From the GAFCON website:
A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of 29th January 2014
This week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York sought to remind the leadership of the Anglican Communion and the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda of the importance of friendship and care for homosexual people.
Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.
The Dromantine Communiqué from which the Archbishops quote also affirmed (Clause 17) the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that ‘homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture’ and that the conference ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’.
Yet earlier this week, the English College of Bishops accepted the recommendation of the Pilling Report for two years of ‘facilitated conversation’ because at least some of the bishops could not accept the historic teaching of the Church as reaffirmed in the Lambeth resolution.
Indeed, in making the case for such a debate, the Pilling Report observes ‘In the House of Lords debate on same sex marriage, the Archbishop of York commended that the Church needed to think about the anomalies in a situation where it is willing to bless a tree or a sheep, but not a faithful human relationship.’ The anomaly only exists of course if it really is the case that a committed homosexual union can also be Christian.
The good advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York would carry much more weight if they were able to affirm that they hold, personally, as well as in virtue of their office, to the collegial mind of the Anglican Communion. At the moment I fear that we cannot be sure.
Regrettably, their intervention has served to encourage those who want to normalize homosexual lifestyles in Africa and has fuelled prejudice against African Anglicans. We are committed to biblical sexual morality and to biblical pastoral care, so we wholeheartedly stand by the assurance given in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that those who experience same sex attraction are ‘loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’
May God in his mercy grant that we may hold to the fullness of his truth and the fullness of his grace.
The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council.
30th January 2014
The US Episcopal Church has issued this press release.
Presiding Bishop on LGBT rights
The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) rights:
The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Church of Uganda has issued this press release.
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the Church of England’s “Pilling Report,” and the Open Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
30th January 2014
The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”
Accordingly, we are grateful for the reminder of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to fulfill such commitments as stated in the 2005 Communique of the Primates Meeting held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland.
We would further like to remind them, as they lead their own church through the “facilitated conversations” recommended by the Pilling Report, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, from Resolution 1.10, still stands. It states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”
It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.
Furthermore, as our new Archbishop of Canterbury looks toward future Primates Meetings and a possible 2018 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, we would also like to remind him of the 2007 Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam, which says that there are “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion” for TEC and those Provinces which cannot
1. “Make an unequivocal common covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through” their governing body;
2. “Confirm…that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent.”
It is clear that the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have not upheld these commitments, and so we do pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury as he considers whether or not to extend invitations to their Primates for the next Primates Meeting or to their Bishops for the 2018 Lambeth Conference. To withhold these invitations would be a clear signal of his intention to lead and uphold the fullness of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10.
The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.
Candlemas is a minor feast in Anglicanism, and usually commemorates the coming of Christ as the light of the world, a theme vividly prominent in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus himself announces: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The ‘light’ that Jesus brings is both the gift of salvation, rescue from spiritual darkness, and the ability to ‘see’ the difference between good and evil — spiritual wisdom and discernment. Following the light carries a resonance of moral choice. In Jesus, truth and salvation may have come into the world, but it is a ‘light’ that can be denied and ignored.
It wasn’t until the 1890s that the Church of England made it legal to place two candles on the altar during services, and, a few years later, made it unlawful to carry candles in procession! Of course, both rulings were widely disregarded and the earlier Roman practice of using candles was generally adopted.
Even earlier, Candlemas was celebrated as the feast commemorating three ancient ceremonies: the purification of the mother, the redemption of the firstborn and the dedication of a child. Luke has all three ceremonies taking place at the same time in order to emphasise Jesus’s significance and his legitimacy as the longed-for Messiah.
The feast commemorating this understanding of Candlemas was practised by the early church in Jerusalem from about 350, and its practice spread when Emperor Justinian decreed at Constantinople in 542 that the feast be observed. In the East, Candlemas was simply called ‘The Meeting’, marking the encounter between Jesus and Simeon.
By presenting Jesus at the Temple, offering a sacrifice, and by submitting to the ritual purification for mothers after giving birth, Mary and Joseph were fulfilling their obligations under Jewish law. Simeon, who was known to be a devout and careful observer of the law, was convinced that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. That day, as Luke describes it, Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple.
In the midst of the archaic ceremonies of ritual sacrifice and the ritual purification of Mary, in the heart of the great seat of Jewish identity and authority, Simeon looks at Jesus and bursts out with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God, using words all the hearers would instantly have recognised as coming from the great prophet Isaiah, who had foretold a saviour who would bring honour and glory to the people of Israel and who would be a light to the Gentiles.
That encounter between the aged Simeon and the infant Jesus was a moment when time stood still, when all the panoply of the Law met the promise of the Spirit, when a lifelong faithful observer of the Law came face to face with the freedom and fulfilment of the future: the Light had truly come into the world.
There is urgency about the gospel
To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council
29th January 2014
‘…by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God’ 2 Corinthians 4:2
My dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
I write this first message of 2014 with great hope and confidence for the year ahead. GAFCON 2013 renewed our vision for the Anglican Communion as a global fellowship faithful to the Scriptures and confirmed what many of us had already sensed, that our movement is emerging as the only real answer to the Communion’s problems of fragmentation and confusion.
In the year ahead we must resolve to devote ourselves to the great biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations which was the focus of our gathering in Nairobi. There is urgency about the gospel and it must be proclaimed in word and deed, in season and out of season and it is the same gospel, whether in strife torn nations such as South Sudan or in the affluent but morally disorientated nations of the developed world.
We cannot therefore allow our time and energy to be sapped by debating that which God has already clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Earlier this week, the English College of Bishops met to reflect upon the ‘Pilling Report’, commissioned to reflect on how the Church of England should respond to the question of same sex relationships. Its key recommendations were that informal blessings of such unions should be allowed in parish churches and that a two year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ should be set up to address strongly held differences within the Church on this issue.
While we should be thankful that the College of Bishops did not adopt the idea of services for blessing that which God calls sin, it did unanimously approve the conversation process and this is deeply troubling. There has been intensive debate within the Anglican Communion on the subject of homosexuality since at least the 1998 Lambeth Conference and it is difficult to believe that the bishop’s indecision at this stage is due to lack of information or biblical reflection. The underlying problem is whether or not there is a willingness to accept the bible for what it really is, the Word of God.
At Lambeth 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, by an overwhelming majority, affirmed in Resolution 1.10 that homosexual relationships were not compatible with Scripture, in line with the Church’s universal teaching through the ages, but the Pilling Report effectively sets this aside. The conversations it proposes are not to commend biblical teaching on marriage and family, but are based on the assumption that we cannot be sure about what the bible says.
I cannot therefore commend the proposal by the College of Bishops that these ‘facilitated conversations ‘ should be introduced across the Communion. This is to project the particular problems of the Church of England onto the Communion as a whole. As with ‘Continuing Indaba’, without a clear understanding of biblical authority and interpretation, such dialogue only spreads confusion and opens the door to a false gospel because the Scriptures no longer function in any meaningful way as a test of what is true and false.
Faced with these challenges, I am reminded of the importance of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. It places our fellowship under the written word of God, which ‘is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading’. Here we have a solid foundation for the responsible reading of the Bible which preserves its transformative power. As John the Evangelist writes ‘these things are written so that you may believe…..and that by believing you may have life’ (John 20:31).
Plans are already taking shape following GAFCON 2013 to provide our global fellowship with the organisation and communications it needs if the Anglican Communion is to recover its unity by listening to and obeying the Word of God. Using modern communications it is possible for us to experience the connectedness of being a global communion in a way that our predecessors could never have imagined. Each one of us can play a part and so may I conclude by inviting you, if you have not yet done so, to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans at http://fca.net. My pastoral messages and other communications can then be sent direct to you by email and together we can serve the cause of the gospel at this critical time.
Archbishops recall commitment to pastoral care and friendship for all, regardless of sexual orientation
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today written to all Primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, recalling the commitment made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion to the pastoral support and care of everyone worldwide, regardless of sexual orientation.
In their letter, the Archbishops recalled the words of the communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of Primates from across the Communion in Dromantine.
The text of the joint letter is as follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.
The Communiqué said;
‘….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of 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 the best we can give - pastoral care and friendship.’
We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine communiqué speaks.
Yours in Christ
+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis
The home of the most recent Bishop of Bath and Wells (Peter Price, who retired in mid 2013) and many of his predecessors was at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells. But on 3 December the Church Commissioners (who are responsible for housing diocesan bishops) announced that new living arrangements were to be made for the next bishop, Peter Hancock, who has yet to take up his post.
Statement from Church Commissioners on living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells
03 December 2013
Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners said:
“After discussion at its meeting on 28th November the Board of Governors took the decision to provide new housing for the Bishop of Bath and Wells to enable him to carry out his ministry and mission in a more sustainable way. The Bishop will continue to work and worship at the Palace and share the office with the Bishop of Taunton. The decision to move the bishop’s home will mean he can live in more privacy as the Palace and gardens will remain open to the public. We are currently looking at an alternative residence near to Wells. The Church Commissioners support for bishops is based on making their living and working arrangements conducive to effective ministry and mission both in their diocese and the Church as a whole. The daily working life of the Palace will continue including the use of the Chapel alongside the work of the Trust running the Palace as a visitor attraction.”
The Palace website explains on its news page that “Whilst the Palace is well-known and prides itself on having the Bishop of Bath and Wells reside on site it has not always been so, for eight centuries bishops have had irregular relationships with the Palace. It is only since the mid-1850s that the Palace has been much more of a home to Bishops of Bath and Wells and over time the office function in the Palace has become more important.” [Scroll down to 20 December and 5 December for more details.]
The Commissioners’ decision has proved very controversial.
The Diocese has expressed its opposition to the Commissioners’ decision.
Diocese expresses opposition to Church Commissioner’s Palace decision
Friday 24th January 2014
Statement from the Bishop of Taunton and senior staff of the Diocese of Bath & Wells re: Bishop of Bath & Wells accommodation.
“The Diocese wishes to express publicly its opposition to the Church Commissioners’ decision that the next Bishop of Bath & Wells will not live at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.
Despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop.
Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the Diocese cannot support their decision. If there is a persuasive case for the move, it has yet to be made.
We call upon the Church Commissioners to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to begin his new role in residence at the Palace whilst a full and proper consultation about the long-term plans for the Bishop’s residence and office arrangements takes place.”
Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton
The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton
The Ven Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath
Revd Preb Stephen Lynas, Bishop’s Chaplain
Preb Dr Catherine Wright, Dean of Women Clergy
Nick Denison, Diocesan Secretary
Harry Musselwhite, Chair of the Board of Finance
Press reports include these.
BBC Tessa Munt MP questions Bishop of Bath and Wells’ palace move [8 January]
Diocese of Bath and Wells ‘cannot support’ bishop’s palace move [25 January]
Bishop of Taunton calls for talks on palace move [28 January]
John Bingham The Telegraph Palace coup: Church in open rebellion over decision to downsize bishop to country pile [26 January]
Ruth Gledhill The Times Church buys back rectory after Bishop’s Palace is declared unfit [29 January - behind a paywall, but the first couple of paragraphs are visible as a taster.]
Daily Mail Inside the £1million country home for the Bishop who turned-down a palace because he wanted ‘a bit more privacy’ [23 January]
Sophie Jane Evans Bishop banned from living in his palace will be moved to £900,000 rectory that the church is buying back after declaring it ‘unsuitable’ and selling it … for £750,000 [29 January]
David Keen blogs in favour of the Commissioners’ decision: Is the Bishop of Bath and Wells a person, or a tourist attraction?
First of all, press coverage so far:
Telegraph John Bingham Church of England bishops: we agree on one thing – that we can’t agree on homosexuality
Religion News Service Trevor Grundy Church of England’s Bishops Defer Gay Marriage Decision
George Conger has written a critique of the preceding item:So what is happening with Anglican gay marriage?
Michael Trimmer Christian Today CofE bishops agree to disagree on human sexuality
And there is coverage in The Times, but it is behind a paywall: Bishops call for honesty in gay debate
Next, comments from lobby groups and bloggers:
Andrew Symes Executive Director of Anglican Mainstream has written The College of Bishops’ Statement on the Pilling Report: a Response
My initial response to this Statement was one of disappointment, but then after attempting to read between the lines I found some cause for encouragement…
Ian Paul has written Why the bishops have done the right thing
…Why do I think College of Bishops have made the right decision? Well, most obviously because their response to Pilling is exactly the one I said in November was needed. The reason for this is more and more evident in public responses, particularly on social media, from all sides of the debate.
On the one hand, many ‘conservatives’ say that there is nothing to be done, and no need any further discussion. I don’t think this takes into account sufficiently the need for the Church of England to develop more credible pastoral response, taking into account what Justin Welby described as the revolution in attitudes within society on this issue.
On the other hand, many ‘revisionists’ agree there is no need for further discussion, but for exactly the opposite reason. It is clear what God is doing in society, and the Church needs to catch up without any further delay…
Peter Carrell Sanity overcomes English bishops
…For myself I am prompted to wonder if (when all is said and done) we are (though we are scarcely aware of it) engaged with a true novelty in the life of the church:
1. a matter on which we disagree so severely that schism always lurks as a possible outcome (and, indeed, has become an outcome in some places) yet not a matter on which any rational, compassionate Christian (in the abstract position of peaceful reflection*) would wish to divide the church for fear that doing so made a scapegoat of a tiny minority;
2. a matter on which the catholicity of our church/Communion is under an unprecedented ‘strain’ (as we try to reconcile the universality of the church implying inclusivity with the universality of the church implying commitment to common doctrine)…
David Pocklington has written Bishops’ statement on Pilling Report
…As we have noted before, the Pilling Report is a report to the House of Bishops, not a report of the House of Bishops and it is therefore unsurprising that: yesterday’s statement emphasized that it was not a new policy statement; and the statement itself did not expand on the report’s conclusions, an unlikely possibility given the strongly held and divergent views within the College . Nevertheless, there are two important points within the statement:
- acceptance of Pilling’s recommendation for “facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level”, these conversations to commence following the approval of the process and materials by the House of Bishops in May; and
- that there will be no change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage or to pastoral and liturgical practice during this process of facilitated conversation. Too much cannot be read into the wording, but it would tend to suggest that the introduction of extra-liturgical public services of pastoral accommodation, i.e. blessings of same-sex unions, over the next two years is ruled out, whilst this is may be an option for the future.
If the timetable suggested by the Report is followed, i.e. “without undue haste but with a sense urgency, perhaps over a period of two years”, the formal position of the Church of England is unlikely to change from that expressed in the 2005 HoB statement before mid- to late-2016. Whilst this will be a comfortable two years before the next Lambeth Conference, a potential flash-point for the Anglican Communion, in other respects the delay is unsatisfactory…
There are two news reports (so far) of the latest remarks by the Primate of Nigeria The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh on the Nigerian anti-gay legislation:
Nigerian Tribune Those practising same-sex marriage are heading for destruction —Okoh
The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, on Monday, warned those practising same sex marriage to desist from the act, saying they were heading for destruction…
…Okoh explained that the act was an attempt by people to question God’s authority.
He said: “The same thing is happening today in the issue of human sexuality. It is not about whether a man should marry a man or a woman should marry a woman, the question in the garden (of Eden) has come back again.
“And as in the former time, disaster followed when man dethroned God. So, again it shall happen that if man decided to stick to the principle of dethroning God, He will face nothing but disaster.
“Man will come to nothing but extinction. For this road leads to nowhere. It is a dead end and it is not in the interest of humanity.
“We want to thank God, the National Assembly and the President. He (Jonathan) has articulated the views of Nigerians.”
…He however commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his courage in signing the anti-gay bill into law which has continued to generate reactions in some quarters in Nigeria and beyond.
According to him, those not in support of the bill are like the biblical duo, Adam and Eve who questioned God for asking them not to eat the fruits from the Garden of Eden.
His words: “Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.
He added: “in the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power.
“”So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed”.
There has been one response to all this, from the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, writing at Religion News Service : COMMENTARY: The church’s role in, and against, homophobia across Africa
…The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.
Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.
Twice in the last three years, I have traveled to Africa to meet with biblical scholars, grass-roots activists and church officials at consultations about the Bible and sexuality. These brave leaders have taught me that there is no getting around the Bible when searching for the origins of the homophobia that is rampant in many African cultures. What’s more, Europeans and North Americans bear much of the historical responsibility for this sad state of affairs. As Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda has written, it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa…
The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday on the case of the banned London bus adverts.
Frank Cranmer reports at Law & Religion UK The ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban – again.
…Lord Dyson MR (with whom Briggs and Christopher Clarke LJJ concurred) pointed out that a claimant who established the unlawfulness of an administrative act was entitled to a remedial order and that where a decision was shown to be unlawful, the court should be wary of refusing relief on the grounds that the decision-making body would have reached the same decision had it acted lawfully (para 44). So on the question of how to proceed, he approached the matter on the basis that:
“(i) the decision may have been made for the improper purpose of advancing the Mayor’s re-election campaign; (ii) the judge was right to hold on the evidence before her that the disallowing of the advertisement did not infringe the Trust’s Convention rights and (iii) it is inevitable that, if TfL were required to reconsider the question, it would not reach a different conclusion from that reached on 12 April 2012″ (para 45).
On the issue of the Mayor’s involvement, he concluded that it was in the interests of justice that a further enquiry be conducted by the court as to whether or not the decision had been instructed by the Mayor and whether or not it had been made for an improper purpose. The Mayor (on behalf of the GLA) should be added back as a defendant and the case remitted to the judge for her to make th necessary order and give appropriate directions (para 48). He rejected the Article 10 point and, further, rejected an appeal to Article 9 on the grounds that, on the facts, it added nothing to Article 10…
The full text of the judgment is available here.
Notice that as Frank says, the arguments made about Articles 9 and 10 were rejected. Thus the only issue that remains open is whether or not the Mayor improperly interfered with TfL’s decision making.
However, to read the press release from Christian Concern, you might think the judgment contained more than it actually does: Master of the Rolls demands Mayor of London be investigated for political intervention in ‘gay bus advert’
Read the paragraphs of the judgment referenced in the press release to see for yourself.
BBC Radio 4 this evening broadcast “Last Rites for the Church of England?” in which Andrew Brown “asks if the Church of England has become fatally disconnected from society.” The half-hour programme will be broadcast again on Sunday 2 February at 2130.
The Church of England House of Bishops issued this statement this evening.
Statement from the College of Bishops
27 January 2014
The College of Bishops met on 27th January, 2014 to begin a process of reflection on the issues raised by the Pilling Report (GS 1929). The College expressed appreciation to Sir Joseph Pilling and to all members of the working party for the work they have done on behalf of the Church.
We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.
We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society.
We recognise the very significant change in social attitudes to sexuality in the United Kingdom in recent years.
We recognise also the strongly held and divergent views reflected in the Pilling Report, across the Anglican Communion and in the Church of England. We acknowledge that these differences are reflected also within the College of Bishops and society as a whole.
We accept the recommendation of the Pilling Report that the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level and that this should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. These conversations should set the discussion of sexuality within the wider context of human flourishing.
We have together asked the Archbishops to commission a small group to design a process for these conversations and additional materials to support and enable them. We hope that the outline for the process and the additional materials will be approved by the House of Bishops in May.
We acknowledge that one of the challenges we face is to create safe space for all those involved to be honest about their own views and feelings. This has not always happened and it must do so in the future. We recognise that we will not all agree and that this process is in part committed to seeking good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ
As the Archbishops noted in November, the Pilling report is not a new policy statement from the Church of England and we are clear that the Church of England’s pastoral and liturgical practice remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation.
No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March.
We are grateful to the whole Church for their prayers for our meeting today and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We recognise that on many occasions in the past the Church has faced challenging questions. It is vital in these moments to take counsel together, to read and reflect upon the Scriptures and to continue to discern together the mind of Christ.
Timed to coincide with the meeting of the College of Bishops today, to discuss the Pilling report, there are several new items:
Andrew Brown has written this piece at Comment is free Bishops must reject these wicked homophobic views.
These are not the views expressed in the report, but rather the views expressed by Anglican churches in Nigeria and Uganda:
…The bishops are meeting in the wake of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which represents an irrevocable move towards the acceptance of gay people in this country. But they are also meeting in the shadow of astonishingly homophobic laws supported by two of the largest Anglican churches in Africa – in Nigeria and Uganda.
The Nigerian law has passed with overwhelming support (1% of the Nigerian population is in favour of “society accepting homosexuality”, according to the Pew Foundation). The marginally more liberal Ugandan government (where 4% of the population accepts homosexuality) has just rejected a similar law.
In Britain, where the Pew figures say that over 70% of the population is pro-gay rights, a number of conservative evangelical churches have aligned themselves with Uganda and Nigeria as a pre-emptive strike against the C of E recognising same-sex marriage. Although tomorrow’s meeting will dodge the question, there will be clergy queueing to marry their same-sex partners when this becomes legal in April, when the question can no longer be dodged…
And there is further survey data illustrated in the latest article from Changing Attitude: Infographics about attitudes in the Church of England.
Changing Attitude is publishing three infographics today about attitudes in the Church of England on the day the College of Bishops meets to discuss the Pilling Report.
The survey results provide a glimpse of where the church is, both within itself and as it is viewed by society. These aren’t partisan statistics – we haven’t hunted around for the figures most favourable to our cause. We have used the YouGov surveys produced for the Westminster Faith Debates 2013 because they are the most rigorous, very recent, and based on a large sample and with no attempt to influence the response by skewing how questions are asked.
Here is a snapshot of what reality actually looks like at the moment for the Church of England. (There’s a wealth of other information in the Westminster Faith Debates stats, and you can see the whole dataset here: http://faithdebates.org.uk/research/)
The survey shows remarkably strong support for same-sex marriage in the Church of England – 40% in favour, 47% against – given the reluctance of the bishops and General Synod to show approval for same-sex relationships, let alone equal marriage. If non church-going Anglicans are included, there is a slim majority for same-sex marriage, 44% with 43% against. In the population as a whole, 52% are in favour, 34% against…
There are three infographics, here is a direct link to the third one:
And finally, although far from new, as noted in the comments on an earlier article, Changing Attitude’s own submission to the Pilling review group was based in large part on the earlier Osborne report. This should have been published in 1989 but was suppressed. It was “re-published” by the Church Times two years ago: CofE’s Osborne report finally published. The comparison between this and the Pilling report shows how little change there has been within the CofE.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has been Rethinking Advent to Candlemas.
Thom Shultz writes about The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment.
Vicky Beeching writes in the Church Times that Children must learn to live in the online world.
Malcolm Round writes Love Your Church Minister.
Gillan Scott of the God & Politics in the UK blog writes that The Church of England still needs to wake up and smell the coffee over church growth.
Updated again Sunday evening
Ekklesia has published a major commentary on the Pilling report by Savi Hensman available here: Edging towards accepting diversity: the Pilling Report on sexuality. Here is the Abstract:
A Church of England working party on sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, has called for a more welcoming approach to lesbian and gay people, though not full inclusion. It recognises the current lack of consensus on the theology of sexuality, including what the Bible has to say, and recommends that clergy be free to hold services, though not weddings, for same-sex couples.
The report is a small step forward, though it is over-cautious and its handling of historical and scientific evidence is weak, this detailed analysis from Ekklesia suggests. It is also unbalanced, giving too much space to one dissenting member of the working party, firmly opposing any shift by the church towards a more pluralistic stance on same-sex partnerships. Yet it acknowledges diversity, encourages openness to listening and growth, and may lead to further progress in enabling the church to value its lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) members and credibly witness in today’s world to God’s love for all.
John Watson at Fulcrum has written A response to David Runcorn’s appendix to the Pilling Report.
The Spectator has published a rather curious leader article:The Church of England’s endless gay panic.
Christina Beardsley has also published a detailed analysis of the Pilling report at Changing Attitude over the past couple of weeks. This is now more conveniently available as a single article here.
This lengthy article is now also available as a PDF from here.
The UK Government has published this:
Consultation on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales
…The Government has published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. This is the full public consultation required by section 15 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The closing date for responses is 17 April 2014.
Reponses can be made online.
The Government will consider responses to the consultation alongside evidence about marriage of same sex couples, civil partnership and possible options for the future.
Paui Johnson has commented on one aspect of this consultation at the ECHR Sexual Orientation blog:
…The consultation document contains a consideration of the compatibility of maintaining civil partnership only for same-sex couples with the European Convention on Human Rights:
The Government is satisfied that its decision to retain civil partnership for same sex couples only is compatible with the Convention. Even if an opposite sex couple were able to show that the difference in treatment compared to a same sex couple is within the ambit of Article 8, because the ability to form a civil partnership concerns family life, and to show that the treatment is based on a personal characteristic or status, such as sexual orientation, it is the Government’s view that it is within a State’s margin of appreciation to recognise different forms of relationship for same sex and opposite sex couples.
This is an interesting invocation of the margin of appreciation because the Government provide no references to Strasbourg case law to support their claim.
Whilst it is easy to find examples in the Court’s recent case law to support the Government’s argument, it is also easy to find examples that challenge this understanding of the margin of appreciation. For example,..
Updated Saturday evening and Monday morning
Last September, Richard Blackburn, the Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool, established an episcopal visitation to the parish of St Faith’s, Great Crosby. The visitation was carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe, and his report has now been published. Today’s statement from the diocese, Report on the Episcopal Visitation to St Faith’s Crosby, starts
A report of an episcopal visitation carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe has found serious failings in the PCC and amongst the laity at St Faith’s Crosby. The report outlines major failings in the governance of the parish which has led to what can be described as a culture of bullying towards the Priest in Charge, Father Simon Tibbs.
The Episcopal Visitation was established by Bishop Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool in the wake of reports of difficulties at St Faiths. The Bishop instigated a six month visitation period for Bishop Stephen to thoroughly investigate concerns at the parish and produce a report.
Bishop Stephen report was presented to the PCC at a special meeting on Monday 20th January.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said “This has been a disturbing and distressing experience in the life of St Faith’s. I have found clear weaknesses in the governance structures at the church. Weaknesses that existed before Father Simon’s arrival. Weaknesses that have allowed a culture of bullying towards Father Simon from some elements of the PCC. The Diocese of Liverpool will need to consider its mentoring arrangements for priests in the light of this unhappy episode. However my main recommendation is that the Diocese of Liverpool takes firm action to restore good governance in the parish before considering the long term future of St Faith’s Crosby.”
The diocesan statement also details the “temporary measures to improve governance at St Faith’s Crosby”.
The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, is to act swiftly on the findings of an independent report into the governance at St Faith’s Crosby. The Bishop has announced that he has asked for the visitation process to continue for 18 months to enable stronger governance procedures to be put in place and deal with Bishop Stephen’s recommendations.
Bishop Richard has given licence to Revd Susan Lucas to act as Priest in Charge during this time. She will be strongly supported by Bishop Stephen Lowe. She will be charged to bring in measures that address the weaknesses in governance, reinvigorate the teaching of Christian giving and strengthen the sacred traditions of Anglo-Catholic liturgical worship so they become a meaningful expression of God’s love and mission. Bishop Richard has asked that this process should take no more than 18 months and he will closely monitor progress…
Bishop Stephen’s full report is available for download: Visitation Report.
The report has received extensive coverage in today’s local Liverpool and Crosby papers.
Jamie Bowman Liverpool Echo Priest ‘bullied’ out of his Merseyside church by powerful drinkers’ club among his flock
Jamie Bowman Crosby Herald Damning report reveals culture of bullying at Crosby church
It has also attracted the attention of the national press
The Telegraph Priest ‘bullied’ out of parish for challenging binge drinking culture among worshippers
BBC St Faith’s Church Crosby priest was ‘bullied’ out of parish
Luke Traynor Mirror Vicar ‘bullied out of his job by right-wing drinkers in his flock’
Liz Hull Daily Mail Priest bullied out of his C of E parish after nine months after banning congregation’s ‘un-Christian’ boozy sessions after services
The PCC has issued a press release this afternoon (Saturday) which can be read here:
from the Church Wardens of St. Faith’s Great Crosby
re the Episcopal Visitation report by retired Bishop Stephen Lowe
The report of Stephen Lowe purports to be ‘independent’, but is clearly subjective and opinion based. The overwhelming majority of those present at the Congregational Meeting on January 20th felt that his was a grossly distorted and one-sided view of the situation. His report made sparse reference to the carefully considered answers submitted by the PCC to the Diocese’s Articles of Enquiry. A report detailing the responses of the congregation to Stephen Lowe’s ‘findings’ is being submitted to the Diocese and we shall be requesting that this is also published on their website as a matter of public record.
The “Review of PCC Governance at Crosby, St Faith’s” referred to in Bishop Lowe’s report is now available online here.
Patrick Sawer in The Telegraph Merseyside’s ‘Cyber Priest’: ‘Thou shalt not drink wine in church’
Why was Paul so upset that members of the church at Corinth were identifying themselves over and against one another in terms of who had baptised whom? Why, in John’s Gospel, do we read that unity is essential if the world is to know that Jesus was sent by the Father? And, in keeping with the justice theme of this series of Christmas reflections, what does a vision of Christian unity say about how we pursue justice?
Though there are many ways to frame the problem, I wonder whether one potential ‘opposite’ of unity is an excessive form of tribalism (not that tribal or shared identity is itself always bad). Tribal societies arguably emerged as practical ways of banding together as a shared form of survival - no bad thing. At its worst, though, tribalism can express itself in extreme forms of ethnocentrism, where the value of others is so denigrated that the ‘other’ is demonised and where ethno-cleansing (or other forms of ‘cleansing’) can become almost routine.
Tribalism builds on our having a claim (via kinship or shared interest) on local, familiar ‘others’; but Christian tribalism (if we can call it that) could start with something different: for there is an ‘Other’ who has a prior claim on me and on us all. Christian tribalism could be different from other tribalisms, for our shared identity should not come primarily from us. Rather, it depends on our realisation that God’s love, something we cannot earn or possess, graciously shifts the vortex of any self-referent tribalism away from ourselves. Indeed, one way of reading disputes in the early Church is to see a budding movement away from being a small tribal Jewish sub-sect, to realising that this movement is precisely not about us, certainly not about who baptised whom, and perhaps not even about who believes this or that potentially divisive ‘theological idea’.
The realisation that identity (and so unity) is a gift, a gift modelled on God’s ultimately trustworthy love, shifts the goalposts. We are defined by the claims made on us - both by the Other and also by every ‘other’, who are all loved by the same God; and living the truth of that claim impels us to love both our neighbour and our so-called enemies, for God ‘makes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Mt 5.45). Indeed it is love of our enemies, which is to say love of other tribes, that apparently ought to distinguish us. Christian unity is not for ‘our sake’, not for our tribe’s sake, but for the sake of others, whom we are to love audaciously and sacrificially. In these days, such love is expressed principally by yearning and striving for justice for others.
If we Christians can do that together, if internecine tribal instincts are trumped by effective concern for others, even for the most vilified, then we will be witnessing to the power of God’s love to provide a vision beyond intra- and extra-tribal differences, a vision beyond hatred, beyond ethnocentrism, beyond the tensions that lead to violence and war. Such was the vision of the Kingdom, where God’s love defined and subordinated all other relations, where our freedom to love others was to be the hallmark of our having received the Spirit, of our having dreamt the dream. But if we can’t do that even amongst ourselves, if we eschew unity, then we descend to idolatry, preferring the darkness, and trumpeting to the world that what divides us is fundamentally more important than what unites us, more important even than God.
Joe Cassidy is Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham
From the Changing Attitude website:
Changing Attitude England Report to the College of Bishops meeting 27 January 2014
Changing Attitude England posted a Report today to every member of the College of Bishops and the 8 senior women in advance of their meeting 27 January 2014. A paper about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops in the papers for the meeting and that is reproduced at the end of our Report.
Changing Attitude England’s Report to the College of Bishops
Changing Attitude’s goals
Changing Attitude has three core goals, the achievement of which would mark a radical transformation in the experience of LGB&T Christians, and we believe, for the church as a whole. The goals are:
- Celebrating the loving, permanent, faithful, stable of lesbian and gay relationships, lay and ordained
- Equality in lay and ordained ministry in the selection, training and appointment process and the end of hypocrisy and secrecy – the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture.
- Identify and eradicate prejudice against LGB&T people and the systemic homophobia which corrupts Christian attitudes and teaching.
1. Changing Attitude’s submission to the Review Group
In our submission to the Review Group we said the need for a radical change in Christian attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people is now urgent. We asked whether the review group is going to advocate that the Church of England recognises the reality of the presence of LGB&T people in the Church or whether they are going to maintain the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the unhealthy attitudes in which many LGB&T Christians remain trapped.
The report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged.
The Review Group explored a lot of the ground which is fundamental to the dilemmas faced by the church as it continues to think about human sexuality. The report explores many of the issues which must be reviewed if the Church of England is ever to speak truthfully and lovingly to those whose sexuality and gender are variants on the heterosexual, patriarchal norm of Christian theology, teaching and practice…
Read the full report here.
Scroll down for the separate document “…about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops..”
The Most Rev Tilewa Johnson, the Primate of The Church of the Province of West Africa, died suddenly yesterday (Tuesday).
Jan Butter and Bellah Zulu report for the Anglican Communion News Service reports with tributes and an obituary: Anglican Communion shocked by West Africa Primate’s sudden death.
Other online tributes and news reports include:
The Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop mourns ‘gifted’ leader of the Church of the Province of West Africa
George Conger Anglican Ink Archbishop of West Africa dead
PK Jarju JollofNews (Gambia and Senegal) Gambians Pay Tribute To Bishop Johnson
World Council of Churches Condolence message on death of Tilewa Johnson
Updated again Wednesday evening
Press release from the Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop of Dover to assume interim episcopal oversight in Channel Islands
Wednesday 22nd January 2014
The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, is to assume interim episcopal oversight of the work of the Church of England in the Channel Islands on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, delegated the oversight of the Islands.
The interim arrangement, which has the fullest support of the Bishop of Winchester, will be in place within a matter of weeks. The reports commissioned by the Bishop of Winchester, being conducted by Dame Heather Steel and Bishop John Gladwin in relation to safeguarding issues, will be completed in due course.
The Bishop of Dover is a former Bishop of Basingstoke in the Diocese of Winchester, and therefore has significant knowledge of the Islands. He and the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, undertook a pastoral visit to the Channel Islands in December, during which they met local church leaders and Island authorities from both Deaneries.
The interim arrangement is also entirely separate from issues to do with the Islands’ formal relationship with the Church of England. The Archbishop intends to appoint a Commission to look at the relationship between the Islands, the Diocese of Winchester and the wider Church of England.
Channel Television has this report: Jersey church splits from Winchester.
The following pastoral letter from the Bishop of Winchester has been published, though as yet not on the Winchester diocesan website. Via Anglican Ink.
I wanted to contact you all following Lambeth Palace’s announcement today that the Bishop of Dover is to take temporary responsibility for episcopal oversight of the Channel Islands. This follows a proposal I took to the Archbishop of Canterbury last year, which has now been supported and implemented by Archbishop Justin and his colleagues and which also has the backing of representatives from the Islands.
It will be evident to a number of you that, what began as an important and ongoing safeguarding matter in Jersey last year has steadily become complicated by a range of political and legal issues. The safeguarding investigations will, of course, continue and I hope in time we will benefit from improvements to our policies to help vulnerable people in the Islands and across the Diocese. Nevertheless, I am all too conscious of the additional, fundamental issues that have been raised and I believe they also warrant urgent and full attention. Equally I believe that the best way of achieving the reconciliation that we all want is for me to step back for now from the tensions that have arisen and allow for fresh, external input. I am very grateful therefore that Bishop Trevor is able to devote the time to take on this role, on a temporary basis, bringing with him knowledge of the Channel Islands as a former Bishop of Basingstoke.
The Islands have a centuries-old, cherished relationship with the rest of the Diocese to which I remain fully committed. From a practical perspective, the Archbishop and I have agreed it is necessary for the Islands to continue to pay their parish share during this period, so that normal ministry and mission remain unaffected.
Archbishop Justin has also announced that he will put in place a Commission to examine fully the legal and political challenges that have arisen. I feel that, in time, this process will play an important part in healing and reaffirming relations going forward.
Finally, I ask you all to hold Bishop Trevor in your prayers as he undertakes this work and want to thank you for your devotion to the mission and ministry of the Church in this Diocese.
From the website of Christian Concern:
ACTION: Ask the Bishops to stand up for marriage
On 28th November 2013, the Church of England published a crucial report by the House of Bishops Working Group on Sexuality (Pilling Report), outlining its recommendations for the recognition of same-sex relationships by the CofE.
The Report suggests that, while the Church of England should not change its official teaching on marriage and sexuality, it should enter into a period of “facilitated conversions” to allow local clergy to bless same sex partnerships informally, using unauthorised liturgies.
However, to allow informal blessings of same-sex relationships, while claiming not to change the church’s teaching, would in practice and in fact, change the church’s traditional teaching on the issue.
The College of Bishops meets next Monday (27th January) to give serious consideration to the proposals put forward by the Pilling Report.
Please write to the Bishops, urging them to affirm the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality and to give courageous leadership which is faithful to Scripture.
Concerns about the Report which you may wish to make are:
- The report as a whole appeals to the secular world-view by seeking to accommodate same sex relationships
- The liberal view of Scripture adopted by the Report is hugely concerning as it suggests that Scripture does not offer conclusive teaching on the issue of homosexual practice
- The Report wrongly claims that Scripture and theology are apparently unclear on the rightness of homosexual practice, but urges the church to go ahead and bless such practice anyway, as long as the relationships are ‘permanent, faithful and stable’
- The Bible offers clear teaching on how humans are best able to flourish and we appeal to you as Bishops to reinforce the commitment to biblical teaching
- Permitting services to bless same sex unions would be a direct denial of the authority and teachings of the Bible, and would result in serious division, distress and acrimony within the Church
- Allowing clergy to offer an informal blessing, and claiming that this does not change traditional Anglican teaching, is too fine a distinction and potentially contradictory for the wide Christian community and beyond
- True pastoral care in the case of those experiencing same-sex attraction is to help them live Christianly and it is wrong to separate teaching and practice
- Please also ask the Bishops to support the strong dissent to the Report issued by the Bishop of Birkenhead, which you can read here >
See below for contact details of the Bishops [scroll down for email list of diocesan bishops only]
The Cutting Edge Consortium invites you to discuss:
Equality & Religious Freedom: What accommodation is reasonable?
Tuesday 4th February 6.30pm
House of Commons Committee Room 15
This meeting is kindly sponsored by Sadiq Khan MP
Please email Cutting Edge Consortium to register your attendance
10 Downing Street has announced: Diocese of Exeter: Robert Atwell nomination approved:
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Robert Ronald Atwell, BA, MLitt, Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, for election as Bishop of Exeter in succession to the Right Reverend Michael Laurence Langrish, BSocSc, MA, DD, on his resignation on 31 August 2013.
Robert Atwell, aged 59, studied for the ordained ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his first curacy at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London from 1978 to 1981.
From 1981 to 1987 he was Chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1987 to 1998 he was a Benedictine monk at Burford Priory, Oxfordshire.
From 1998 to 2008 he was Vicar of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, and Director of Post-Ordination Training in the Edmonton Area of the Diocese of London. Since 2008 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Stockport.
Robert Atwell is single. His interests include gardening, theatre, films, music and novels.
The Diocese of Exeter has announced: Next Bishop of Exeter Named:
The next Bishop of Exeter is the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, currently Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. His appointment was announced this morning by the Prime Minister’s office.
Bishop Robert will become the 71st bishop of the Diocese of Exeter which comprises more than 500 parishes across the county of Devon…
I have signed the Time to Change pledge to end the stigma attached to mental illness. I encourage you to join this campaign in the UK, or similar campaigns where you live. Like many of you, I have been close to a number of people who have struggled with poor mental health. I became my late father’s carer in the last years of his life. It was only then that I recognised how we had colluded as a family in not knowing about his mental state for years. He was relatively well supported; but this did not prevent his early death as a result of the physical consequences of his struggle with life.
Research reveals that nine out of ten people in Britain who live with some form of mental illness are stigmatised. As if the illness were not enough to cope with, they are penalised in the workplace and over welfare benefits. They are shunned and laughed at. Worse still, moral blame is still applied to those living with persistent mental illness. We are frightened of it because it is so close to us and any one of us call fall prone to it in some form. It is also scary that, while there can be periods of recovery in any illness, the condition itself may well be chronic and incurable.
Understandably, we all dread that prospect for ourselves or for our loved ones; but it does not follow that we should blame sufferers for reminding us of their need. The media do not help. Of course, it is a tragedy if a psychotic person becomes dangerous and does serious harm to another person. The way that this is often reported suggests that people with mental health needs are likely to be dangerous. The sad truth is that most of those who suffer psychosis, or clinical depression or severe bi-polar illness are only likely to be a danger to themselves as they feel they can no longer endure the isolation and pain.
The gospel record reveals that it was the wandering bedlamites of Judaea and Galilee who first recognised who Jesus really was. Like shepherds and tax collectors and other outsiders, they became his special care. People came to hear him preach because they had first heard or witnessed his power as the kind of healer who could bring peace to a person with multiple personalities called Legion. I often reflect on the person of Mary Magdalene who is set free from her prison of tormented illness to be the apostle to the apostles. A powerful sculpture of Mary as an old woman by Donatello reveals someone who bears the marks of her illness still, but is on the front foot ready to be a witness of the love which could reach even her lowest depths. Shakespeare was someone who obviously understood a good deal about mental illness. His portrayal of King Lear is an astonishing mapping of descent into mental illness and also of the arrival of new insight and reconciliation through it.
Not so long ago I confirmed someone who lives with severe mental illness who joked that, after being committed to hospital twenty-eight times, at last his religious delusions were being taken seriously. It behoves us as Christians to welcome those who come to our churches and to work directly for much better social inclusion, both for sufferers and for their carers. Research commissioned by the Department of Health concluded that faith, worship and fellowship can have a profound therapeutic impact upon the wellbeing of people living with mental illness. Isolation and despair are met by belonging and hope. We know of conspicuous examples of very talented people with a bi-polar condition who make and have made significant contributions to our history and culture. There are talented but poorly people worshipping with us who not only need our prayer and loving staying power but who also deserve our respect for their humanity and for what they offer as witnesses to God. They offer us insight into the Saviour who abides with us and knows us when all props are taken away and when even our identity is threatened.
“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139.7–12)
Stephen Conway is Bishop of Ely.
The Quotidian Cleric publishes The Perfect Job Advert.
Jonathan Clatworthy writes for Modern Church about Two directions for liberal theology.
Oliver Burkeman writes in The Guardian about The one theology book all atheists really should read.
Phil Groves writes for the Anglican Communion News Service: What should we do when Christians disagree?
The situation in Uganda has become even less clear than before. Jim Burroway reports in this article: Status of Uganda’s Anti-Homosesexuality Bill Is Completely Up in the Air … Including, Possibly, Its Death Penalty.
… Earlier this morning Kampala time, Daily Monitor reported that President Yoweri Museveni had “blocked” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been passed in Parliament in December with an apparent lack of quorum. (The pro-government New Vision makes no mention of Museveni’s letter, at least not on its online edition. The Uganda Media Centre, the government’s official press office, is similarly silent this morning.) Most other major media outlets reporting on this development are citing the Daily Monitor story.
Museveni’s letter to Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga criticizing Parliament’s vote on December 20 was dated December 28 but only made public today. All of this leaves up in the air the bill’s precise status. Does Museveni’s letter represent a formal rejection of the legislation under the Constitution’s Article 91 (3) (b)? That seems to be the assumption most media outlets are making. It’s certainly what the Daily Monitor story implies, although it doesn’t say so explicitly…
The original Daily Monitor article is here: Museveni blocks Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
This development has also been picked up by the BBC: Uganda President Yoweri Museveni blocks anti-gay law.
Meanwhile, in relation to the similar legislation in Nigeria, there is this report explaining The Simple Reason Nigeria Just Banned Gay Marriage And Gay Meetings.
Also, Ekklesia has this commentary by Savi Hensman Nigeria’s anti-gay law: persecuting minorities, forsaking Christ.
And today, a petition has been launched, directed at the Archbishops of Canterbury and York: please speak out against human rights abuses in Nigeria.
Dear Archbishops Justin and John,
As you will know, Nigeria has just enacted some of the most extreme anti-gay laws on the planet. The Church of Nigeria, in particular retired Archbishop Akinola, has been supporting the bill for many years, and only last year the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese, Asaba, Justus Mogekwu, appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to the anti-gay marriage bill. As Anglicans [and fellow Christians of other traditions], we call on both of you to oppose these laws, publicly and privately, in word and deed.
The new Nigerian laws include the following draconian provisions:
- Up to 14 years in jail for people in same-sex relationships
- Up to 10 years for anyone who ‘directly or indirectly’ shows same-sex affection in public.
- Up to 10 years in jail for anyone who participates in an organisation which works to protect gay rights, including straight allies. This could criminalise human rights defenders and even two people just meeting for a coffee if they are known to be gay or bisexual.
The situation is urgent. Sweeping arrests of gay people are already taking place in some parts of the country. A man in Bauchi has already endured 20 lashes, ordered by a court, for ‘homosexual offences’.
Anglicans have different points of view on whether it is morally acceptable to enter a sexual relationship with somebody of the same gender. But surely we can all agree that nobody should be locked up because of who they love and nobody should be locked up for organising against an unjust law?
Even the hardline Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference committed the Anglican Communion to opposing ‘irrational fear of homosexuals’. It is time for that opposition to take the form of concrete action.
In the Gospels, Christ tells us that whatever we do for the least of His brothers and sisters, we do for Him. He also says that whatever we ask the Father in His name will be granted. We believe that your influence can limit the degree to which these laws are implemented and can help prevent their spread to other parts of Africa.
Remaining silent means turning a blind eye as some of the most vulnerable people on the planet are imprisoned or flogged. It also risks destroying the credibility of Christianity in England and many other parts of the world where homophobia is considered scandalous.
Press release from Forward in Faith:
Women in the Episcopate: The Latest Drafts
Jan 17, 2014
Women in the Episcopate: Draft House of Bishops’ Declaration and Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations
Forward in Faith welcomes the publication of the House of Bishops’ report (GS 1932 – available from http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/agendas-and-papers/february-2014-group-of-sessions.aspx).
In commenting on the proposals in November we set out three matters that still needed to be resolved. We are grateful that two of them have been addressed: the draft Declaration now contains transitional provisions, and the House of Bishops’ Standing Orders will provide that the Declaration cannot be amended unless two-thirds majorities in each House of the General Synod support the amendment. We also welcome the other minor improvements which the House has made to the draft Declaration and Regulations.
However, we note that the draft Declaration does not address the third of the matters that we raised in November. Para. 42 of the Steering Committee’s report (GS 1924) pointed to the need for ‘an agreed way of proceeding’ with regard to ‘issues that will arise in relation to consecration services for Traditional Catholic bishops’, including the ‘further and sharper issues that will arise in due course as and when there is a woman archbishop’. The Steering Committee was clear in envisaging ‘an overall, balanced package’ and that the dioceses should ‘vote on the legislation in the knowledge of how all the elements of the package fit together’ (para. 42).
It is essential that an acceptable way of proceeding in relation to the consecration of Traditional Catholic bishops is agreed before the legislation is referred to the dioceses. Resolution of this outstanding matter is crucial for the acceptability of the package as a whole.
We also note the publication of a first draft of the Guidance Note for Bishops and Parishes (GS Misc 1064). Forward in Faith will study this closely.
+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
Andrew Brown The Guardian Church of England could appoint first female bishop ‘by Christmas’
John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England could name first woman bishops ‘by Christmas’
Madeleine Davies Church Times Women bishops possible in 2014, says Fittall
The usual pre-Synod press release, summarising the agenda, was issued this morning.
Agenda for February 2014 Synod
17 January 2014
The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London in February for a three day meeting from 2.00 pm on Monday 10th February until 5.30 pm on Wednesday 12th February.
The agenda for the meeting is published today. The main item of business will be the Revision Stage for the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. In an unusual move, this will be taken on the floor of the Synod without there having been a prior Revision Committee. There will also be three other debates as part of the women bishops process: on the Declaration and Disputes Resolution Procedure agreed by the House of Bishops in December; to initiate the process to rescind the 1993 Act of Synod; and to suspend part of the Standing Orders in order to accelerate the process for referring the legislation to the dioceses. These debates will take up much of Tuesday 11th February.
There will also be debates on Gender-Based Violence, the Girl Guides’ Promise, the environment and fossil fuels and the use of vesture in Church services. The Group of Sessions will conclude with a presentation on the report from the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality. A Diocesan Synod Motion from the Guildford Diocesan Synod on the Magna Carta is listed as Contingency Business.
On the Monday afternoon there will be a presentation on Ethical Investment by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The EIAG will give an overview of the Church of England’s approach to ethical investment, in particular the work it has done on reflecting the Church’s position on alcohol more faithfully and supporting purposeful investment in business. It will summarise the issues that the EIAG is currently working on, including the use of pooled funds in ethical investment and an ethical investment approach to climate change.
This will be followed by a further policy-focused debate, this time on Gender-Based Violence. The debate will be preceded by a short presentation by Mandy Marshall and Peter Grant who are co-directors of Restored Relationships, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women.
Each session will be followed by a Question and Answer session with Synod members. The debate on Gender-Based Violence will be followed by a brief period of worship.
The sequence of business of Tuesday 19th November in relation Women in the Episcopate will be as follows. First, the Synod will debate a motion from the House of Bishops inviting the Synod to welcome the draft House of Bishops’ draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Regulations. Secondly, there will be the Revision Stage on the floor of the Synod of the draft Measure and Amending Canon. Thirdly, Synod will give initial consideration to a draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. Finally, there will be a motion to suspend part of Standing Order 90 to reduce the normal minimum length of time for an Article 8 Reference to the dioceses from six months to three months to allow a faster passage of the final stages of the Women in the Episcopate legislation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a Presidential Address on the morning of Wednesday 12th February.
This will be followed by a debate on a package of proposals for legislative change in relation to safeguarding and related disciplinary matters, which has been developed in response to the reports of the Chichester commissaries. This includes making it easier to suspend clergy, or bring complaints against them, where abuse is alleged, enabling bishops to compel clergy to undergo risk assessments and imposing a duty on relevant persons to have regard to the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policies. The intention is to introduce legislation in July 2014 but given the importance and range of the proposals this report gives Synod the opportunity to consider the package in February before the legislation is prepared.
Later that morning, there will be a debate on a motion from the Southwark Diocesan Synod on Environmental Issues. This will build further on the work being carried out by the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The Diocesan Synod Motion calls for the establishment of a General Synod Working Group on the Environment to look into this further.
Two Private Members’ Motions will be debated on Wednesday afternoon. The first, tabled by Mrs Alison Ruoff (London Diocese), references the recent changes to the Girl Guides’ Promise. The second, to be moved by the Reverend Christopher Hobbs, calls on the General Synod to amend Canon B 8 so that the wearing of the forms of vesture referred to in that Canon ‘becomes optional rather than mandatory’.
Finally, there will be a presentation from Sir Joseph Pilling on the recent Report of the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human Sexuality which was published on 28 November. There will be an opportunity for questions on the process and next steps on the Pilling Report.
The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from Monday 10 February to Wednesday 12 February, and papers are now available online. I have already listed those relevant to Women in the Episcopate in an earlier posting and here are the remainder.
GS 1930 - Agenda
GS 1931 - Report by the Business Committee [Monday]
GS 1933 - Gender-Based Violence: Report by the MPA Council [Monday]
GS 1941 - Safeguarding [Wednesday]
Other Papers issued to members
GS Misc 1065 - Church Stipends Report 2013
GS Misc 1067 - Dioceses Commission Annual Report 2013
HB(13)M4 House of Bishops Summary of Decisions December 2013
A zip file containing all the papers is also available.
General Synod will be debating the latest proposals on women in the episcopate on Tuesday 11 February. The relevant papers have been released today.
The actual items of business can be found in the Agenda (GS 1930). In addition there are these papers.
GS 1932 - Draft Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and Draft Reolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations
GS 1925A - Draft Bishops and priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
GS 1926A - Draft Amending Canon No.33
GS 1934 - Draft Act of Synod Rescinding the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993
GS Misc 1064 - House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests - Guidance Notes for Bishops and Parishes
GS Misc 1068 - Note by the Legal Advisers on clause 2
The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1931) has the usual comments on individual items of business, and those for Women in the Episcopate are copied below the fold.
Extract from the Report of the Business Committee (GS 1931)
Tuesday 19 November
Legislation on Women in the Episcopate
25. The main business of Tuesday 19th November will relate to Women in the Episcopate.
26. There will be four separate items of business. First the Synod will consider a motion from the House of Bishops inviting the Synod to welcome the draft House of Bishops’ draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Regulations. The Synod had a first opportunity to consider drafts in November as part of the Steering Committee’s report but the House of Bishops had not at that stage discussed them in detail. This is the Synod’s opportunity to debate what the House has now agreed.
27. Secondly, the draft measure and amending canon will be considered on the Revision Stage. Because there was no Revision Committee Stage the normal 40 member rule for the consideration of amendments will not apply.
28. Thirdly, the Synod will be invited to consider, under the preliminary motion procedure, a draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. Since rescinding the Act of Synod constitutes Article 7 business, it will need to be considered by the House of Bishops before it comes for final approval at a subsequent group of sessions. It will also be open to the Convocations and the House of Laity to claim references.
29. Fourthly there will be a motion to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iii) so that the Article 8 reference of the draft measure and amending canon can be concluded in May, with a view to completing the remaining stages of the legislation at the July group of sessions. To pass, the motion will require a 75% majority. If the motion is not carried, the Business Committee will be required by SO 90 to allow at least six months for the reference, which means that the earliest date for its completion will be September.
Press release from Church House: Signs of Growth:
…Key findings of the research include:
- Significant Growth Fresh expressions of Church (new congregations and new churches) with around 21,000 people attending in the 10 surveyed areas of the 44 Church of England Dioceses.
- Significant growth in Cathedrals, especially in weekday attendance. Overall weekly attendance grew by 35% between 2002 and 2012.
- Declining numbers of children and young people under 16 - nearly half of the churches surveyed had fewer than 5 under 16s.
- Amalgamations of churches are more likely to decline - the larger the number of churches in the amalgamation, the more likely they are to decline
There is more information in the press release.
Also, the executive summary of the Research is available as a PDF [link altered].
More detail is on this website.
The detailed study of Fresh Expressions can be found at the Church Army website.
Lambeth Palace has announced: Archbishop appoints US priest as Canterbury preacher
Archbishop Justin hopes the Revd Dr Tory Baucum’s presence as one of Canterbury Cathedral’s Six Preachers will help promote ‘reconciliation and unity’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Revd Dr Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral.
Dr Baucum will be installed as one of the Six Preachers during Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral on 14 March. The Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral unanimously approved the nomination of Dr Baucum shortly before Christmas.
The College of Six Preachers was created by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1541, forming part of his plans for a new foundation to replace the dissolved Priory. Canterbury was unique in this; no other cathedral had a group of preaching priests and was a reflection of Cranmer’s determination to give greater prominence to preaching. Today, the Six Preachers are called to preach on various occasions at Canterbury Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. The preachers serve five-year terms, which can be renewed.
While Dr Baucum has extensive experience of preaching, evangelism and peace-making, his appointment is also recognition of his commitment to reconciliation, which is one of Archbishop Justin’s ministry priorities. Truro Church seceded from the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in 2006 and subsequently became part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
When Dr Baucum became Rector in 2007, the church and the diocese were involved in litigation over property rights. Dr Baucum, a priest in ACNA, developed a close friendship with Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Shannon Johnston, and a settlement was subsequently reached.
Commenting on the appointment, Archbishop Justin said: “Tory is a fine scholar, an excellent preacher, and above all someone with a holistic approach to ministry. The close friendship he has forged with Bishop Shannon Johnston, despite their immensely different views, sets a pattern of reconciliation based on integrity and transparency. Such patterns of life are essential to the future of the Communion. I hope and pray that Tory’s presence as one of the Six Preachers will play a part in promoting reconciliation and unity among us.”
The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, said: “In recent times, the Six Preachers have become a significant and diverse group from across the whole Anglican Communion and fulfil a role of preaching and teaching from time to time in Canterbury. We look forward to welcoming Dr Baucum, whose particular gifts will enrich the group still further.”
Dr Baucum said: “I am deeply moved by the honour bestowed upon ACNA and especially the congregation of Truro Church in this appointment by Archbishop Welby to be a Six Preacher of Canterbury Cathedral. I am devoted to Archbishop Welby’s vision for the Anglican Communion and I hope this appointment might help, in some small way, translate that vision into reality.”
About the Revd Dr Tory Baucum
The Revd Dr Tory Baucum is the Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, a post he has held since 2007. He holds degrees from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Asbury Theological Seminary. He also teaches at Virginia Theological Seminary. His areas of expertise include St Augustine, Wesley, homiletics, evangelism and contextual theology. He has ministered and taught in several Anglican provinces and theological colleges, including the Diocese of London, St Augustine’s in Lima Peru and Bishop Barham College in Kigezi, Uganda. Dr Baucum is Chairman of the Board of Fresh Expressions USA and a Board Member of Alpha-USA. He is married to Elizabeth and they have three teenage daughters.
A question about the Pilling report was asked in the House of Commons this week:
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What assessment the Commissioners have made of the Pilling report, published by the House of Bishops working group on human sexuality in November 2013; and if he will make a statement. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): The report was discussed by the House of Bishops in December and its recommendations will be considered by the College of Bishops later this month.
Mr Bradshaw: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the report’s recommendation that parishes should be allowed to offer same-sex couples some sort of blessing would in effect simply formalise what already happens in practice in many Anglican parishes? Does he agree that the vast majority of Anglicans in this country would welcome a more generous approach to long-term, faithful, same-sex relationships?
Sir Tony Baldry: I agree with the principle that everyone should be welcome at the communion rail. The working group did not recommend a new authorised liturgy, but a majority of its members did recommend that vicars should, with the consent of parochial church councils, be able to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service. I am sure that that is one of the issues that the House of Bishops will be considering very seriously in the context of its consideration of the Pilling report’s recommendations.
Rumblings against the report from conservatives at home and abroad continue to appear:
Andrew Symes writes on Anglican Mainstream “in a personal capacity” about 2014: The beginning of facilitated schism?
…Might it be possible that a Happy New Year in the Church of England might see, as this Bishop sees, an honest recognition that the differences over sexuality and underlying doctrinal and philosophical systems are so great that we need to at least talk about separating? Could it be a good thing to walk apart, rather than perpetuating the fiction that we all really believe the same things? And in doing so, could this be done peacefully, with justice, fairness and mutual respect, recognizing that there are still many areas of common interest, such as good administration of buildings insurance and clergy pensions, care for the poor and vulnerable, and the need to preserve the proclamation of the Christian story in society even though we might interpret it differently?
Robert Lundy Communications Officer for the American Anglican Council writes about Crisis Comes to Church of England:
…2013 started with controversial events and ended with more controversy. The Pilling Report, compiled by a special working group on human sexuality from the House of Bishops and released in November, suggested that the church allow “pastoral accommodation” and thus an informal public service for those in civil partnerships. From many Anglicans’ points of view, the document gave much more credence to a liberal view of scripture and was not representative of the church’s long-standing teaching. Sir Joseph Pilling, the report’s namesake, presented the document to the House of Bishops in December. From here the Church of England and entire Anglican Communion will wait to see if the bishops endorse the report or unequivocally repudiate it. The answer could come as soon as January 27th of 2014 when the full House of Bishops meets again…
For the record, the meeting on 27 January is of the College of Bishops, not the House of Bishops. The difference is very fully explained on this page.
This meeting of the College will not be attended by any outsiders other than the eight women clergy who have recently been elected to join them, and Sir Joseph Pilling himself. See this report by Colin Coward: No conversations about us without us:
Changing Attitude England participated in the LGB&T Anglican Coalition conversation last Saturday which agreed to write to William Fittall and others about the College of Bishops meeting on 27 January to discuss the Pilling Report.
The email said that members were unanimous in expecting that openly LGB&T people should be present at all future meetings taking forward the Pilling process, including the College of Bishops meeting planned for January 27. Our presence in the process is important if it is to be given full legitimacy by the wider Church and society.
Mr Fittall replied promptly to say that apart from Sir Joseph Pilling the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops is not inviting anyone to the meeting on 27 January who does not normally attend such meeting. He added that he would draw our note to the attention of Standing Committee members so that they are aware of the general point we make about how the process should now be carried forward…
Shane Blackshear describes 5 Ways To Be Unsatisfied With Your Church.
Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that The Church of England isn’t abandoning sin – nor should it.
Fr Andrew Stephen Damick writes on Coffeedoxy and Heterodoxy.
Dale M Coulter writes about A Charismatic Invasion of Anglicanism?
We reported on the draft alternative baptism texts and early reactions to them here.
Since then Ian Paul blogs about Experimental Baptism and Madeleine Davies reports in the Church Times: Draft ‘baptism lite’ criticised.
Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that The Church of England isn’t abandoning sin – nor should it.
Giles Fraser asks in The Guardian Given Uganda’s homophobia, why does it lead the way in Googling gay porn?
On the BBC Radio 4 programme Thought for the Day, this morning, the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser talked about homophobia.
Thought for the Day - 10/01/2014 - Rev Dr Giles Fraser. (includes link to audio and full transcript)
Part of what he said:
…Of course, it’s not just football that has a problem with homophobia. If anything, it’s more difficult with religion where this attitude towards homosexuality can commonly be presented as having some moral or theological justification. But despite the widespread perception that faith is uniformly hostile to homosexuality, there are a significant number of people of faith who want to offer a minority report that insists being gay is no sort of moral issue – indeed, that the ways in which two adults express their love for each other physically ought to be celebrated as something precious, as something publically to affirm. What makes homophobia so especially wicked is that is traps people into a miserable life of clandestine relationships, continually fearful that they might one day be discovered and exposed for who they really are. Which is why having the guts to make such a public declaration of being gay, thus risking insults and name-calling – and in some countries considerably worse - is such a powerful witness to the truth.
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay” wrote Charles Wesley in a famous hymn about his religious conversion. “I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” He then goes on “No condemnation now I dread”. It was not, of course, a hymn about coming out of the closet, but about discovering and being able to speak the truth about oneself - and how liberating such truth-telling can be.
Nonetheless, these experiences are remarkably similar. “I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses” wrote Gloria Gaynor in a rather different sort of anthem. And St John put it even more pithily: “The truth will set you free.”
And yet, for many, the truth may not necessarily set them free, but might even end up landing them in jail. In Uganda, for instance, a law is about to be enacted in which consensual gay sex can lead to a 14 year term of imprisonment. Indeed, it’s going to be a criminal offense if one fails to report gay people to the authorities. Whereas St John spoke of truth as leading to freedom and release, for others, however, the truth can lead to prison.
So. We arrive at the Baptism of Christ. We leave behind angels and dreams, shepherds and wise men, stable and census, and with the Baptism of Christ we arrive at history in the life of Jesus. We can be sure, I suggest, of two things: that John the Baptist existed; and that Jesus came and was baptized by him.
The existence and mission of the Baptist is attested not just by the gospels, but also by the Jewish historian Josephus. And Jesus’s baptism is recorded in the gospel according to Mark and that of Matthew; Luke briefly mentions it, and though John manages to get away without any explicit statement, he does relate the build-up and the aftermath.
In the accounts in Mark and Matthew, after his baptism Jesus sees the heavens open and the Spirit descend on him. In Luke the vision becomes an event seen by all; in the fourth gospel the Baptist himself has this vision as a witness to Jesus as Messiah.
Presumably Jesus had heard report of the Baptist and, perhaps with others, travelled out to see and hear him. And having seen and heard he was immersed in the water, just like many of the others who saw and heard. The synoptic gospels tell us this was a moment of great spiritual significance for Jesus. With the vision of the descent of the Spirit, perhaps it is at this point that Jesus decides to abandon his former life as a carpenter in Nazareth. Presumably he becomes a disciple of the Baptist, retreating into the wilderness for reflection and self-examination, and joining John in baptizing in the river Jordan.
And then John is arrested and is incarcerated in Herod’s prison and will soon meet his death at Herod’s whim. He was not the first person to fall victim to the wrath of a tyrant, and nor was he the last. A roll call of victims and prisoners of conscience would number in the tens of millions in the twentieth century alone. The list of current news stories at Amnesty International includes not just all the usual suspects — our own proud western democracies are not always beyond reproach either. The image at the top of this piece shows a detail of the ‘prisoners of conscience’ window at the east end of Salisbury Cathedral, where every day prayers are said for those held around the world. Let us too hold these people in our prayers and work for their freedom and the improvement of their lot. Let the oppressed go free.Jesus meanwhile ‘withdraws’ (Matthew 4.12) to Galilee — very probably it was no longer safe for anyone linked to the Baptist to be in Herod’s territory. Luke tells us that Jesus’s first public act on his return to Galilee is to read in the synagogue at Nazareth:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
If this is historical, then is it too much to see it as an expectation by Jesus that in this year of the Lord’s favour the captive Baptist will be released — and that this is happening now? Not surprising that his message was not received favourably and he was driven out.
But with the arrest and decrease of the Baptist, it is time for Jesus to increase and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, the imminence of the kingdom of God. A kingdom based not on austerity or retreat to the wilderness but on justice for the oppressed and life in all its fullness. Here we are invited to sit and feast, accepted and welcomed into fellowship with the divine. In the subsequent ministry of Jesus baptism does not seem to be a prerequisite to ritual purity and to acceptance into the society of the ritually pure. Instead Jesus tells people their sins are already forgiven, and he accepts them without further ritual into society with him, sitting at table together and breaking bread.
Is it any wonder that it was these remarkable meals of Jesus that his followers continued — and that they continued to recognize his presence at the breaking of the bread? In this ritual we sit and eat at God’s table, and we break bread with our fellows, forgiving them the wrongs they have done us and receiving their forgiveness for the wrongs we have done them; and as we break bread together we recognize still the presence of Jesus, the incarnate Word.
And this begins with the baptism of Christ: the year of the Lord’s favour is now.
Simon Kershaw is one of the founders of Thinking Anglicans
The Anglican Journal reports: Marriage canon commission members announced:
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, today announced the appointment of the members of a commission that will carry out a broad consultation about changing the marriage canon (church law) to allow same-sex marriage.
Canon Robert Falby, chancellor of the diocese of Toronto and former prolocutor of General Synod, will chair the eight-member commission. The other members are: Dr. Patricia Bays, Dean Kevin Dixon, the Rev. Dr. Paul Friesen, Canon Paul Jennings, Dr. Stephen Martin, Bishop Linda Nicholls and Archbishop John Privett.
In July 2013, General Synod—the church’s governing body—enacted Resolution C003, which will bring a motion concerning same-sex marriage to its next meeting in 2016. The resolution asked Council of General Synod (CoGS) to prepare and present a motion to change the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples.” It also asked that this motion include “a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in our authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”
The resolution also directs that there be a broad consultation about the preparation of the motion. At its fall meeting, CoGS passed a motion to establish a commission on the marriage canon to carry out the consultation. At the meeting, Hiltz said membership of the commission would reflect “a diversity of theological perspective.”
The “broad consultation” referred to is also discussed in another news report, Anglicans, Roman Catholics ‘committed to dialogue’.
The detailed wording of the original General Synod resolution came about as the result of a substantial amendment which can be seen marked in green in this report.
Updated Sunday afternoon and evening, Monday morning The update includes a link to the experimental texts.
The Mail on Sunday published this article by Jonathan Petre today: Welby casts out ‘sin’ from christenings: Centuries-old rite rewritten in ‘language of EastEnders’ for modern congregation. The online version is dated yesterday, but was updated early today.
The Mail on Sunday also carries this editorial: Embarrassed Church’s sin of omission.
Edward Malnick writes in the Telegraph: Church of England removes devil from christening service.
The Guardian carries this story from the Press Association: Church of England accused of dumbing down baptism service.
The Church of England issued this statement last night.
Statement on proposal to Synod on baptism service wording
04 January 2014
A Church of England spokesman said:
“The report in the Mail on Sunday (Jan 5) is misleading in a number of respects. The story claims that “the baptism ceremony had not been altered for more than 400 years until it was changed in 1980”. This is the third revision in 30 years.
The Baptism service currently used by the Church of England has been in use since Easter 1998. The wording of the service was amended by General Synod in 2000 and again in 2005.
In 2011 a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool brought forward a motion to the General Synod of the Church of England requesting materials to supplement the Baptism service “in culturally appropriate and accessible language.” Specifically the motion requested new additional materials which would not replace or revise the current Baptsim service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service.
The Liverpool motion was passed by General Synod and as a consequence the liturgical commission has brought forward some additional materials for discussion by the General Synod at a future date where they will be subject to final approval by the Synod.
At its last meeting the House of Bishops agreed that the additional materials should be piloted and they were sent to over 400 for a trial period which lasts until the end of the April. The texts have no formal status without approval by General Synod.”
David Pocklington of Law &Religion UK comments: Sin + sound bites = Sales?
Miranda Prynne in The Telegraph Church of England accused of ‘dumbing down’ christening service
Sam Jones in The Guardian Church of England’s new baptism service condemned by former bishop
A booklet containing the full experimental additional texts for use in Holy Baptism is available for download: Christian Initiation: Additional Texts in Accessible Language. The booklet also contains guidance on their use, and a comparison with the current Common Worhsip texts. Clergy of the Church of England are reminded that under the provisions of Canon B 5A (Of authorization of forms of service for experimental periods) these experimental texts may only be used in parishes authorized for this purpose by the archbishops.
[h/t Jeremy Fletcher]
Pete Broadbent doesn’t like the proposals: The experimental baptism rite - baptism lite.
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia asks Is baptism being watered down?
Emily Gosden writes in The Telegraph: Sin? People think it’s about sex and cream cakes, says Archdeacon in baptism service row.
Christina Odone comments in The Telegraph: Don’t ditch the devil, he’s done great service to Christianity.
The Church Times report of the 2011 General Synod debate is available: More ‘accessible’ baptism prayers on the cards.
When Jesus was born there was peace. Any recorded disturbance was no more than a half-forgotten slur on his mother, which surprisingly did not result in an ‘honour killing’ but, against the odds, a marriage. Even today, nobody is much threatened by Christmas. Not so much because it is unthreatening, but because its message can be missed so easily, as it is on so many cute Christmas cards, and in so many charming nativity plays.
Epiphany marks the move of that child from the shadows onto the centre stage. His glory begins to be manifest. On Sunday or Monday (depending on the congregation) we will all celebrate that glory. In some countries, for instance Mexico, Epiphany is still the main day of rejoicing and present giving. It makes sense. We are celebrating the moment when people first start to take notice of the child, the moment when somebody who matters in the eyes of the world senses his glory and begins to feel after who he is. It is no coincidence that at that very moment, when we first celebrate the glory of Christ openly, the trouble starts. Because at all times and in all places Christ is a threat to the established order.
The values of Epiphany are the values of the Magnificat, and, come to that, the values most consistently stressed in the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament: justice for the poor, joy for the sorrowing, and repentance for the rich.
Some aspects of this challenge to the established order are easier for our world to swallow than others. It is politically expedient at the moment in our country to blame the ills of society on the poor, the sick, and the stranger. These are the very categories of person in whom, according to St Matthew, we meet Christ in all his glory. Those with the courage to point out that the blame does not lie where it is apportioned are (now as then) vilified. Christians singing hymns, or practising personal pieties, are welcome to their private devotions. Christians speaking openly about the growing numbers unable to feed themselves in one of the richest countries in the world? Not so much. It is inconvenient to direct attention to the truth that, so far from being work-shy loungers, many of the poor are in jobs, often the jobs others would not wish to undertake.
Many leap with delight on the idea of sending the rich empty away, and small blame to them. Only, this has never been a popular message to those in power — and in our age that includes the media. They may admire Pope Francis hugging those with disabilities, but they only admire the rest of his message if they can imagine it directed to countries far away.
The Epiphany gospel is drawn from Matthew, and a part of it is the idea of strangers coming to worship the Christ. Matthew will take up that idea later, where the suggestion is that when we invite in the stranger, we invite Christ himself, and all that is good with him. Today it seems strangers are only welcome when they are neither Romanian nor Bulgarian — oh, and as long as they are not also sick, because then we will only help if they can pay.
The work of Epiphany is to bring the private moments of Christmas into the public area. It is our work. The song which Mary sings to Elizabeth must now be sung out loud for all the world to hear, even when it tries to stop its ears. If the glory of Christ is to be seen and his values are to shine out, each of us must sing that song, and loudly, too.
Rosemary Hannah is the author of The Grand Designer.
Archdruid Eileen of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley writes about the Holy Innocents, and the Dangerous Herod Boys.
Bosco Peters writes Collaring clergy.
Editorial in The Guardian: Religion: the God squad
The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 on New Year’s Eve; listen to him here.
Madeleine Davies reports in the Church Times on what he said: Welby: Good vicars mean growth.
His comment that “The reality is that where you have a good vicar, you will find growing churches” has prompted a number of responses, including:
Kelvin Holdsworth Good Vicar, Bad Vicar
Kathryn Rose Reality Check
Anna Norman-Walker Festival Churches – a step towards sustainable rural church ministry into the future
Scott Gunn has some suggestions for A General Ordination Exam for the modern church.
Tom Ferguson, the Crusty Old Dean, is also blogging about the GOE (in his case entirely seriously). He did this last year (starting here), and here is his first offering this year: Blogging the GOEs, Part III: Question 1: Cuz the Bible Tells Me So.