, but of how great must be the love that can know, feel and embrace all that suffering, and taking it, transform it into more love?

David Walker
David Walker is Bishop of Dudley in the diocese of Worcester

Posted by David Walker on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 6:00am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 23 March 2013


Nicola Hulks writes for She Loves magazine about When The Church Said No.

Kirk Smith writes for the Episcopal Café that Ancient manuscript will influence new archbishop.

Iain McLean writes for Politics in Spires about The utility function of Celestine V and the election of Pope Francis.

Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about St Francis as the Pope’s patron.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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TfL bus advertisement ban was lawful, but...


Judgment has been given in the case of Core Issues Trust v Transport for London and you can find the full text either here, or as a PDF over here.

Frank Cranmer has published an analysis at Law & Religion UK: ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban procedurally flawed – but still lawful which concludes with this:

Comment TfL won – but not without the merest soupçon of egg over corporate face. As we have seen, Lang J’s view was that, if the proposed advertisement by the Core Issues Trust was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence”, so were those by the British Humanist Association and Stonewall which TfL had already displayed on its buses. What saved TfL in the present circumstances was that to have displayed the proposed advertisement would have been breached its statutory equality duty under s 149 Equality Act 2010.

Which raises the question, did the display of the BHA and Stonewall advertisements also breach TfL’s statutory equality duty? But we shan’t know the answer because that, of course, was not in play for adjudication.

Alasdair Henderson writes at UK Human Rights Blog Ban on ‘ex-gay, post-gay and proud’ bus advert criticised but lawful

I will add links to other legal blogs that comment on this case, as they appear.

I have seen no comment from TfL, but there are responses from Core Issues Trust and its supporters:

Statement on behalf of Core Issues Trust (PDF)

Christian Concern issued this press release: High Court Rules That Humanist, Stonewall and ‘Ex-Gay’ Bus Adverts should all have been banned.

Although Anglican Mainstream was a co-sponsor of the proposed advertising (its URL was part of the advertising copy), it took no part at all in the legal action. However, there are numerous links to media coverage on its website, here, here, here, and here (so far, no doubt more will follow).

There are also press releases from the British Humanist Association, and from Stonewall.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 9:55am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 22 March 2013

Further comments on Archbishop Welby's views

The Church Times carries this news report of its own interview with the archbishop: No ‘chucking out’ over women.

The actual interview with Ed Thornton is available in full here: ‘You don’t have to agree to be in the same Church’.

Anglican Mainstream has published this: Primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan and Southern Cone write to Archbishop Welby.

Today’s Guardian has this editorial: Archbishop of Canterbury: good and God.

At the Telegraph Damian Thompson writes on his blog The new Archbishop of Canterbury, enthroned today, must wish the gay issue would go away. But it won’t.

Colin Coward wrote at Changing Attitude Justin Welby speaks of stunning quality of gay relationships.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 March 2013 at 12:30pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Updated Friday morning

Justin Welby was installed as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England in a service at Canterbury Cathedral this afternoon. This event is commonly called his enthronement, although this word does not appear in the order of service.

Articles looking ahead to the service

The Archbishop’s website published this on Tuesday: What happens when an Archbishop is enthroned?

Robert Piggott for the BBC How new the Archbishop of Canterbury will be enthroned

Order of Service: “The Inauguration of the Ministry of the One Hundreth and Fifth Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Portal Welby”

A recording of the service is available to UK viewers on the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.

Text of the Archbishop’s sermon

Reports of the service

The Anglican Communion News Service has these Photographs from the Enthronement.

BBC Justin Welby is enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury [includes video highlights]

Paul Handley, Ed Thornton and Rachel Boulding in the Church Times Dancing welcome for Archbishop Welby

John Bingham in the Telegraph Justin Welby enthroned as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury

Sam Jones and agency in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as archbishop of Canterbury
Also in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as new archbishop at Canterbury Cathedral – video
and Archbishop of Canterbury enthronement - in pictures

Liz Dodd in The Tablet Welby enthroned as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury

Cheryl Mullin in the Liverpool Echo Justin Welby is enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury [includes photographs]

Matthew Davies at Episcopal News Service
Archbishop of Canterbury enthroned in ancient splendor [includes video]
Video: Designer Juliet Hemingray on the archbishop’s vestments

For comparison, here are highlights of the enthronement of Geoffrey Fisher in 1945.

Update Friday morning

The paper edition of The Guardian printed this photograph as a double page spread.

The Enthronement in pictures from Canterbury Cathedral

Anglican Communion News Service Archbishop Welby enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral

Quentin Letts in the Mail Online African dancers, bongo drums and a Punjabi hymn… the oh-so modern arrival of Britain’s new Archbishop [lots of photographs]

Photographs on the Archbishop’s Facebook page
The same photographs are on also the Archbishop’s website.

Sam Jones in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as new archbishop of Canterbury

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 21 March 2013 at 6:15pm GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Media coverage of Archbishop Welby's views


The Archbishop of Canterbury has given TV interviews to several journalists ahead of his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral this afternoon.

Meanwhile John Bingham at the Telegraph reports on Archbishop Justin Welby’s olive branch to gay rights groups and also Archbishop ‘convinced’ role will eventually be held by a woman.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral later today, sent a message to Peter Tatchell, the veteran human rights campaigner, last night inviting him to meet face-to-face.
In was in response to an open letter in which Mr Tatchell accused the Archbishop of being “homophobic” by opposing gay marriage and said that Anglicans had “colluded” in extreme suppression of homosexuality in Africa.
The gesture is likely to further infuriate leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa and the southern hemisphere – several of whom are said to be preparing to snub the Archbishop by absenting themselves from a celebratory get-together for primates after the enthronement.
The invitation for a meeting is in stark contrast to the relationship between gay rights groups and previous Archbishops…

The Open Letter to Justin Welby from Peter Tatchell can be found here.

The Guardian has several articles:
Peter Walker Archbishop of Canterbury admits to gay ‘challenge’ for church and Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury – in his own words
Andrew Brown Justin Welby’s ascension shines light on powerful evangelical church
Andrew Atherstone Justin Welby is no fluffy spiritualist – he’s the tough leader the church needs

And there is another article by Andrew Atherstone published at Fulcrum (though written for Church Society) Archbishop Welby and the E-Word.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 21 March 2013 at 10:30am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Archbishop Justin Welby: interviews and reactions

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday includes in today’s episode an interview with Archbishop Justin Welby. The programme can be downloaded from here, and the interview starts at about 26 m, 40 s into the programme.

According to Anglican Mainstream there is also an interview in today’s Sunday Times magazine section. See here.

And, according to Jonathan Petre in today’s Mail on Sunday Archbishop Welby faces boycott by Anglican leaders over plans to allow gay clergy to become bishops.

…According to leaked documents seen by The Mail on Sunday, at least three senior African archbishops have privately urged conservative colleagues to shun the gathering.

In the documents, the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, said he recommended that ‘we show our commitment to the Anglican Communion by being present for the service at Canterbury Cathedral . . . but do not participate in the “collegial time” being proposed by Archbishop Welby’.

He said the new Archbishop of Canterbury had ‘given us no clear indication of the matters for discussion’ and that primates ‘who have led the way in promoting false teaching’ will be welcomed by Dr Welby.

He said his views were shared by the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, and the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, but sources said the African and Asian archbishops would not make a final decision about attending the meeting until this week….

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 10:31pm GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Yes 2 Women Bishops conference report

The conference Women Bishops: Church in all its Fullness announced previously took place yesterday.

This page has links to both audio recordings and texts of all the main speeches.

The same text materials are also linked from this page.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 8:00pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Breaking the Rules

The gospel narrative for Passion Sunday, of Mary anointing Jesus, is a story of the crossing of boundaries. The rules of thrift and the responsible use of resources are cast aside, as what may have been the most valuable item in the house is dissipated in a grand gesture and few moments of fragrance. A routine act of hospitality is elevated from a mundane kindness to an eye-catching drama. There is a physical intimacy in public between a man and an unrelated woman, as Mary bends to wipe Jesus’s feet with her hair.

Of course, if it had happened last Friday it could be a ‘red nose’ stunt, pouring a bottle of perfume over a dinner guest. I’m sure you could get sponsorship, upload the video, send it to wing its way through the social media.

Comic Relief, and similar undertakings, tame the unusual and domesticate the extravagant gesture. Boundaries are transgressed, but only with careful planning; generosity is harnessed to a date, and eccentricity given its place on the calendar. All is made safe, if occasionally embarrassing, and care for those in need is slotted neatly into a consumerist culture, where we buy our red noses at the tills of major supermarkets.

Even with that domestication, however, such events retain an association between giving and the breaching of what are normally considered the limits of acceptable behaviour. Like the licensed fools of previous centuries, participants act out a defiance of the rules by which we live so much of the time, the rules of the market, of contract and commerce, of the exchange of goods and services. For this action I should receive this payment: with this money I can purchase these things. Sit in a bath of baked beans, and someone will give you money because he is mildly entertained by your humiliation (but not as much as if he paid the same to see a really good comic), or she feels an obligation to support a friend or workmate; not because there is an identifiable value or outcome to your action.

By attribution, at least, it was Ignatius Loyola who prayed for the generosity of spirit which gives without counting the cost and acts without expecting reward; I doubt if Red Nose Day is part of the cultural heritage of Francis I, the first Jesuit pope, but there is a pleasing coincidence in his election as this country engages in one of its periodic exercises in communal altruism.

Flagrant generosity, without palpable reward, is the generosity of God, which breaks all the rules about what is deserved or earned or due. In God’s giving of God’s very self in the passion, the rules of parenthood are breached; the primary loving relationship, as experienced and valued in most human lives, is ruptured.

Yet this Passion Sunday story, of course, is one of the few in which Jesus is the recipient, not the giver. He accepts it all, the perfume, the careful wiping of his feet, the symbolic preparation. Accepting the gift, he values the giver, and accepts the identity she gives him.

So much of our tradition emphasises our inadequacy, and disables us from that acceptance. May we learn to accept that lavish gift of God’s love, which breaks the rules of the market place and pre-empts any question of deserving, and allow ourselves also to accept the identity offered us, as God’s beloved children.

Jane Freeman
Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Sunday, 17 March 2013 at 6:00am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bishop of Liverpool speaks about blessing civil partnerships

From the Diocese of Liverpool press release: Bishop James Presidential Address March 2013:

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones has said that it maybe time for the church to ask the question about the blessing of civil partnerships. In his Presidential Address to the Diocese of Liverpool Synod the Bishop said “if the Church now recognises Civil Partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the Church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just”…

The full text of his address is available here (PDF).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 2:27pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Theo Hobson in The Guardian asks Why be a liberal Catholic when you could be an Anglican?

Nick Baines gave a lecture on Faith in the Media: Society, Faith and Ethics at De Montfort University, Leicester, on 14 March 2013.

Gavin Drake writes that The Church of England is a tortoise compared to Rome’s hare.

Peter Stanford writes in The Telegraph about Pope Francis I: a new broom sweeps into the Vatican.
In The Guardian Margaret Hebblethwaite writes about The Pope Francis I know.
Robert Mickens writes in The Tablet about A house that needs putting in order.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Friday, 15 March 2013

Archbishop Welby interviewed on Equal Marriage

Iain Dale interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury on his radio show, and reported afterwards on his own website: Archbishop Softens Line On Gay Marriage

ID: You said once that you’re always averse to the language of exclusion and what we’re called to do is love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us, how do you reconcile that with the church’s attitude on gay marriage?

JW: I think that the problem with the gay marriage proposals is that they don’t actually include people equally, it’s called equal marriage, but the proposals in the Bill don’t do that. I think that where there is… I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way… you know that the love that there is is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say. And civil partnership is a pretty… I understand why people want that to be strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable in a good way. It’s not the same as marriage…

ID: But if it could be made to work in a way that’s acceptable to the church you would be open to discussions on that?

JW: We are always open to discussions, we’ve been open to discussion, we’re discussing at the moment. The historic teaching of the church around the world, and this is where I remember that I’ve got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country, has been that marriage in the traditional sense is between a man and woman for life. And it’s such a radical change to change that I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution.

There is a link to the audio recording of this here.

Subsequently, Savi Hensman has written about this for Cif belief in The archbishop of Canterbury must follow up on praise for gay relationships.

…Welby could start by taking action to protect LGBT lay people in every parish, celibate or otherwise, from discrimination, and clergy from invasive questions. There are disturbing instances where people are made to feel unwelcome or humiliated and this should stop.

He could also encourage more thinking about how churches provide, and could improve, pastoral support for same-sex couples, including celebrating civil partnerships. In time, the Church of England might agree an order of service which clergy could use if they wished.

While all Anglican churches should indeed consult others in the communion before major decisions, this cuts both ways. The archbishops most opposed to greater inclusion have resisted repeated calls by international gatherings since 1978 for “deep and dispassionate” study of the issues, taking account of scientific research, and for dialogue with homosexual people and support for their human rights. Yet these leaders have not even bothered to explain why. Their treatment of their LGBT members falls far short of gospel values of love and justice.

Within the Church of England and beyond, Welby could promote awareness and discussion of developments in theological thinking on sexuality, including marriage. Overseas leaders could participate, but would have to engage seriously with others’ arguments.

The current situation is harming LGBT people and Christian witness in England. It is time to start moving forward on inclusion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 March 2013 at 4:15pm GMT | Comments (34) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury's Prayer Pilgrimage

Updated 22 March

The Archbishop of Canterbury is undertaking a Journey in Prayer in the days leading up to his enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March.

There are reports of each day on the Archbishop’s website, which we link below, together with any other reports that we see.

Day One (March 14) - Norwich
Diocese of Norwich report

Day Two (March 15) - Coventry
photographs from the Diocese of Coventry

Day Three (March 16) - London & Southwark
photographs from the Diocese of Southwark
report and pictures at londonse1

Day Four (March 18) - Truro
Diocese of Truro report

Day Five (March 19) - Chichester
photographs from the Chichester Observer
video from the Diocese of Portsmouth
photographs from the BBC


Ed Thornton reports on the pilgrimage for the Church Times: Thousands greet Welby as he prays his way to Canterbury.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 9:06pm GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Women Bishops - ten minute rule bill

The Hansard record of yesterday’s ten minute rule debate in the House of Commons is now available: Bishops (Consecration of Women).

A recording of the debate can be watched on Parliament TV, starting at 12:37:30.

Alternatively (and more conveniently) the BBC includes video of just this debate in its report: Labour MP bids to bring in female bishops despite Church opposition.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 9:34am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Anglican Communion leaders welcome new Pope

Updated again Friday noon

ACNS has issued this press release: Communion leaders welcome new Pope.

Lambeth Palace issued: ‘May the love of Christ unite us’: Archbishop’s statement on the election of Pope Francis.

ACNS has also issued this: “The Church universal needs Anglicans” - Pope Francis

The new Pope has reportedly said the Church universal needs Anglicans and that the Ordinariate is “quite unnecessary”.

In a note released after the election of the first ever pontiff from Latin America, the Anglican Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg Venables said Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was “an inspired choice”.

“Many are asking me what is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written.

“I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary.”

Bp Venables added that in a conversation with Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, the latter made it clear that he values the place of Anglicans in the Church universal.

“He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans.

The former Primate of the Anglican Communion’s Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America added, “I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend, but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.”

Statements from:

Archbishop of York

The Bishop of Guildford has issued this statement as Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity and a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission: POPE FRANCIS 1st.

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Committee completes its scrutiny of marriage bill

The hearings of the Public Bill Committee on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill concluded around 11 am yesterday without a single amendment of any kind being made. However, one proposed new clause, which would have the effect of allowing humanist weddings, was negatived only by virtue of the casting vote of the chair.

Hansard record of yesterday’s hearing (morning session only) or as a PDF file here.

The next stage of the process will be a debate on the floor of the house known as Report Stage, followed by a Third Reading debate and vote.

Dates for this have not yet been announced.

Another tranche of submissions has been published, go here for full list (scroll down).
They include:
Marriage, Sex and Culture Group, Anglican Mainstream
LGBT Anglican Coalition
The Sibyls
Mark Jones and the Opinion of John Bowers QC (PDF)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 11:30am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Monday, 11 March 2013

new director of the Central Secretariat and Clerk to the Synod

The Church of England has today announced the appointment of Dr Jacqui Philips as Clerk to the Synod in succession to Colin Podmore.

Church announces new director of the Central Secretariat and Clerk to the Synod
11 March 2013

The Church of England today announced the appointment of Dr Jacqui Philips as Clerk to the Synod in succession to Colin Podmore, who steps down on 31st March.

Dr Philips will take up the role on 8th April and will be acting Clerk to the Synod pending the approval of her appointment in July at General Synod.

The role of Clerk to the Synod is one of the responsibilities of the Director of the Central Secretariat who, as well as managing the team that supports the General Synod, Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops, also oversees the Church’s safeguarding, research and statistics work and ecumenical affairs.

Announcing the appointment, the Secretary General of the Church of England, Mr William Fittall, said: “Jacqui brings to the role a wealth of experience and a wholehearted commitment to the work of the Church of England. There was a strong field of applicants for this senior post and we are delighted that as the outstanding candidate Jacqui has accepted this role.”

Responding to the news of her appointment, Dr Philips said: “I am excited at the prospect of taking up this post and contributing to the work of the Church of England. I am looking forward to enabling and celebrating the work of the Church at a national and local level during these times of both opportunity and challenge for the Church of England.”


Jacqui Philips (41) studied English at Cambridge, did an MA in seventeenth century studies at Durham and then obtained an Oxford DPhil on the literature of John Bunyan. After a year as a parliamentary researcher, she became Public Affairs manager for the Bio Industry Association. Following spells on public policy issues for Barclays Bank and in the CBI Brussels office she became Head of Public Affairs for the Royal and Sun Alliance in 2005. She moved from there in 2008 to become Director, European Government Affairs and industry Relations at MetLife, a major US company with growing operations in Europe. In 2012, she took a short career break to explore opportunities in the not-for-profit-sector and to study for a Certificate in Theology course at St Mellitus College.

Under Standing Order 123A, the appointment will be subject to the approval of the General Synod in July.

Synod members have been sent a note (GS Misc 1043) giving more details of the recruitment process.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 6:04pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 10 March 2013

Dean of Jersey suspended for safeguarding failure

Updated again Friday morning

The Diocese of Winchester on Saturday issued this announcement:

THE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER has today withdrawn the commission of the Dean of Jersey, the Very Reverend Robert Key, effectively suspending him. The Dean of Jersey’s suspension follows the publication today of an Independent Report [see PDF file here], commissioned by the Diocese of Winchester’s Safeguarding Panel. This has found that there were a number of failures in the implementation of policies, in relation to a safeguarding complaint in 2008.

The report raises concerns that the Dean of Jersey did not comply with key safeguarding procedures in dealing with the complaints of a vulnerable adult parishioner, who had made a complaint about abusive behaviour by a Churchwarden in Jersey.

Following the announcement of the suspension, the Bishop will now begin an investigation into the conduct of the case by the Dean of Jersey and other matters raised by the report. The report describes a number of areas where proper practice was not followed including an apparent failure to take the complaint seriously, a perceived lack of neutrality, poor communication and lack of action.

The Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, who is responsible for the Church of England in the Channel Islands said, “Firstly I want to give my unreserved apologies to the complainant for her treatment. Protecting the vulnerable is at the heart of the Church of England’s mission. With that comes a duty to ensure those in need are properly looked after. It is vital that robust safeguarding policies are in place and, above all, that they are properly implemented.

“This Independent Report suggests that, put simply, our policies were not implemented as they should have been. I am particularly disappointed that the Dean of Jersey refused to cooperate with the review and I have now ordered an immediate and thorough investigation. In the wake of the report, difficult but necessary and decisive actions are required to ensure that, in the future, procedures will be followed properly.”

Andrew Robinson, Chief Executive of the Diocese of Winchester said, “The Diocese takes its safeguarding duties very seriously. This is why we commissioned the Independent Report and is why we have taken action to ensure our safeguarding polices are robust and adhered to. We are determined to learn from the mistakes made in this particular case and shall be enhancing our safeguarding procedures and policies.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has published this: Archbishop supports response to Winchester safeguarding report.


Law and Religion UK has published Review of Church’s safeguarding provisions in Jersey.

See also the three five (so far) links to informative articles on this case by Peter Ould, earlier ones noted in the comments below.

Chair of National Safeguarding adds support
Statement by the Chief Minister of Jersey
Response by the Bishop of Winchester

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 1:45pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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CofE bishops criticise government welfare reforms

Updated Tuesday
The Archbishop of Canterbury has written this further comment (item dated 11 March): Universal and specific.

From the website of the Children’s Society:
Archbishops and bishops unite with charity in child poverty call

Dozens of Church of England bishops, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have joined The Children’s Society to call for urgent steps to prevent hundreds of thousands of children being plunged into poverty.

The welfare benefit up-rating bill – currently before parliament – will limit the amount by which most key benefits and tax credits can rise each year to only 1%, regardless of how much prices increase. This is well below the rate of inflation predicted by the Treasury, and the government estimates this will push 200,000 more children into poverty.

We have joined forces with bishops in the House of Lords to table amendments which would remove support paid for children from the bill. Peers are set to debate these amendments when the bill reaches report stage in the Lords (on 19 March)…

From the website of the Archbishop of York:
Archbishops Call For Vulnerable To Be Protected In Welfare Benefit Up-rating Bill

So far 43 Bishops have signed an open letter backing The Children’s Society campaign (the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are prevented from signing open letters or backing campaigns by convention).

Archbishop of Canterbury: Archbishop joins urgent child poverty call

News reports of this:

Telegraph Edward Malnick Archbishop of Canterbury attacks Government welfare reforms (scroll down for the actual text of the letter)

BBC Archbishop of Canterbury condemns benefit changes

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 10:01am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Breaking out the chocolate

The blanket of daffodils, chocolate and cards which engulfs the nation must not obscure the fact that Laetare Sunday should not entirely be allowed to morph into ‘Mothers’ Day’ (sic). There is much more going on here than an expression of familial (or even ecclesiastical) affection.

Laetare, Mid-Lent or Refreshment Sunday is the Lenten equivalent of Advent’s Gaudete Sunday. A note of joy enters the liturgy, the purple vestments are set aside for rose, and the day marks a point of transition from one mood to another. For us this week, we are aware that Passiontide is now waiting in the wings, but, for one last time before Easter Day, we are to be joyful. And the theological and spiritual significance of this instruction shouldn’t be undersold.

It is said of a particular tradition of Christianity that it leaves its adherents unable to sleep at night for fear that someone, somewhere might be enjoying themselves. Whether that deep suspicion of the physical world derives primarily from our Neo-Platonist inheritance, from the rise of capitalism (as some have suggested), from the triumph of the opinions of (say) Theodore of Tarsus over those of Gregory the Great (look at the early mediæval penitentiaries for copious examples of the former), or wherever, there is a lurking conviction that abstinence is intrinsically holy. ‘The less the holier’ is a beguiling mantra.

The presence of Laetare Sunday in the liturgical year challenges that quasi-masochistic, dualist take on the created order. In the middle of the solemn fast of Lent, we are commanded to rejoice, even to consider breaking out the chocolate and removing the padlocks from the decanter. What, we might wonder, is going on?

A starting point is the ancient example of Anthony of Egypt. Artists have long rejoiced in painting his Temptations, perhaps because the irresistible invitation to let the imagination run riot with naked women and/or demons. Less frequently painted, though is the scene where Anthony, at the end of his period of fasting, is tempted to continue into ever-deeper asceticism. It’s probably rather difficult to paint someone being tempted not to eat — apophatic art is an interesting concept — but the point is clear: ascesis is not an end in itself, and may unwittingly become a vice as it leads us into pride, and a despising of creation and of those others who cannot meet our high ideals. Another tale of the desert fathers recalls how a solitary broke his fast in order to offer hospitality. Even within ascetic Christian monasticism rigorism and puritanism have long been suspect.

Within the Benedictine spiritual tradition there are countless reminders of our necessary embodiedness. Benedict’s Rule insists that we do not devalue our God-given physicality, even our frailness. RB 37: ‘Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness … towards the old and children, still the authority of the Rule should also provide for them. … let a kind consideration be shown to them, and let them eat before the regular hours.’ Benedict insists on exception after exception — for the sick, for when the weather is hot, or the work arduous — and on proper provision being made for adequate food, clothing and bedding — and a ‘comfort break’ between Offices.

RB 39 expects a choice of menu to be available; the Monastery of Our Lady and St John at Alton sets aside the Wednesday fast if a feast or solemnity intervenes — ‘Beer on a feast, and wine on Sundays and solemnities.’ Our calling is to become holy, not skeletal, or pious, or puritanical. “Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are,” says Benedict in RB4, and goes on to demonstrate that holiness and proper regard for our physical state are anything but mutually exclusive.

It is in this context that Laetare Sunday may be seen to make sense. This enforced breaking of the fast is a reminder that the Sabbath (so to speak) is made for us, not us for the Sabbath (Pharisaism is such a tempting route to take, especially for the professionally religious). It ensures that we cannot enter into a mistaken imitation of Jesus’s forty-day experience in the wilderness, and thus promote ourselves to the category of spiritual Olympian, ‘seeking to be called holy before we really are’. Instead, we hear the words of the Angel to Elijah; ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ It is one thing to discipline our physicality, another entirely to abuse it.

Posted by David Rowett on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 6:00am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 9 March 2013


Sylvia McLain writes in The Guardian that It’s a big, fat myth that all scientists are religion-hating atheists.

Vicky Beeching writes for The Independent about Christian Easter eggs and child abuse: The creation of a parallel universe by the Church.

Hans Küng writes in The New York Times about A Vatican Spring?

Tom Wright asks in The Guardian The church may be hypocritical about sex, but is no one else guilty?

The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley have this handy list of 25 Ways to say “No” Without Saying “No”.

Rosie Harper has written a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which Alan Wilson has republished: Dear Justin…

Christopher Howse of The Telegraph writes about Anglicans in the heart of Rome.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Friday, 8 March 2013

Women Bishops - ten minute rule bill

Diana Johnson MP will introduce a bill into the House of Commons on 13 March under the ten-minute rule to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

Wikipedia has this explanation of the Ten Minute Rule.

The debate is scheduled to start at about 12.30 pm, immediately following Prime Minster’s Questions. It can be watched live on BBC Parliament and on Parliament TV.

WATCH has issued this press release.

Parliament to debate women in the episcopate: Diana Johnson MP introduces bill next Wednesday.

On Wednesday 13th March Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull, will introduce a bill under the ten-minute rule that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. In this way she will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.

After the disastrous vote last November when General Synod failed to support women bishops legislation, bishops were called to Westminster to explain to MPs how they planned to bring a speedy resolution to the problems this vote had caused. A House of Bishops Working Group has now consulted widely, and from the responses to the consultation that have been made public it appears that there is even less common ground than before between those in favour and those against women bishops. Nevertheless WATCH remains committed to the Church of England’s process of reconciliation and continuing conversations.

WATCH believes that Diana Johnson’s bill is timely in reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod sooner rather than later, and in a form that allows no discrimination against women.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 12:07pm GMT | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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Archbishop of Canterbury starts blog

The Archbishop of Canterbury has started a blog. In his first article, Moving the frontiers, he reflects on the recent Faith in Conflict conference.

Before any of our readers get too excited, I should point out that the Archbishop does not allow comments on his blog.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 11:26am GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 7 March 2013

More developments in South Carolina

Previous report on this subject here.

Now, further legal action has been taken, as ENS reports: Lawsuit seeks to recognize vonRosenberg as bishop of South Carolina.

Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint…

The full text of the complaint can be found here (PDF).

And the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is here.

At the time of writing, this action has not been reported on the website of the “Lawrence” diocese. The latest news item there is 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention to be Held in Florence, March 8-9 and also Three More Parishes Join in Suit to Prevent TEC from Seizing Property.

The latter press release summarises the situation thus:

…47 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 18 support TEC and 7 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The TEC diocese website reports that the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will be held March 8-9, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

And it has this press release: Diocese added as defendant in lawsuit.

…Remaining with The Episcopal Church are 19 parishes and missions so far, along with at least 10 more “continuing parishes,” where members are maintaining official ties to The Episcopal Church even though their parish leadership has left the church. In addition, at least seven active and growing worshiping communities have organized across the diocese to allow displaced Episcopalians to continue to worship together…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 9:00am GMT | Comments (49) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Committee scrutiny of Marriage bill continues

Updated again Friday morning

The Public Bill Committee meets again on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Meanwhile, a further tranche of written submissions have been published. Among these:

Changing Attitude England

Supplementary evidence from Dr Augur Pearce

And from the previous tranche, this from Liberty, but also available from the Liberty website, here, and also an earlier version here.

Today the Telegraph reports (no byline) on a submission made by Patricia Morgan, which is available in full on the SPUC website (PDF).

The latest listing of amendments can be read here or as a PDF file.

Hansard record of Tuesday’s hearings:

The committee has now dealt with Clauses 1 to 8. It meets again on Thursday.

Another tranche of written submissions has been published, all listed here.

They include:

David Shepherd


Christians for Equal Marriage

SPUC (see item above about Patricia Morgan)

Hansard record of Thursday’s proceedings:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 7:00am GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Monday, 4 March 2013

Women Bishops Consultation - response by Rod Thomas

Another response to the consultation is available on the REFORM website, written by Rod Thomas.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 4 March 2013 at 11:57pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Thought For The Day by Giles Fraser

BBC Radio 4 Monday 4 March

This morning the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is waking up to one of the biggest crises in its modern history. A few weeks ago, Cardinal Keith O’Brien was expecting to be in Rome electing the next Pope. Now he’s in disgrace, vowing that he’ll never again take part in public life .

We still don’t know the details of what he did, simply that he’s admitted to sexual misconduct amongst his fellow priests. Charges of hypocrisy have been swift to follow. This month last year, the Cardinal was on this very programme attacking gay marriage as evidence for the “degeneration of society into immorality”. Indeed, he insisted: “if the UK does go in for same sex marriage it is indeed shaming our country.”

So why is it that all the churches - and not just the Roman Catholic church - seem to attract so many gay men who are themselves so virulently hostile to homosexuality? Perhaps it has to do with a misplaced sense of shame about being gay, a sense of shame that they go on to reinforce by being vocal supporters of the very theology that they themselves have been the victims of. As the novelist Roz Kaveney tweeted yesterday: “I feel sorry for O’Brien. I hope one day he realizes that the sense of sexual sinfulness the Church forced on him was an abuse.” And that “O’Brien needs to distinguish between his sexual desires and his bad behavior and not see all of it as sin.” I totally agree.

The election of a new Pope provides an opportunity for real change. The culture of secrecy that fearfully hides this bad behavior - and not least the clerical abuse of children - needs dismantling from its very foundations. Inappropriate sexual relationships, relationships that trade on unequal power and enforced silence, are the product of an unwillingness to speak honestly, openly and compassionately about sex in general and homosexuality in particular. The importance of marriage as being available to both gay and straight people – and indeed to priests - is that it allows sexual desire to be rightly located in loving and stable relationships. I know there are people who see things differently, but I’m sorry: the churches condemnation of homosexuality has forced gay sex into the shadows, thus again reinforcing a sense of shame that, for me, is the real source of abuse.

Things may now be changing. It is encouraging that four priests have had the courage to speak out against a Cardinal – though one of them has expressed the fear that the Catholic church would “crush him” if they could. This is precisely the climate of fear that does so much to create the conditions of clerical abuse.

“It seems to me that there is nowhere to hide now,” said Diarmaid MacCulloch, the professor of the history of the church at Oxford University in a recent interview. He goes on: “We have had two Popes in succession that have denied that the church needed to change at all. The Roman church has to face realities that it has steadily avoided facing for the last thirty years.” And I might add, not just the Roman church, but my own church too.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 4 March 2013 at 8:55am GMT | Comments (31) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 3 March 2013

Religious Freedom and LGBT Rights: Are They Compatible?

Updated Friday 8 March

The Cutting Edge Consortium is organising a meeting with this title at the House of Commons on Monday 11 March, sponsored by Ben Bradshaw MP.

Please note the location for this meeting has been changed to the Jubilee Room, which is directly off Westminster Hall.

The meeting starts at 6.30 pm.

Further information on this meeting is available here.

Background on CEC here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 9:00pm GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Women Bishops Consultation - response by Hilary Cotton

Here is another submission to the consultation by an individual, Hilary Cotton. (PDF)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 6:00pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Women Bishops: The Church in all its Fullness

Women Bishops: The Church in all its Fullness is a day conference sponsored jointly by Yes2WomenBishops and by Fulcrum.

It is described as:

…a conference for all those in favour of women bishops

Christ Church, New Malden, Saturday 16th March 2013 10.00 am – 3.00 pm

Organised by Fulcrum and Yes2WomenBishops

Speakers – Jody Stowell, Stephen Kuhrt, Rachel Treweek

Price £15 (lunch provided)

Stephen Kuhrt writes about it for the CEN and Fulcrum: Women Bishops: Church in all its Fullness.

To sign up go here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 3:00pm GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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The starkness of Lent

There is a starkness to Lent, from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness to his brutal death on the cross. Raw physical hardship, deprivation and pain run through the entire season. This Sunday’s Gospel reading contains two harsh passages, the first, Jesus’s blunt message of ‘repent or perish’, and the second, his parable of the barren fig tree.

When, after three years, a vineyard owner finds no fruit on his fig tree, he instructs the gardener to cut it down. The gardener pleads for the life of the tree, saying he will dig around it and spread manure on it, and if it doesn’t produce fruit by the following year then he will cut it down. Tantalisingly, we are not told what happens after the year is up. Jesus leaves the fate of the fig tree hanging in his hearers’ imaginations.

Both the passage preceding today’s reading and the one immediately following feature further stories of a strangely stern Jesus, accusing the crowds who had come to listen to him, as well as the religious authorities who were trying to find fault with him, of being hypocrites. Jesus’s words offer no comfort, no solace, only a piercing indictment of sham, hypocrisy and lack of true compassion.

The Jesus, who, when the time came, would be willing to make the awful journey to Golgotha, is also the Jesus who saw the full extent and consequence of human fear, self-righteousness and self-deception. His sternness arose, not from a condescending judgement of human waywardness, but from the depths of his compassion and it spoke into the chasm between the reality of his own intimate and trusting relationship with God and the needless barrenness of so many people’s lives around him, living without a vision of the true God and of the community of love into which they were continually being invited, if they could but see.

This chasm, this sharp and agonising dissonance between Jesus’s internal reality with his Father and the world in which he lived is most beautifully expressed in a parable Luke relates a few chapters further on. It is the story that, perhaps more than any other, expresses the mis-match between human rebelliousness and false projections onto God and the true divine nature. The parable of the prodigal son tells the story of human wilfulness and folly, and eventual repentance, but more than anything, it reveals the depth and breadth of divine longing, compassion and love.

Jesus’s earlier harsh sentence on the fig tree and his scathing accusations of hypocrisy can be seen as urgent appeals to his listeners to come to their senses, to listen to what he has been telling them and to turn from their delusions about themselves and God, and turn to the offer of loving unity and intimacy that Jesus expresses in his prayer to his Father recorded in John chapter 17, on the night he allowed himself to be arrested.

What is the main work of Lent? It will most certainly be different for each and every person who attempts anything other than the pattern and habits of the rest of the year, but is there any one thing that commends itself as a prime task or focus?

Very simply, my answer would be that there is one thing above all others that is the proper work of Lent. It is to see Jesus with new eyes and to hear his message with new ears, and seeing and hearing, to open ourselves anew to Christ’s transforming power and vision, so that the living out of our faith moves from being about Jesus to being more profoundly and intimately of and with Jesus.

If it is true that we already inhabit eternity at the same time as we live out our days on our spinning planet, then it must be the case that we can become more aware of and acquainted with the eternal Now. It is clearly a good thing to understand and accept the challenges and constraints of our earthly existence, but for Followers of the Way, that can never be enough. We are compelled by Jesus’s life and actions, and by his paradoxical teachings and his perplexing parables, to look deeper, further, to lift the corner of the deceptive curtain that separates our rational and physical existence from our sensed and half-remembered spiritual reality.

Our willingness to do this, to venture into the known-unknown will depend on our view of God. Do we shrink back in fear at Jesus’s harsh exposing of our barrenness and hypocrisy, or do we respond by acknowledging our folly, picking ourselves up out of the swill, and turning back to home?

Christina Rees

Posted by Christina Rees on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 6:00am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: just thinking

Bishop of Hereford to retire

Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford, has announced that he will retire on 24 September 2013.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 12:30am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Women Bishops Consultation - WATCH responds

Women and the Church (WATCH) has made a formal response to the consultation.

The main body of the response is in this document (PDF):
The WATCH response to GS Misc 1042 Women in the episcopate: a new way forward.

Or it is available here as a normal web page.

There are several appendices:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at 5:00pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

proposed new diocese for West Yorkshire

Updated Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening

The final version of the proposal to replace the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield by a new diocese of Leeds (or West Yorkshire and the Dales) was discussed by the three diocesan synods this morning.

Bradford voted in favour.
Voting: 90 for, 4 against, no abstentions

Ripon & Leeds voted in favour.
Voting: 70 for, 18 against, 2 abstentions

Wakefield voted against.
Voting: 40 for, 76 against, 4 abstentions

The Church of England quickly issued this press release after the votes.

Results of vote on new single diocese for West Yorkshire
02 March 2013

Bradford and Ripon & Leeds dioceses today voted in favour of a scheme from the Dioceses Commission to reorganise Church of England structures in West Yorkshire and the Dales. Wakefield diocese rejected the scheme.

The neighbouring dioceses of Blackburn and Sheffield receiving six and two parishes respectively from the area of the proposed new single diocese also need to vote on the scheme: Sheffield gave its consent on 16 February; Blackburn votes on 13 April.

The overall proposal is to replace the existing dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield and create a new single one.

Now consent has not been given by at least one of the dioceses, it is up to the Archbishop of York to decide whether to allow the scheme to go forward for debate at General Synod (possibly in July). This could happen if he is satisfied either that

(a) the interest of the diocese is so small that the withholding of consent should not prevent the scheme being submitted to the General Synod; or

(b) there are wider considerations affecting the province or the Church of England as a whole which require the scheme to be submitted to the General Synod.

The Archbishop won’t be in a position to announce his decision until after Blackburn diocese’s vote is known in mid-April.

Speaking today after the votes, Chair of the Commission, Professor Michael Clarke said: ‘It is good to know that the Dioceses of Bradford and Ripon & Leeds support the Commission’s proposals. Looking at the voting in Wakefield, there is significant support there, even though the vote was lost.. The process, however, continues. Blackburn votes next month. It will then be for the Archbishop of York to decide how to take this forward.’

The three diocese have also issued their own press releases.

Bradford votes for new, single diocese
Ripon and Leeds approves plans for a new diocese
Wakefield says No to Dioceses Commission Draft Plan for new single diocese

Sunday update

The Radio Leeds Johnny I’Anson programme gave extensive coverage at intervals to this story this morning. This included interviews with Nick Baines, the Bishop of Bradford, (starting at 1 hour 9 minutes) and Stephen Platten, the Bishop of Wakefield, (starting at 2 hours 7 minutes).

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at 1:24pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England


Miranda Threlfall-Holmes writes for The Guardian that Justin Welby has already signalled his faith in women’s ministry.

Marc Handley Andrus (the Bishop of California) writes for The Washington Post about The Episcopal Church’s gay rights pilgrimage.

These articles look ahead to the next pope and what awaits him.
Religion & Ethics Newsweekly carries this interview: New Archbishop of Canterbury on New Pope.
In The Guardian there is this video: Diarmaid MacCulloch on the next pope: the Catholic church is in crisis – it has avoided reality for too long
and Andrew Brown writes about The new pope’s three key challenges.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that We cap benefits but not bonuses. How on earth are we ‘all in this together’?

Peter Graystone writes In praise of wishy-washy Christians for the Church Times.

Also in the Church Times Angela Tilby writes about A profession that needs to earn respect.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Friday, 1 March 2013

Julian Henderson named as new Bishop of Blackburn

From Downing Street:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Julian Tudor Henderson, MA, Archdeacon of Dorking, for election as Bishop of Blackburn in succession to the Right Reverend Nicholas Stewart Reade, BA, on his resignation on the 31st October 2012…

From the Diocese of Blackburn:

From the Diocese of Guildford:

From the Church Times:

…Unlike his two predecessors - the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, who retired on 31 October; and the Rt Revd Alan Chesters - Archdeacon Henderson is willing to ordain women as priests. He said on Friday that he was “in favour of women serving as bishops”, although he voted against the draft women bishops Measure in November ( News, 23 November).

Archdeacon Henderson said in a statement issued by Church House: “Let me be clear, I am in favour of women serving as bishops and will want to introduce a change in the current diocesan pattern by ordaining women as deacons and priests.

“But I hope my vote at General Synod last November will be a reassurance to those opposed to this development, that I want to be a figure of unity on this matter and will ensure there is an honoured place for both positions within the mainstream of the Church of England. Might Blackburn be a model for the rest of the Church of England!”


Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 1:00pm GMT | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England