Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Known by Name

The power of naming needs no rehearsal.

As we celebrate the naming of Jesus, we encounter again the implications of a God who enters into the realities of human life. The day remembers that this Jewish child, like every other, would have his entrance into the world and into a family ritually marked. To name a child is to take part in one of the near-universal human experiences: with his or her naming a baby is recognised as an individual, a unique person with both present existence and potential future. A different kind of relationship is established from that with an unborn or even newly-born child: now we can identify the child as him or her self, not purely as the son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, of someone else, and using the name we can address him or her directly. Not surprising, then, that among those disconnected from religious practice, naming ceremonies are gaining popularity.

Not surprising, either, that charity appeals, of which there are (rightly) so many at this time of year, recognise that we struggle to connect to the generic, to ‘babies’, ‘children’, ‘the homeless’. Each one, whether for London’s rough sleepers, the young victims of abuse in the country at large, those who suffer in war, or the hungry of the world’s struggling nations, seems to begin with a name: ‘let me tell you about …’ says the well-known voice fronting the appeal. And a particular, poignant, story unfolds. We seem to need that particularity to engage our sympathies; in the Christian tradition, believing ourselves known by name, we have all the more reason to connect in this way to the man, woman, or child in need, believing them also to be known to God.

Known to God. The phrase will have a distinctive resonance in this year, 2014, as governments and people mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. ‘Known unto God’ are the words inscribed, at the suggestion of Rudyard Kipling, on the graves of the thousands of soldiers who remained unidentified on the battlefields. These were men whose names, given at the beginning of their lives, were lost at the end in the bloody business of war.

The words used on those graves speak of a trust in God’s care for each one as precious. They remain a challenge to our tribalism and localism, a challenge to hold together our own instinctive connection to the known and named individual with a wider sympathy, a wider compassion. If we are given the name of a hungry child, we need to make the link to current concerns over food security for the world - and then think through how we feed ourselves and those dear, familiar, named ones who share our tables. Just as, in the birth and naming of a child 2000 years ago, we see both the particular and the universal, so in our words, our prayers, our actions we are called to respond both to the one whose name we know and the multitude beyond, known and loved by God.

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

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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Anti-homosexuality legislation in Nigeria and Uganda

Updated Monday lunchtime

This roundup from Religion Dispatches summarises the situation:

Nigeria and Uganda: Harsh Anti-Gay Legislation Passes

Harsh anti-gay laws that had been pending for years in both Nigeria and Uganda received legislative approval.

The Nigerian bill is called the Anti Same-Sex Marriage bill, but it does much more than ban and punish same-sex marriage with 14 years in prison. It calls for up to 10 years jail time for those who “aid and abet” same-sex marriages and for public displays of affection as well as public or private advocacy – even the creation of social clubs. The fate of the “Jail the Gays” law now rests with President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is divided between a mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, and has dealt this year sectarian violence. According to a Daily Trust story on the bill’s passage, “Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC, Yobe) said Nigeria is a religious country and the two major religions do not accept same sex marriage.” Nigerian student Udoka Okafor has published an open letter to the president, which invokes Nelson Mandela as an example for the country to follow.

In Uganda, where some U.S. religious conservatives have actively backed anti-gay forces there, parliament passed anti-gay legislation that had been pending for years. Once known as the “kill the gays bill,” the legislation as passed did not include the death penalty but makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison. The bill was pushed through even though Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi protested the lack of a quorum.

Passage was celebrated by Martin Ssempa, an outspoken anti-gay pastor who is allied with conservative evangelicals in the U.S., and it was applauded by the Anglican Church in Uganda. On Christmas, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira praised the legislation and urged parliament to pass a ban on abortion as well.

Gay Star News reported on Dec 26 that in response to demand from Apostle Joseph Serwadda, leader of Pentecostal churches in the country, the he sign the bill, president Museveni said he would review it carefully before deciding whether to sign it. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin explains that under the Ugandan constitution, the president does not have the power to veto the bill but can return it to Parliament twice, at which point it would need a two-thirds majority to become law.

Human Rights Watch released a video warning of violence against LGBT people and urged the president not to sign the bill. The White House reiterated its opposition to the bill, and a Christmas Eve statement from Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, read:

We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons.

The European Union and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office also released statements. Several news reports noticed the challenge facing western governments whose pro-equality advocacy is depicted as neo-colonial interference.

The UK Foreign Office statement about Uganda is here. There appears, at the time of writing, to be no corresponding statement about Nigeria.

There is a press briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights here.

More detail on the Nigerian bill is in this Buzzfeed report from Lester Feder.

See also this report from Human Rights Watch.

Comments by Changing Attitude are included at the end of this article.

Update

Extensive comment by Changing Attitude is now published in Stark choices face the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 2014.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 December 2013 at 1:10pm GMT | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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opinion

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian about The Church of England’s unglamorous, local future.
This article prompted these letters to the editor.

A N Wilson writs in The Telegraph that It’s the Gospel truth - so take it or leave it.

Ken Howard writes for Paradoxical Thoughts about Non-Proselytizing Evangelism: Returning To The Roots Of Anglican-Episcopal Tradition and the Incarnational Heart Of Christianity. [originally published in the e-magazine Witness6.7]

Malcolm Brown, the Director of the CofE’s Mission and Public Affairs Division, writes in The Observer that Without morality, the market economy will destroy itself.

Giles Fraser asks in The Guardian: Can you be too religious?

Peter Ormerod writes in The Guardian that Children’s nativity plays could have been invented by Satan.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 28 December 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Friday, 27 December 2013

More on Pilling from Uganda and elsewhere

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda has criticised the Pilling report in his Christmas Message:

…We believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and trustworthy to tell us the Truth. Unfortunately, some in the Anglican Communion members no longer believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. That’s why I and other Archbishops from the Global South, Sydney, and the Anglican Church in North America organized the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in October in Nairobi. We were altogether 1358 delegates worldwide. These included 169 delegates from Uganda. We are so determined to refuse anything that contradicts the Biblical authority without fear or compromise. I appeal to all Ugandans to join us in this struggle to protect our God given rights.

We are very concerned that our mother Church of England is moving in a very dangerous direction. They are following the path the Americans in the Episcopal Church took that caused us to break communion with them ten years ago.

The Church of England is now recommending that same-sex relationships be blessed in the church. Even though they are our mother, I want you to know that we cannot and we will not go in that direction. We will resist them and, with our other GAFCON brothers and sisters, will stand with those in the Church of England who continue to uphold the Bible as the Word of God and promote Biblical faith and morality…

There is a series of articles on the Pilling report on the Oak Hill Blog which can be accessed from this page.

Forward in Faith North America has issued this Statement on the Pilling Report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 December 2013 at 11:05pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Anglican bishops support Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Updated Friday evening

Jim Burroway reports in Box Turtle Bulletin:

Uganda’s Daily Monitor provides a round-up of religious leaders Christmas messages. The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was hurriedly passed by Parliament last Friday, received special mention by these three Anglican bishops:

“In Uganda, there are so many injustices like child sacrifice, domestic violence, drug abuse which are now a big issue in our schools… I want to thank Parliament for passing the Anti-homosexuality Bill. I want the world to understand what we are saying,” the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, said.

…“Can you imagine your son brings another man at home for introduction?… The church preaches forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation. I do not want people to look at us and say the church is against the homosexuals. We love everybody. The homosexuals, and lesbians are all children of God but we want them to repent and have eternal life,” Archbishop Ntagali said.

At St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira commended MPs for passing the anti-gays Bill but asked them to object the proposed law to legalise abortion describing it as murder.

The Bishop of Mbale, the Rt Rev Patrick Gidudu, asked Ugandans and political leaders who are against the Bill to seek God, repent and renew fellowship to save the country from God’s wrath…

Updates

Episcopal Cafe has a link to video reportage of Bishop Luwalira, here.

And there is this CNN report Gay and afraid in Uganda which also has episcopal input.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 December 2013 at 10:12am GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The ox and ass and camel

I’ve been thinking a lot about camels recently, inspired by my trip across part of Manchester diocese on one last week. The experience taught me that, if nothing else, by the time they reached Bethlehem the Magi would have had sore bottoms. Perhaps my recent ride was why, sat in the cathedral on Sunday night for the last pre Christmas Carol Service in the diary, and hearing again Harold Darke’s evocative setting of Christina Rossetti’s words, In the Bleak Midwinter, one line sprang out: ‘The ox and ass and camel, which adore’.

The nativity story is composed around a series of journeys: Mary and Joseph are called from Nazareth; the shepherds are sent down from the hills; the wise men travel from a far land in the east. But some of the figures in the crib scene have made no journey at all. The animals are simply at home, at the end of whatever labours they had been put to that day, in their stable. And Christ is born in their midst.

Perhaps it helps that I’m a Franciscan, but I don’t hear Rosetti’s words as mere Victorian sentimentality. I believe in the Christ who is ‘Saviour of the World’; his mission is not just to pluck human brands from the flames, but to bring the whole created order to its joyful destiny. The biblical account may not specifically mention whether other creatures were there, but the presence of the manger is a pretty convincing clue. It’s in their home that the Son of God chooses to be born. They are the ones who are so blessed that they have no journey required of them before they meet the Saviour. They are ready and prepared to adore him just as they are.

The Anglican Five Marks of Mission call us explicitly to combat injustice and to guard God’s creation. Whether or not we go as far as St Francis, who would gently remove worms from the path for their safety, the animals among whom Jesus was born serve as symbolic reminders of those imperatives. Reminders too that the world we share with them, whilst marked and marred by sin, is in no state of utter depravity. Rather it remains glorious in the richness of its God-willed diversity, most of all whenever it offers that glory back to him in adoration.

And the animals remind us that sometimes no outward journey is necessary. Christ is here, in our midst, even as we are peaceably at home or engaged in routine. The task is to notice, to let our eyes be no longer blinded by our preoccupations and preconceptions, and to respond. Can we be, as we tuck into Christmas dinner, open presents or anxiously await the start of the TV Christmas special we’re so looking forward to, at least as aware of the divine in our surroundings as Rosetti suggests the creatures in the crib scene were?

Then ox, and ass, and camel, and we, might adore.

David Walker is the Bishop of Manchester

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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Jamaica conference and Christian Concern: an update

Updated Christmas Eve

The silence of Christian Concern was broken briefly when, for a short time, a copy of an article supporting Andrea Minichiello Williams appeared there, with the title Questioning a bishop’s duty to “uphold biblical truth and refute doctrinal error” but it was taken down very quickly. But not quickly enough.

The article, originally titled Sad Day for Church of England when Changing Attitude Drives Episcopal Oversight, was written by the Reverend Julian Mann, Vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, a parish in the Diocese of Sheffield, and had originally appeared here, and has also been reproduced here.

Richard Bartholomew has updated his earlier article with this new one: Christian Concern’s Jamaica Anti-Gay Controversy Grows.

He writes:

…Certainly, I too thought the comments attributed to Williams were surprisingly virulent, which was why I maintained some caution when I quoted Buzzfeed myself. But if anything was amiss, why hasn’t Williams sought to set the record straight? I see no reason why Feder needs to defend his journalism when his subject has made no complaint of inaccuracy…

…This is the only response that Christian Concern has made on the matter, and it gives no indication that “the stand taken” by Williams has been misrepresented by Buzzfeed or the Independent. And there’s no explanation for why the article has now been removed.

Update

Christian Concern has published this video which contains Andrea Williams Christmas message. There are some generalised indirect references to recent events in this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 22 December 2013 at 4:05pm GMT | Comments (70) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Opinion for the solstice

Christopher Howse writes in The Telegraph that there is Nothing pagan in today’s sunshine.

Lizzie Lowrie writes Waiting for What?

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that The Bethlehem story takes us deeper into what it means to be human.

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon at the Metropolitan Police Carol Service earlier this week.

Dom Joly, writing in The Independent, discovers that Church holds no horror for me now.

Gerald Butt of the Church Times has interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury about Western inactivity in the face of regional conflict: Shepherd watches his flocks in Middle East.

Andreas Whittam Smith writes in The Independent that The Anglican and Catholic Churches have finally realised they must change to survive. But is it too late?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 December 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Shepherds’ Fields

The Shepherds’ Fields, outside the ancient heart of the town to which Mary and Joseph came to be registered, were in their day home to people living an insecure nomadic life on the edge of an inhospitable desert. In two millennia, the same thing might be said. Though the area is now built up, it is strangely quiet. Jerusalem can be seen, just five miles away, but it is inaccessible to most Palestinians. They are shut in behind ‘security’ walls which enforce the Israeli government’s apartheid laws. At dawn there is no great bustle of people going to work because for most there is no work. The great city which was the source of employment for most people is closed.

Today Bethlehem is still a place of refugee camps to which people fled in 1948. They have never been granted proper human rights and they have not been allowed to return to their homes. Generations of Palestinians have grown up here, with little work, poor education, and the supervision of impotent UN monitors.

But look more closely at the Shepherd’s Fields, and there is worse. The YMCA has a hostel whose mission is to rehabilitate boys and men who have been systematically tortured in Israeli prisons. They used to bear the marks of torture, but their captors, including the infamous G4S organisation, now resort to methods which leave no physical evidence on the body, but shatter the minds of the victims. They have often suffered what is known as ‘shaken baby syndrome’, and the shattered fragments of their minds have to be rebuilt. Innovative therapies have been developed here and at other specialist places in Palestine, to try to mend the damage.

The modern day successors of the shepherds have nowhere to pasture their flocks. Many have been forcibly ‘settled’ by the Israeli government, only to have their villages taken over time and again when Jewish settlers move in. The water for the flocks which once issued from natural springs has dried up, as Israel digs deep wells to syphon off the water close to the surface. It is then freely available to Jews, but rationed for non-Jews. What was once a free resource for the flocks must now be bought by the tanker load, and is often stolen back by Israeli authorities in order to force the herders and their animals to move from areas that the Israelis want for themselves.

Is there no saviour for these people? As the world acknowledges a former terrorist and jailbird who brought an end to apartheid in South Africa, can we recognise that the most fitting tribute to his life would be to end apartheid everywhere? And can we then bite the bullet, in the knowledge that only sanctions and divestment, which brought justice to South Africa, will bring an end to the apartheid in the Holy Land.

Tom Ambrose lives in Cambridge

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More coverage of the Jamaica conference story

Several British newspapers have picked up the story relating to Andrea Minichiello Williams:

Meanwhile, Lester Feder at Buzzfeed has published another article about Jamaica which gives some context to the earlier report: Why Some LGBT Youths In Jamaica Are Forced To Call A Sewer Home.

Update

The Times also has a report, Tom Daley was turned gay by death of his father, claims leading evangelical Christian, but as usual it only available to paid subscribers.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 4:59pm GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Homophobia in the Church of England

Changing Attitude has published two articles relating to this topic:

How the Anglican Communion’s authoritative teaching about same-sex attraction is ignored

Thirty-five Primates of the Anglican Communion met at the Dromantine Retreat Centre in Newry, Northern Ireland, from 20 to 25 February 2005. Section 6 of The Dromantine Communique issued at the end of the meeting concluded with these two sentences:

“We also wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship (vii).”

Any action or language which leads to the victimisation or diminishment of people who love others of the same sex is anathema to the Primates of the Anglican Communion. This is the policy of the Anglican Communion and the reason why Andrea Minichiello Williams speech in Jamaica has been so strongly criticised, why Anglican Mainstream’s stance and editorial policy is criticised, and why Primates and bishops in Uganda and Nigeria who support the anti-gay bills and all anti-gay rhetoric is criticised by Changing Attitude…

Is Anglican Mainstream homophobic? A gay evangelical perspective

A gay evangelical, a supporter of Changing Attitude, has written an extended commentary on two articles posted on the Anglican Mainstream web site. Until recently, he and his partner were very committed and active members of a congregation rejuvenated following an HTB plant. To protect both them and the congregation, we are posting this anonymously. The couple is well known to us. The supporter has been motivated by the nature of many posts on the AM website which are, to a gay Christian, deeply offensive.

Anglican Mainstream has a deliberate policy of publishing ‘shocking and offensive’ articles that relate to homophobia – and there is a direct link between articles they publish or link to and support for prejudice against LGB&T people in other parts of the Communion and attempts to legislate against LGB&T people that would result in gay people being jailed for long periods…

Do read both articles in full.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 4:57pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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another round-up of comment on the Pilling report

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has written for the American Anglican Council: Pilling: What are the Bishops thinking? (scroll down to read item).

In this he quotes at length anonymously, and not approvingly, from letters written by two diocesan bishops about the Pilling report. Of one letter he comments:

…All attitudes to Scripture and methods of interpretation are provisional; all are valid. No-one is a heretic. The church is inclusive of all beliefs. And the model we have used for pushing through the women Bishops legislation without ensuring that opponents are happy with adequate safeguards - could that be the same one about to be used for pushing through the acceptance of same sex relationships in church?

And of the other letter, Symes says:

…But it is alarming that a Bishop can so overtly support the blessing of gay relationships without any concern that this may be violating the Church’s historic understanding and teaching, and without any sensitivity towards his conservative clergy correspondent…

Do read the whole thing, to see what the bishops in question actually wrote.

My own article introducing the Pilling report to readers of The Tablet was published back on 5 December (subscribers only). The full text is reproduced below the fold. The following week a very interesting letter to the editor was published, and this is also reproduced below, with the agreement of its author and of the Tablet editor.

Crisis in the meaning of sexuality 12 December 2013

While Simon Sarmiento (“Let’s talk about sex”, 7 December) attempts a positive appraisal of the Pilling Report on human sexuality, what is disappointing for many is the inability to see a way through the divisive split between heterosexuality and homo­sexuality. For me the flawed nature of the document goes much deeper. While the ­document clarifies several contemporary influences – both psychological and sociological – creating serious sexual deviations in our time, there is total lack of any historical contextualisation. Throughout the modern world, including the monotheistic religions, we assume unquestioningly Aristotle’s psycho­sexual legacy. This is at the root of many contemporary sexually related problems.

For Aristotle, human sexuality was a biological propensity, primarily a male endowment, with the woman serving as a mere biological organism for fertilisation by the male seed. This led to the view that the primary purpose of sex was human ­procreation. As many Catholics will know, this became the sole purpose of Christian marriage at the Council of Trent (in the sixteenth century) and remained so until 1962.

That foundational biological reductionism still haunts the understanding of human sexuality today. Until that foundational deviation is addressed, and a fresh articulation of human sexuality outlined – with an accompanying new sexual ethic – we cannot hope to address in a coherent way the several other specific issues that loom large in our time. The central crisis is not about same- sex marriage or homosexuality. It is about the very meaning of human sexuality itself.

(Fr) Diarmuid O’Murchu, St Albans, Hertfordshire

And finally, as they say, there is this apocalyptic view of the matter: Lament from London: a dying church in England
The Church of England may be doomed, British commentator “Pageantmaster” writes, as it begins debate over the Pilling Report. Hampered by several generations of poor leadership, with bishops chosen for their ability to go along and get along, the Church of England may well surrender the fight in the battle with post-modern culture.

My article from The Tablet of 5 October (I didn’t choose the headline, see also note at bottom)

Let’s talk about sex
05 December 2013 by Simon Sarmiento

The Pilling Report on human sexuality, which was published last week, may not radically alter the Anglican position on homosexuality. But the way it has gone about studying the subject marks a willingness to engage with an issue now more divisive than that of women bishops

According to a covering note from Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu, there is one thing that the Pilling Report on human sexuality is not, and that is “a new policy statement from the Church of England”.

So what is it, apart from a 200-page report, with a 26-page dissenting appendix attached? Well it is certainly thorough, a lengthy response to the need for the Church of England to reflect on human relationships in all their messy complexity.

It was in July 2011 that the House of Bishops announced that it intended “to draw together and reflect upon biblical, historical and ecumenical explorations on human sexuality” and to “offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England … might best be shaped”. Specifically, the Working Group on Human Sexuality, consisting of four bishops (Keith Sinclair of Birkenhead, Michael Perham of Gloucester, John Stroyan of Warwick and Jonathan Baker of Ebbsfleet, but soon translated to Fulham) under the chairmanship of retired civil servant Sir Joseph Pilling, was set up to reflect the wide range of opinion within the Church of England on homosexuality.

After criticism of its heterosexual male make-up, three advisers, including two women, were co-opted. Evidence was taken from a very large number of people, including many who are lesbian or gay, and also some who are transgendered (although the problems of the latter get scant attention in the report).

The first of the report’s 18 separate findings and recommendations is regarded by the authors as the most important: “We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained.” But the rest – which taken together focus on next steps, on the teaching of the Church, and the Church’s pastoral response – propose surprisingly few changes. Nevertheless they are an important step forward in methodology.

Media coverage has focused heavily on the recommendation that clergy should be “free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service”. But the statement does not use the word “blessing” and is immediately qualified by the declaration that “some of us do not believe this can be extended to same-sex marriage”. “Some” here presumably means more group members than the conservative, evangelical Sinclair, author of the dissenting appendix.

The main report goes on to recommend quite clearly that the Church should not authorise any formal liturgy, and refers to the “marking” concession as a “pastoral accommodation”, citing evidence taken from Professor Oliver O’Donovan, who commends the latter concept as “a response to some urgent presenting needs, without ultimate dogmatic implications”.

More fundamentally, the report recommends that the Church of England should now commit itself, both at national level and in every diocese, to a process of “facilitated conversations” on the subject of sexuality, over a period of two years. The report criticises the listening process in England to date as “uneven”, dependent on “local enthusiasm”, and sums it up by saying: “There has been no systematic process of listening involving the Church of England as a whole”. This method carries forward the principle of using external facilitators, which has recently borne so much fruit in the synodical discussions about how to legislate for women clergy to become bishops.

Opposition to homosexuality comes primarily from the Evangelical side of the Church, there being many Evangelicals who support making women bishops but who oppose – at present – any change of policy at all on homosexuality.

However, the report demonstrates that other Evangelical views exist by printing two appendices that discuss the biblical evidence, the dissenting one by Sinclair, and another by David Runcorn, which expresses support for same-sex relationships. There is no doubt that this latter view is gaining Evangelical supporters both within and beyond the Church of England, as contributions from Steve Chalke, Rob Bell and Jim Wallis indicate. But differences of biblical interpretation lie at the heart of this dispute.

Another finding, which says that “the way we have lived out our divisions and same-sex relationships creates problems for effective mission and evangelism within our culture”, gently understates the problem. In the report, considerable evidence is presented of the wide and growing gap between official Church of England teachings and the views of its members, not to mention the general population, and not only in the area of sexuality.

The group does not make any detailed recommendations concerning practical issues raised by the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. It does suggest that, if the report’s recommendation for a two-year period of reflection is taken up, the statement anticipated next year from the House of Bishops, before the act comes into effect, should be explicitly provisional in nature. Its members also note that the future of civil partnerships is somewhat uncertain, and depends on a further Government consultation.

Reactions to the report from conservative Evangelical groups have been predictably loud and negative. While expressing strong support for the dissenting statement of Sinclair, the Revd Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, said that he was “deeply ashamed” that the Pilling Report was opening up divisive discussions. The council of Reform declared that the matter was not open to negotiation. The Revd Andrew Symes, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, wrote that the report, if endorsed by the House of Bishops, would constitute “officially sanctioned apostasy”.

The moderate group Accepting Evangelicals welcomed the report, as did Inclusive Church. Lesbian gay bisexual and transgender groups have given it only a cautious welcome, while expressing regret that it offers so little. Changing Attitude said: “The door has been opened to allow conversations and representations about homophobia, prejudice, ethics, sexual intimacy, blessing of relationships, and pastoral practice in the Church.”

What actually happens to these recommendations depends in the first instance on the bishops, but it seems likely that there will be a strong majority in favour of moving forward with the proposed discussions. Agreement before the end of the two years on the “marking” of same-sex relationships will be much more difficult. By that time, same-sex marriages will be commonplace.

The following week, this note from me appeared on the Letters page to clarify this article:

Your editing of my article about the Church of England’s Pilling Report introduced a confusion between two distinct sections of the report, both written by Bishop Keith Sinclair of Birkenhead.

His 18-page appendix that analyses the scriptural evidence on homosexuality is quite separate from his main 27-page statement of dissent from many (though not all) of the report’s findings which is included in Part 3 of the 220-page document.

Simon Sarmiento

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 11:53am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bishop of Chichester comments on homophobic remarks

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has made the following response to the previously published remarks of one of that diocese’s elected lay representatives to the General Synod:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

This response is contained within a press release issued by Changing Attitude Sussex, the full text of which is copied below the fold.

PRESS RELEASE BY CHANGING ATTITUDE SUSSEX

SUSSEX MEMBER OF C OF E GENERAL SYNOD ADVOCATES PRISON FOR GAYS

One of the Sussex Diocese of Chichester representatives on the Church of England General Synod, Andrea Minichiello Williams, recently attended a conference in Jamaica to urge the Government to keep the law which criminalises homosexuality. She spoke in derogatory terms about gay people, and peddled the old vicious lie that homosexuals are paedophiles.

She said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to paedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

The full details of her attack on LGB&T people can be read at www.thinkinganglicans,org.uk.

Dr Keith Sharpe, Chair of Changing Attitude Sussex commented:

Williams’ bigoted outburst amounts to dangerous hatemongering. It is reprehensible and highly irresponsible.

Jamaica is one of the most dangerous places in the world for LGB&T people who suffer homophobic intimidation and violence on a daily basis, including from the police. The brutal murder of gay men is commonplace. The community lives in constant fear and is unable to access the legal and justice systems.

Either Minichiello Williams did not know this, which is culpable ignorance, or she did know it and endorses it, which is sheer wickedness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops’ report on Human Sexuality have recently called on the Church to repent of its homophobia. And yet here is a Sussex member of the General Synod advocating the vilest form of homophobia in a most terrible cultural situation. What she has said and done is contrary both to the Church’s Christian teaching and to common human decency. She has brought disgrace upon the Church of England and its General Synod as well as the Diocese of Chichester.

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, sought to distance himself from her remarks:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 3:25pm GMT | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 December 2013

February 2014 General Synod

General Synod will meet in London from 10 to 12 February 2014. The outline agenda was issued today, and is copied below.

One item requires some explanation - the proposal to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iiii). This appears to be a misprint for 90(b)(iii), which is the standing order requiring dioceses to be given at least six months to respond to a reference of Article 8 business (such as the legislation on Women in the Episcopate). If Synod agrees to suspend this standing order the reference to dioceses can be completed before the July 2014 meeting of Synod, thereby allowing final approval of the legislation to be taken then.

The texts of the private member’s motions and the diocesan synod motions are online.

GENERAL SYNOD: FEBRUARY 2014 GROUP OF SESSIONS

Timetable

Monday 10 February

2 pm – 7.00 pm

2.00 pm Worship
Introductions, welcomes, progress of legislation
Report by the Business Committee
Dates of groups of sessions in 2016-2018
Presentation by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group
Gender-Based Violence: Report by the Mission and Public Affairs Council

Not later than 5.30 pm Questions

Tuesday 11 February

9.15 am – 1.00 pm
9.15 am Holy Communion
10.45 am Women in the Episcopate: Consideration of the House of Bishops Declaration and draft disputes resolution procedure regulations

Legislative Business
Women in the Episcopate: Revision Stage for the draft Measure and Amending Canon

2.30 pm – 7.15 pm
2.30 pm Women in the Episcopate: Continuation of Revision Stage for the draft Measure and Amending Canon

Preliminary consideration of the draft Act of Synod rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod

Motion to suspend SO 90(b)(iiii)

Legislative Business
Church of England (Naming of Dioceses) Measure
Church of England (Pensions) Amendment Measure
Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) (Amendment) Order
Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution

7.00-7.15 pm Evening worship

Wednesday 12 February

9.15 am – 1.00 pm
9.15 am Worship
9.30 am Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Motion on proposed new legislation on Safeguarding

11.00 am Legislative Business
(Any uncompleted business from Tuesday)

Not later than 11.45 am Southwark DSM: Environmental Issues

2.30 pm – 5.30 pm

2.30 pm PMM: Alison Ruoff: Girl Guides’ Promise
PMM: Revd Christopher Hobbs: Canon B 8

Not later than 4.15 pm Pilling Report: Presentation and Next Steps (including Q&A)

Farewells

5.30 pm Prorogation

Contingency Business
Guildford DSM on the Magna Carta

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 December 2013 at 10:35pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 December 2013

General Synod member supports Jamaican buggery law

Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion has a comprehensive report of a recent conference in Jamaica, at which one of the speakers was Andrea Minichiello Williams, the founder of Christian Concern, who is also a General Synod member, elected from the Diocese of Chichester.

Christian Concern Founder Urges Jamaica Keep Homosexuality Criminalized.

Activists from the United States and United Kingdom opposed to LGBT rights have urged Jamaican Christian conservatives to resist repealing the country’s buggery law, similar to sodomy laws, by arguing that homosexuality is a choice and connected to pedophilia.

… [Peter] LaBarbera [of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality] and Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern, spoke Saturday at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association [sic - should be “Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship”] in Kingston.

…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse…

He continues with some very interesting background information and links about Christian Concern, which are worth studying.

His main source for the Jamaica event is Buzzfeed which had U.S., U.K. Activists Urge Jamaicans To Keep Same-Sex Intercourse Illegal. That report in full:

…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

Box Turtle Bulletin has Peter LaBarbera Wants to Throw You In Prison.

…On this trip he was joined by Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of United Kingdom’s Christian Concern. She also wants to throw you in prison, and let there be no mistaking that:

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse…

And there is also this news report in The Gleaner ‘Don’t Bow To Gay Pressure’ - Crusaders Urge Jamaicans To Stand By Buggery Law

…Similarly, Andrea Williams, a Christian lobbyist in the legal public policy arena in the United Kingdom, told The Gleaner that family values should be prioritised.

“When we begin to make normal something that is contrary to proper family standards, that is social engineering, and we are in serious trouble, ” she said.

“What Jamaica needs to understand is that the homosexual activists have an incremental agenda; because this is where its starts, by them asking for rights, and then our society’s morals become redefined,” she continued…

…Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has promised to have the Parliament engage in a conscience vote on whether or not to repeal the buggery act…

Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has also written about this, see Sexuality, harm and the language of love. She notes that:

…Jamaica is one of the most unsafe places in the world to be LGBT. In the words of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ 2012 Report on the situation of human rights in Jamaica, they “face political and legal stigmatisation, police violence, an inability to access the justice system, as well as intimidation, violence, and pressure in their homes and communities.”

“In failing to take an active stand against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State is failing to respect and protect the rights of those targeted. Rather, Jamaica’s major political parties have proposed or defended some of the world’s most stringent anti-sodomy laws while adopting homophobic music for their political campaigns,” the report stated. “The IACHR is concerned that laws against sex between consenting adult males or homosexual conduct may contribute to an environment that, at best, does not condemn, and at worst condones discrimination, stigmatisation, and violence”.

At the time of writing, there is no mention at all of this event on the website of Christian Concern.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 December 2013 at 6:00pm GMT | Comments (47) | TrackBack
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opinion

Alice Roberts writes in The Observer to explain Why I won’t be going back to Bristol’s creationist zoo.

Charles Moore writes in The Telegraph about a visit to a theological college: What the Tories could learn from St Mellitus.

Janet Henderson blogs about Woodhead on Feminism and Christianity.

Giles Fraser asks in The Guardian Why mislead children about Santa? Demystification is essential to faith.

And finally, is this how it happened all those years ago? Registering the Birth

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 December 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 December 2013

Why do Christians disagree?

David Atkinson a former Bishop of Thetford has written an article, originally published in Ministry Today UK, 59, Autumn 2013. but now reproduced by Fulcrum.

Why do Christians disagree?

…So why do Christians disagree? On the legitimacy of divorce and right of remarriage, on abortion, on just war or pacifism, on usury, on contraception, on genetic engineering, on sexuality, on economic priorities, on response to climate change - to name just a few moral and political questions, not to mention doctrines of church, ministry, mission and eschatology.

At one level, of course, disagreements can arise simply because people have different experiences of life and come into contact with different facts about the world which can confront assumptions, challenge previously held views, or harden attitudes. For example, we could think of a woman who senses a call from God into the ordained ministry of the Church. She belongs to a church congregation that has always taken the view that the ordination of women is contrary to Scripture or tradition or to good ecumenical relationships. ‘However’, says someone in that congregation, ‘though I have always been against the ordination of women, because it is you I’m willing to change my mind.’ Or to give another example, we could think of a Christian man who has, for social and theological reasons, always been opposed to homosexual relationships but who gets to know a loving gay couple whose lives display the fruits of God’s Spirit, and who then finds himself forced by that fact to revisit his understanding Scripture or his inherited attitudes to gay people. Sometimes hard facts of experience compel a change of attitude or change of mind.

There is no such thing as uninterpreted experience, and there are other factors that can influence our understanding of ourselves and our interpretation of the facts of our experiences. Some of these other factors give us different ways into the question: why do Christians disagree? Here are five…

Do read it all.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 6:14pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Pilling report: LGB&T Anglican Coalition responds

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition has issued this press release:

Press release in response to the Report from the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report)

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition welcomes the publication of The Pilling Report and we appreciate that it was made public so soon.

It is good that the report recognises the diversity of theological views on this issue, including within the Evangelical wing of the Church. We are glad that the report denounces homophobia (though it is not clearly enough defined). We believe that it makes it easier for clergy to bless partnerships publicly and it calls for further discussion to try to discern where the Spirit is leading the church.

It is also good that LGB&T clergy will not face intrusive questioning though they are still asked to promise to abide by a code which would exclude most from the kind of loving and supportive relationship which others can enjoy.

We are disappointed that the Report has only mentioned rather than included transgender people in the discussion, despite submissions from transgender and LGB&T Christian organisations.

We are also disappointed that no liturgy of thanksgiving or blessing is proposed, but overall we are thankful for the working party’s effort. We trust and hope that the report may move the Church of England forward.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition and its member organisations stand ready to support the proposed facilitated conversations both in Dioceses and nationally. We look forward to being fully included in all steps to help the Church of England find a way forward and we value the Pilling report as a useful contribution to the coming debate.

We are also convinced that there must be a greater openness to, and a wider understanding, of the extensive range of scientific and theological work that has been, and is currently being undertaken on transgender issues and same-sex issues in addition to those relied upon within the report. We believe that what is presented there is insufficient to provide a strong and reliable foundation for the proposed conversations and we trust that these issues will be further addressed in the coming debate.

Mike Dark and John Blowers,
Joint-Chair, LGB&T Anglican Coalition.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 11:25am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Still more comments on the Pilling report

Updated Thursday evening

The Council of Bishops of the Society of Saint Wilfred and Saint Hilda have issued this statement:

The Pilling Report: Statement by the Council of Bishops of the Society

The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report) is an important piece of work which deserves careful consideration. We encourage our clergy and people to read it and reflect upon it prayerfully.

We note that the Report proposes no change in the doctrine of the Church of England and that its practical recommendations remain, at this stage, recommendations to the House of Bishops.

Those of us who are members of the Church of England’s College of Bishops will be discussing it with other members of the College in January, and we shall also be discussing it at our own meeting in February. We plan to comment more fully after those discussions.

On behalf of the Council
+ TONY PONTEFRACT
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson Chairman

Andrew Symes, Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream published The Pilling Report: quick Q and A. The full text is copied below the fold.

Update
The Global South of the Anglican Communion has issued this quite long Statement in response to the Pilling Report.

We are writing to express our serious concerns in regard to the Pilling Report. We know that the House of Bishops of the Church of England will be discussing this and we would like to assure them of our prayers so that the Holy Spirit would guide them to the right decisions.

First, we would like to say that we believe that the church of Christ should not in any way be homophobic or have any kind of phobia. We should follow in the steps of Jesus Christ who embraced all the marginalized of his society; having said that, we must say that we did not read of any homophobic statement from any bishop or clergy in the Church of England. It is sad that anyone who does not support the ministry of gay and lesbians, as well as same-sex marriages, is considered homophobic. Obviously there is a big difference between those who refuse to recognize the presence of homosexuals in the church, i.e. homophobic, and those who do support Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 and do not support the ministry and ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbians, as well as same-sex marriages.

The Pilling Report raises an important question which requires an answer: will the Church of England conform to its context, i.e. will the Church of England allow the society to shape its faith and practice in such a way in order to be acceptable by the society, or will the Church of England recognize that its distinctive mission is to transform the society? …

Anglican Mainstream The Pilling Report: quick Q and A

What is the main conclusion of the Pilling Report?

The legalization of gay marriage has brought an urgency to the question of pastoral care for same sex couples. The church has to be seen to be providing unconditional welcome and affirmation for LGBT people, without officially changing its doctrine. So the Report recommends an informal approach, not reflected in new liturgy, whereby a “pastoral accommodation” allows clergy to pray informally with a couple, asking for God’s blessing. This may be an “act of worship to mark the formation of a same sex relationship” (paragraph 399). The decision to do this should be left to individual clergy in consultation with their PCC.

How will this be viewed in the Church as a whole?

Many Anglicans cannot understand what all the fuss is about, and that of course there should be blessings for gay couples – in fact why not gay marriage as well? But a considerable number of committed faithful Christians in the C of E and in other denominations will be bewildered by the headlines about the report’s conclusions and not understand how fellow believers could warmly welcome and bless something which the Bible says is sin and which the church has never approved of.

How did Pilling come to this conclusion?

Firstly, the report accepts a liberal view of Scripture. All members of the Commission agreed that Scriptural texts about homosexual practice are uniformly negative. The disagreements came over how to interpret this. Standard liberal positions are articulated in the report: either that we’ve interpreted the Bible wrong, or that it is not authoritative, but an optional resource in our ethical decision making. The traditional understanding of how Scripture views sex is given space, but the report insists that this is only one understanding out of many which are equally valid in the Anglican tradition.

Secondly, the report confuses the Gospel imperative to offer hospitality to people and include all in the invitation to come to Christ, with the offering of God’s blessing to ideas and actions which are contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible. The experience and demands of individuals in a particular social context has trumped eternal principles of theology and ethics. This is justified by the liberal argument that all our ideas are provisional and ethereal, but people are real. To paraphrase the famous song: “Don’t know much philosophy, but I do know that I love you…”.

How will the change be brought into effect?

As there is so much controversy and disagreement about homosexuality, the report says we can only move forward with mutual respect by a listening process. This is specifically not a series of debates, but relationship building through “facilitated conversation”, with no predetermined outcome. There is an assumption that this process will be entirely fair, where those who want the church to bless same sex couples and those who feel Scripture and church tradition cannot allow this, can meet and listen to each other in an unthreatening environment. The report does not seem to recognize that the playing field is not level in this process. While the conversation is going on, facts will be created on the ground as same sex relationships are openly “blessed” by clergy according to the report’s own recommendations. Society’s strongly libertarian majority view is heavily endorsing one side of the “conversation”. The choice of facilitators will be determined centrally and are unlikely to be neutral on the issue. Because of this bias and potential for manipulation of the discussion process, it is likely that many orthodox confessing Anglicans will simply refuse to take part.

Why is the church so keen to change its core teachings in this area?

The report believes that by cautiously advocating blessing of faithful permanent same sex relationships, the church can avoid accusations of “homophobia”, and present itself as in touch with the majority view, especially of young people. By asking people with different views in the church to spend time thinking and discussing seriously about sex and the best boundaries to set for it, this might be a form of witness to a culture which wants to rush headlong into an unrestrained “anything goes” sexual ethic.

However commission member Bishop Keith Sinclair’s dissenting statement points out that the church permitting same gender sexual relationships would be an example of “cultural captivity” – trying to appease society, and especially the “politically correct”, powerful secular humanist view of sex and relationships. The report draws a boundary that gay relationships should be “permanent, faithful, stable” but since it has reached a conclusion that Scripture cannot be trusted, there is no explanation of why this boundary should be in place, and why further ground will not be conceded in a short space of time.

The way forward

If the Bishops adopt the report, with its incoherent thinking as outlined above, it will confirm the image of the church to outsiders not as relevant and compassionate, but as wishy washy, unable to proclaim its message to the nation with courage, conviction and clarity. Within the church there will be only increased division and the serious threat of schism. Much better to quietly shelve the report, reaffirm past resolutions on heterosexual marriage as the proper place for sexual relationships, and confidently share the Gospel vision for human flourishing. We will soon hear what has been decided.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 6:09pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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On Death and Judgment

The central figure in Advent is John the Baptist, a figure both angry and angular emerging out of the desert. In coming out of a place of death, he establishes a theme which will run right through the New Testament, that the wisdom of God is found deep in the heart of our mortality.

Last year I spent a week in the Sinai desert on a silent retreat. When we were bidden to go find a sand-dune to pitch our bedding, mine was next to a bleached bone sticking out of the ground as a reminder, if I needed one, that the desert was a place on the edge of life and death. Looking down from my meditation spot to the camp where our food was being prepared, I realised that the only things between me and oblivion were a handful of Bedouin and a tent full of bottled water.

The desert is a great teacher, it strips you back to what is really essential, what really matters, like all things which have to do with our mortality, the important things come into focus in an instant if we are facing our end. Rowan Williams observed in his reflections on being in lower Manhattan on 11 September 2001, Writing in the Dust, that the passengers in the doomed airliners, once they knew their fate, their last acts were to call loved ones, to make sure that nothing was left unsaid to those most important to us; it was a moment of profound truth and affirming what was essential.

Many years ago, on an Ignatian retreat, my first task was to write my own obituary. In the age before laptops, the waste-basket of my room filled very quickly with half-finished scripts which had foundered at the first sign of the lies and illusions which I maintained about myself. All of these have the same motivation: self-esteem, competitiveness, concerns about one’s rank, standing, significance, why we should not be overlooked, why we were not run-of-the-mill. It took a long time that day to ruefully discard the phoney sentences, and it was only then that I was surprised to discover where there may be real gold.

James Alison tells us that, being mortal, having a life which we know is going to end, naturally makes us competitive or jockey for attention; my time is short, do not overlook me. His observation about resurrection was that Jesus did not return to those who had judged and condemned him. His death was behind him, he was free from the anxiety of mortality, who would prevail, and the preoccupation with status that it brings. He had nothing to prove by going back to Pilate, Herod or Caiaphas; instead, Jesus went back to his disciples. In other words, death revealed what was most essential, most important.

So this madman, the Baptist, comes out of a place of death bellowing judgement. Judgement comes down to one thing: have we ordered our lives to attend to what is most true, most important, most essential? Can we take our baptisms seriously, treat that moment as our death, and live as if our deaths were behind us, free of the need to worry about who we are, and get on with the business of what really matters?

Andrew Spurr is Vicar of Evesham in the Diocese of Worcester

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 5:00pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Suffragan Bishop of Dudley: Graham Barham Usher

From the No 10 website:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Graham Barham Usher to the Suffragan See of Dudley.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Graham Barham Usher, BSc, MA, Rector and Lecturer of Hexham, in the Diocese of Newcastle, to the Suffragan See of Dudley, in the Diocese of Worcester, in succession to the Right Reverend David Stuart Walker, MA, on his translation to the See of Manchester on 20 November 2013.

Reverend Canon Graham Usher

The Reverend Canon Graham Usher (aged 43), studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh and then theology at Corpus Christi College Cambridge.

He trained for the ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his curacy at Nunthorpe-in-Cleveland, in the Diocese of York from 1996 to 1999. From 1999 to 2004 he was Vicar of North Ormesby, Middlesbrough.

Since 2004 he has been Rector and Lecturer of Hexham in the Diocese of Newcastle, serving as Area Dean of Hexham from 2006 to 2011. In 2007 he was made an Honorary Canon of Kumasi in Ghana, the place of his early childhood.

He has a particular interest in biological issues and is currently a Secretary of State appointee to the Northumberland National Park Authority and chairman of the Forestry Commission’s northeast Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee. In addition he is a lay member of Newcastle University’s biomedicine biobank governance and access committee.

Graham Usher is married to Rachel who is a GP and they have 2 children of school age. His interests include hill walking, drawing, writing and the company of his friends.

The Worcester diocesan website has its own announcement.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 10:28am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014

Yesterday, the Government made this announcement: First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller has announced that the first same sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from Saturday 29 March 2014.

Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 successfully completing its journey through Parliament in July 2013, the government has been working hard to ensure that all the arrangements are in place to enable same sex couples to marry as soon as possible.

As a result of this work, the first same sex weddings can now happen several months earlier than anticipated, subject to Parliament’s approval of various statutory instruments, to be laid in the new year.

David Pocklington reports today on the details of this, and notes the various further steps required, in Same-Sex Marriage from 29th March 2014?

He then adds the following Comment in relation to the Church of England:

On 9-10 December, the House of Bishops met for two days in York to discuss a wide range of business, including the Pilling Report. The Minister’s announcement that the first same-sex weddings are likely to happen several months earlier than anticipated brings a new urgency to their deliberations on the approach of the Church of England to human sexuality. As noted in the Report, [at paras. 382, 383],

382 […] Moreover, some form of celebration of civil partnerships in a church context is widely seen as a practice that would give a clear signal that gay and lesbian people are welcome in church.

383. This is a question on which our group is not of one mind – not least since a willingness to offer public recognition and prayer for a committed same-sex relationship in an act of public worship would, in practice, be hard to implement now for civil partnerships without also doing so for same-sex marriage (which, like civil partnerships, makes no assumption, in law, about sexual activity).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 9:59am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

House of Bishops agree next steps towards Women in the Episcopate

Today’s press release following this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops includes this paragraph.

As part of their discussion on Women in the Episcopate, the House heard from members of the steering committee on women bishops on suggestions for the next steps in the process. The House agreed the text of a draft declaration and regulations for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure for debate at General Synod in February 2014. The House also agreed to begin at the February Synod the process for rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod so that all the elements of the new package could be agreed by the synod in July 2014.

The full press release is copied below the fold.

Meeting of House of Bishops December 2013
10 December 2013

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met for two days in York on December 9 and December 10. This meeting was the first at which 8 women regional representatives attended the meeting as participant observers with the same rights as Provincial Episcopal Visitors.

Over its meeting the House covered a wide range of business including discussion of women in the episcopate, the Pilling report, the approval of experimental liturgy for Baptism, changes to legislative approaches on Safeguarding and discussion of the Anglican-Methodist covenant.

As part of their discussion on Women in the Episcopate, the House heard from members of the steering committee on women bishops on suggestions for the next steps in the process. The House agreed the text of a draft declaration and regulations for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure for debate at General Synod in February 2014. The House also agreed to begin at the February Synod the process for rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod so that all the elements of the new package could be agreed by the synod in July 2014.

The House discussed and approved proposals for a new governance framework to enable the Church to develop a strategic vision for safeguarding. The House also approved proposed recommendations for legislative changes on safeguarding to be brought to General Synod.

Sir Joseph Pilling attended the House to introduce a discussion on ways to address the recently published report on Human Sexuality, a paper commissioned by the House of Bishops as a report to the House.

Following the mandate from the General Synod in 2011, the House also discussed and gave its support for the experimental use of new additional liturgy for the Baptism of infants and young children. The new texts will be made available for use in January 2014 until April 2014 and will be discussed again by the House during its meeting in May.

The House also received updates on a range of work being undertaken in areas of ministerial education, training and clergy discipline.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 7:40pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Crown Nominations Commission leaks again

Yesterday, Ruth Gledhill published a report concerning the recent Crown Nominations Commission meetings to select a new Bishop of Exeter.

The original report is behind the paywall of The Times but subscribers can find it here.

Much of its content is reproduced in this article in Pink News: Times claims Church of England ‘on the brink of appointing its first openly gay bishop’

…The paper claims the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John, came within one vote of being recommended as the new Bishop of Exeter.
It is thought to be the first time that Dr John has made the shortlist for a diocesan post, although he has been tipped for promotion several times before.
The successful candidate to succeed the Right Rev Michael Langrish as the Bishop of Exeter is to be announced soon.
Although he has missed out on the position, The Times claims Church sources say that it is only a matter of time before Dr John gets a diocesan post.
This year the Church of England dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. That was the change that allowed Dr John to be considered again after effectively being banned from the episcopacy since 2003.
The Crown Nominations Commission met in October to choose the new diocesan bishop for Exeter. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who would have had the casting vote in the event of a deadlock.
There are already meetings scheduled to choose the bishops to fill six diocesan vacancies next year. These are Europe, Hereford, Liverpool, Guildford, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Southwell and Nottingham. Besides Europe, Hereford and Guildford also have liberal traditions that might make Dr John an acceptable candidate…

The original article says that this is believed to be the first time the Dean of St Albans has been shortlisted for a diocesan bishopric. But back in 2010, when the bishopric of Southwark was under consideration, the contemporary reports suggest otherwise, see:

Telegraph Jonathan Wynne-Jones Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England

Australian reproducing The Times Gay bishop to divide Anglicans

TA coverage of the ensuing story started here, and ran for a considerable number of subsequent articles during the next couple of weeks.

And in May 2011, the Guardian published Colin Slee’s own account of the matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 10:32am GMT | Comments (40) | TrackBack
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Peter Hancock to be Bishop of Bath and Wells

From the No 10 website:

Diocese of Bath and Wells: Peter Hancock nomination approved

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Peter Hancock, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke, for election as Bishop of Bath and Wells in succession to the Right Reverend Peter Bryan Price on his resignation on the 30th June 2013.

The Right Reverend Peter Hancock

The Right Reverend Peter Hancock (aged 58) read Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge and then studied for the ordained ministry at Oak Hill Theological College. He served his first curacy at Portsdown in Portsmouth diocese from 1980 to 1983.

From 1983 to 1987 he was Curate at Radipole and Melcombe Regis in the diocese of Salisbury.
From 1987 to 1999 he was Vicar of Cowplain in the diocese of Portsmouth.
From 1993 to 1998 he was Rural Dean of Havant.
From 1997 to 1999 he was an Honorary Canon of Portsmouth Cathedral.
From 1999 to 2010 he was Archdeacon of Meon in the diocese of Portsmouth.
From 2003 to 2006 he was Diocesan Director of Mission.
Since 2010 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke.

Peter Hancock is married to Jane and they have 4 grown-up children, Claire, Richard, Charlotte and William.

His interests include walking, meeting people, travelling and watching sport. He has particular concerns for the environment and the work of mission and development agencies.

The Bath & Wells website has its own announcement.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:39am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 9 December 2013

More analyses of Sharpe v Worcester DBF

Our previous report is here.

The Church Times carried a detailed news report by Gavin Drake but this is available only to subscribers.

Frank Cranmer has published the more detailed analysis that he promised, see Clergy employment and Sharpe v Worcester DBF.

Two other articles have been published:

Philip Jones has written The Removal of an Irremovable Pastor: Sharpe v Diocese of Worcester. He argues that it is impossible for the holder of a freehold office to bring a dismissal claim of any kind in an employment tribunal.

Neil Addison writes that Anglican Vicar May be an Employee.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 10:52pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Bishops Welcome Senior Women Clergy to their Meeting

The eight elected senior women clergy are attending their first meeting of the House of Bishops this week. The Church of England issued this press release to mark the occasion.

Bishops Welcome Participant Observers to First Meeting
09 December 2013

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today welcomed eight women as participant observers to its meetings. The welcome follows the election of the eight senior women clergy from regions across the country.

In February of this year the House decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The necessary change to the House’s Standing Orders was made in May.

Elections for the eight senior women clergy were held in autumn of this year and the following were elected:

  • East Midlands - Ven Christine Wilson, Archdeacon of Chesterfield
  • West Midlands - Revd Preb Dr Jane Tillier, Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral
  • East Anglia - Ven Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester
  • South and Central - Ven Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown
  • South East region - Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney
  • South West region - Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
  • North East - Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
  • North West - The Rev Libby Lane, Dean of Women in Ministry, Chester Diocese

Having taken up their role on 1st December, the two day meeting of the House of Bishops in York on December 9-10 will be the first meeting at which the participant observers will attend.

Left to Right Back Row:
The Ven Rachel Treweek, The Ven Nicola Sullivan, The Ven Annette Cooper, The Ven Joanne Grenfell

Front row:
The Revd Libby Lane, The Revd Jane Tillier, The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, The Ven Christine Wilson

There is a larger version of the photograph here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 8:41pm GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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yet more comment on the Pilling report

The Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, Chairman of the GAFCON Primates, has written an Advent Letter to the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends.

…The Church of England has just released what is known as the Pilling Report, the conclusions of a Working Group commissioned by the House of Bishops to report and make recommendations on issues of human sexuality. I am sorry to say that it is very flawed. If this report is accepted I have no doubt that the Church of England, the Mother Church of the Communion, will have made a fateful decision. It will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring.

The problem is not simply that the Report proposes that parish churches should be free to hold public services for the blessing of homosexual relationships, but the way it justifies this proposal. Against the principle of Anglican teaching, right up to and beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1998, it questions the possibility that the Church can speak confidently on the basis of biblical authority and sees its teaching as essentially provisional. So Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference, which affirmed that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and said it could ‘not advise the legitimisation or blessing of same sex relationships’, is undermined both in practice and in principle.

The proposal to allow public services for the blessing of same sex relationships is seen as a provisional measure and the Report recommends a two-year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ throughout the Church of England which is likened to the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project. This should be a warning to us because it highlights that the unspoken assumption of Anglican Indaba is that the voice of Scripture is not clear. This amounts to a rejection of the conviction expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles that the Bible as ‘God’s Word written’ is a clear and effective standard for faith and conduct…

Stephen Noll, the retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University has written The Pilling Report and the Anglican Communion.

Susannah Cornwall has written Some thoughts on the Pilling Report.

Symon Hill has written Why I’m Not Cheering The Pilling Report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 12:51pm GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 December 2013

opinion

Marcus Borg has been Thinking about Advent.

Christopher Howse of The Telegraph writes about The lonely virtues of a virtual prayer book (with reference to this: Church boosts digital presence with new app).

The BBC reports that MPs discuss plight of Christians across the world. The statistics are a matter of dispute, as Ruth Alexander of the BBC asks here Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year? and we reported in this opinion article.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 December 2013 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 6 December 2013

Church Times: Pilling disappoints

Today’s Church Times has a leader about the Pilling report: Pilling disappoints.

THE Pilling report, The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, adds a shade more civility to the gay debate. It talks of repentance for homophobia, and begins its findings and recommendations with a statement of welcome and affirmation of the “presence and ministry” of gay people in the Church of England. And at various points in the report we can feel the group’s members, or rather most of them, yearning towards a greater liberalism. Its concession, however, that same-sex partnerships might be “marked” in church has been construed as the very least that the group could have recommended. The C of E, if it has the stomach for it, now faces the prospect of two years of facilitated conversations, “conducted without undue haste but with a sense of urgency”, about a move that will be moribund unless it encompasses same-sex marriage, and will do little to convince the gay community, and society at large, that the Church really knows the meaning of the words “welcome” and “affirmation”.

The report was always likely to be disappointing. When it was set up in 2011, the Pilling group’s task was to reflect on the post-Lambeth ‘98 “listening process” and merely “advise the House [of Bishops] on what proposals to offer on how the continuing discussion about these matters might best be shaped”. In other words, it was not being asked about policy, only about process. Even this modest goal of directing how future talks might be modelled proved too difficult, damaged by the fact that one of its number, the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, queried even the continuation of the listening process on the grounds that no further discernment is necessary. His dissenting statement, which, with his appendix, takes up more space than the group’s reflections, is a key factor in the report’s ambivalence. If evidence were needed on the brokenness of the Church on this matter, here it is.

A narrow brief and internal disagreement have made for a tame report, one that is hardly likely to enliven further consultation. Bishop Sinclair does his best to portray it as dangerously radical, but his description of it as undermining the Church’s teaching about homosexuality is inaccurate. The undermining has already happened: the report’s most radical act is to reveal in an official document what is already widely known: that a significant proportion of churchpeople regard that teaching as flawed.

Faced with this gulf between conservatives such as Bishop Sinclair and, say, almost everybody under the age of 30, it is easy to see why the majority in the working group latched on to the concept of “pastoral accommodation” with such enthusiasm. But this merely takes the Church’s ambivalence into a pastoral situation, saying to a couple, in effect: “We agree with what you’re doing, but are too weak to prevail against those who disapprove of you.” This is hardly a convincing response to the missiological challenge that the Pilling report identifies.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 December 2013 at 3:27pm GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 5 December 2013

brood of vipers -- serpentine knots

Margaret is a committed and faithful ‘8 o’clocker’, and despite her free church leanings usually manages to cope with my Anglo-Catholic excesses. She is also one of the driving forces behind the church-led Barton Food Bank and is regularly appalled at the deprivation and suffering endured by those who seek its help. Great, then, was her embarrassment when at the 8.00 mass a few weeks ago she found herself reading out the words of the Epistle, ‘Anyone unwilling to work should not eat’.

We Christians are all sophisticated enough these days to recognise our moral superiority over the rest of unenlightened humanity. The Jubilee movement, Fair Trade, even (for Neanderthals like me) ‘Faith in the City’ are constant reassurances that ethically we are on the side of the angels. We believe.

Uncomfortable though it is to recall the widespread Christian support for slavery, John Wesley’s enthusiastic endorsement of capital punishment and the solid Church backing given to many an unpleasant regime and policy, we who know God to be a Guardian reader who sources the ingredients for the Messianic Banquet ethically, stand above that misguided history.

The problem is, of course, what is our security for that belief? The philosophical debate on whether there can be a morality independent of a deity rages on, but wherever we stand in that discussion, the easy equating of ‘Faithful’ with ‘Moral’ often passes unexamined. Our ancestors in the faith did not believe that they were in any sense unjust, and yet we are astonished or repelled by their lack of vision, their obvious feet of clay.

We all enjoy the ‘brood of vipers’ reference in the Advent 2 Gospel reading, as the venomously powerful get a verbal flogging. We may even identify other bits of the Church with that description: on a good day even accept that there’s a poison within ourselves. However, when I consider that image, I see also a knotted herpetological tangle, snakes coiled and curled around one another, impenetrable, self-sufficient, self-absorbed, self-embracing.

The mathematician Kurt Gödel established his ‘incompleteness theorem’, whose insights have been taken into other disciplines. Simply put, it is impossible for a line of reasoning properly to critique itself because any flaws in the system are invisible from within it. It can be an admirable line of defence for theists against arid rationalism, but we are not immune: what if even our Christian thirst for justice is a selective reading and favouring of our own prejudices and proof texts, be they Bible or Blog? It’s said that the verdict of history is often, ‘How could they not see that?’ where ‘that’ is an issue so vast that no-one at the time recognised it was there.

There is no simple resolution of this, and certainly one is not to be found in surrendering our own insights in favour of another unverifiable world-view. But a tradition running from John to Pope Francis reminds us that the word of the Lord may sometimes come from outside our own tightly-bound communities of the like-minded. There is a world beyond our serpentine knot which we forget at our peril.

David Rowett is vicar of Barton-on-Humber in the diocese of Lincoln.

Posted by David Rowett on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 4:01pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Pilling Report - more comment

Updated Thursday afternoon

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has published a most helpful summary, putting the report in context: The Pilling Report, the CofE and human sexuality.

Andrew Goddard has written for The Living Church that Divisions Deepen in Pilling.

Update

Anglican Mainstream have published these Pilling report – Dissenting Statement FAQs from the EGGS (Evangelical Group of the General Synod) Committee.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 11:43am GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Pilling Report - Fulcrum responds

Fulcrum has published its Response to the Pilling Report. Fulcrum welcomes much, but not all of the main report. But it also welcomes elements of the Bishop of Birkenhead’s Dissenting Statement, starting with a welcome to

The clear and irenic statement of the church’s teaching that “the proper context for sexual expression is the union of a man and a woman in marriage”. We also welcome the biblical case set out for this vision by the Bishop of Birkenhead in Appendix 3 and would further have liked to see this biblical engagement throughout the whole report.

But do read it all.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 6:13pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Monday, 2 December 2013

More women bishops

The Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada elected the Reverend Canon Melissa Skelton to be its ninth bishop on Saturday.

Press reports include:

Huffington Post Canada Rev. Melissa Skelton Elected Bishop Of New Westminster
Douglas Todd Vancouver Sun Rev. Melissa Skelton elected bishop of Vancouver-area Anglican diocese
Paul Sullivan Matro [Canada] Anglican bishop brings branding skills

By coincidence the election took place on the same day as the Consecration Of The Revd Pat Storey As Bishop Of Meath & Kildare. Patrick Comerford, a Canon at Christ Church Cathedral, where the service took place, describes the occasion in detail: A Memorable Afternoon at the Consecration of Bishop Pat Storey in Christ Church Cathedral. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church was there, as was the Archbishop of Wales. The Archbishop of Canterbury was represented by Archdeacon Sheila Watson.

Claire Duffin Telegraph First female Anglican bishop consecrated
BBC Irish Anglicans install Rev Pat Storey as bishop
Belfast Newsletter First woman bishop installed by Anglican Church
Sarah Stack of the Press Association in the Irish Independent Tributes paid to first woman bishop at Christ Church Cathedral
The Irish news CoI consecrates first female bishop
The Irish Times Irish woman becomes first female bishop in UK and Ireland
Ciarán Hanna Inside Ireland Tributes to first woman bishop on these islands consecrated by the Church of Ireland at a service in Dublin

Savitri Hensman writes for Ekklesia about Ireland’s first - or perhaps second - woman bishop

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 2:55pm GMT | Comments (63) | TrackBack
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Pilling Report - more opinion

Updated Monday evening and Tuesday morning

Ekklesia have published several articles
C of E should be more welcoming, sexuality report urges
Think-tank proposes different approach to church sexuality row
Bishops back think-tank call for reconciliation in sexuality debate
and a related paper: Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground by Savitri Hensman.

Andrew Symes writes for Anglican Mainstream about The Pilling Report: what it says, what it means, what we should do.

John Martin writes in The Living Church about A Cautious Step Leftward.

David Gillett blogs My reflections on the Pilling report.

Update

Ian Paul blogs The Pilling Report: divisive and damaging?

Jonathan Clatworthy blogs for Modern Church on Pilling on sex: modified rapture, and has written a 5000-word commentary on the report: Pilling’s progress: cairns on a mountain path.

The Sybils have issued a press release,available online here Sybils Christian transgender group respond to Pilling Report, and as a pdf here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 2:09pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Grappling with Injustice

I live just outside Glasgow, but I worship and work there. The first I knew of it was hearing a doctor friend had been called into her hospital, and things, quite unspecified things, looked bad. Then, overnight, the picture began to build.

The news reporters have said it all. The courage of the helpers, the calm of the survivors, the willing aid of the medical staff.

And because we are human, the search for meaning starts. We want it all to mean something, if it can. Jesus, we are told, got waylaid by the same questioning. Those people killed by the fall of the Tower of Siloam, were they wicked? Or was it a flawed Eurocopter which fell on them?

No, it was just a tower, it just fell. Something went wrong, and people just died. Foundations were not right, or metal was fatigued, and people just died.

It is a hard thing for faith to grapple with — this injustice. This lack of reason.

In this case we have as yet no idea what caused the tragedy. The overwhelming probability is that some small flaw somewhere caused this disproportionate effect. The natural impulse is to demand why God does not set the world up to be just. Why he cannot step in each time to sort things out so that the innocent never suffer and the guilty only suffer proportionately.

If we could solve this, we would have unravelled one of the major stumbling blocks to faith, and I suspect our churches would be much more full.

Sometimes, it is true, we can catch echoes of a kind of reason, if not a justice. Global warming increases weather disasters. Any one typhoon may not be down to global warming, but the fact is, we know that western greed and selfishness will create weather events that kill the disadvantaged elsewhere. It is not justice but it is a consequence. If there were no consequence, if each time God stepped in and stopped the suffering, it seems to me that people would be trapped in endless childhood. If no person could kill with evil intent, we might as well all give rein to our anger to the full, for who is hurt? If no negligence could ever derail a train, who would, in the end, put in a full day’s work or pay a wage which offered motivation? Not me, that is for sure.

But for all that, we start Advent, and we start our meditations on justice, with a glaring example of how unfair the world is. Any Glaswegian could have been unwinding on Friday night, listening to the music. Any pub could have the one on which the helicopter fell. It could have been anybody.

The pious lesson is that we can keep such terrible harm to a minimum by each doing what we can, just as the medical staff of Glasgow all answered their various bleeps on Friday night. Just as we have worked over the ages to understand the foundations of towers, and the breaking points of metal, and the stalling of engines. The little we do builds to a greater whole. Also, we can attend to the great matters of justice, so that the poor can eat and typhoons be stilled.

But still, for each of us, as we face the inevitable random tragedies of our lives, the large and the small, there will always be a struggle to make the best sense we can of things, and a need to say firmly that after all, there is no sense to be made of some things. No sense, but if we believe in our creative faith, even out of the horrors of no sense, and of heartbreak, we can still spin beauty, and seek comfort in the faces of the rescue workers, the medical staff, the ordinary public, who let a little light into a dark place.

Rosemary Hannah is the author of The Grand Designer.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 7:37pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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