The Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Martin Wharton, has announced his forthcoming retirement. There are these two items on the diocesan website.
The announcement does not give the exact date of the bishop’s retirement, but the Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975 requires him to vacate his office on his 70th birthday, which is on 6 August 2014.
Updated again Wednesday morning
The GAFCON Primates Council, which met in London this week, has issued a Communiqué, which after dealing with a variety of other issues, contains this passage:
…Meeting shortly after the recognition in English law of same sex marriage, which we cannot recognise as compatible with the law of God, we look to the Church of England to give clear leadership as moral confusion about the status of marriage in this country deepens. The Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly noted that the decisions of the Church of England have a global impact and we urge that as a matter of simple integrity, its historic and biblical teaching should be articulated clearly.
7. We are particularly concerned about the state of lay and clerical discipline. The House of Bishops’ guidance that those in same sex marriages should be admitted to the full sacramental life of the church is an abandonment of pastoral discipline. While we welcome their clear statement that clergy must not enter same sex marriage, it is very concerning that this discipline is, apparently, being openly disregarded. We pray for the recovery of a sense of confidence in the whole of the truth Anglicans are called to proclaim, including that compassionate call for repentance to which we all need to respond in our different ways…
The following names appear at the foot of the statement:
Primates present in London were:
The Most Rev’d Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop, Episcopal Church of Sudan
The Most Rev’d Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
The Most Rev’d Stanley Ntagli, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Uganda
The Most Rev’d Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Nigeria (Vice Chairman)
The Most Rev’d Onesphore Rwaje, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Rwanda
The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya (Chairman)
The Most Rev’d Tito Zavala, Presiding Bishop, Province of the Southern Cone
The Most Rev’d Dr Peter Jensen, Diocese of Sydney, General Secretary
The Most Rev’d Peter J. Akinola, Church of Nigeria, Trustee
Most Rev’d Emmanuel Kolini, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Trustee
The Most Rev’d Dr Ikechi Nwosu, Anglican Church of Nigeria
The Mail on Sunday has picked this up and reported it as Church of England split fear as African bishops speak out over clergy flouting a ban on same-sex weddings.
Another quote from the communiqué (emphasis added):
…We are equally concerned for the affected communities in Chile from the recent earthquake, terrorist attacks in Kenya, and the backlash from the international community in Uganda from their new legislation…
This appears to be confirmation that GAFCON in general, and ACNA in particular, endorses the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014.
Religion News Service reports Conservative Anglican leaders back Uganda anti-gay law.
WASHINGTON (RNS) Leaders of the conservative wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion equate the experiences of Ugandans who support a new anti-gay law with those of victims of an earthquake or a terror attack.
The Global Anglican Future Conference — made up chiefly of Anglican archbishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America — concluded a two-day meeting in London on Saturday (April 26) with a statement that expressed concern for violence in South Sudan and Northern Nigeria. It then said:
“We are equally concerned for the affected communities in Chile from the recent earthquake, terrorist attacks in Kenya, and the backlash from the international community in Uganda from their new legislation.”
That legislation, signed in February by Ugandan president President Yoweri Museveni, specifies life in prison for some homosexual acts. It also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires citizens to report to the police anyone suspected of being gay.
President Obama has called the bill “odious,” and the U.S. Embassy staff has avoided meetings and events with any Ugandan government agencies since the signing.
But despite the GAFCON statement’s equation with catastrophes, the archbishops’ response seems more concerned with finances than outright support for the Ugandan law. The “backlash” line could be a reference to the loss of $140 million in financial aid and project support from the World Bank, the U.S. and other countries. According to IRIN, which covers humanitarian issues, this included $6.4 million intended for the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, which backed the legislation…
Episcopal Cafè has this: Why won’t ACNA say it is wrong to put gay people in prison?
…The Anglican Church in North America is led by a man who was so deeply offended by the ordination of a gay bishop that he decided to break away from the Episcopal Church and take tens of thousands of other people with him, but who is comfortable with church leaders who have successfully urged their governments to round up LGBT people and their supportive friends, and put them in jail.
For years, breakaway Anglicans have tried to downplay the role that simple anti-gay bigotry has played in their movement. They’d say that they didn’t hate gay people, they just didn’t think they should be able to be ordained or married. Or they’d say that homosexuality was just one symptom of the Episcopal Church’s drift from Biblical truth. Duncan’s unwillingness to say in a simple and straightforward way that he doesn’t think gay people and those who do not inform on them should be put in jail gives the lie to these arguments, as does the obsession with homosexuality evident in statements from the GAFCON primates council.
What we are seeing now is a comfortable white American religious leader who cannot bring himself to say that it is wrong to throw LGBT Africans in jail because he doesn’t want to offend the African archbishops who have been his allies.
Duncan is in a bind. On one hand, the bogus claim that the Anglican Church in North America is part of the Anglican Communion depends entirely on its relationships with Anglican provinces led by archbishops who support anti-gay legislation. On the other hand, ACNA’s leaders in this country know that their church won’t survive if its homophobic roots and willingness to countenance human rights violations that advance its institutional interests become widely known. His strategy at the moment seems to be to sign on to homophobic documents that circulate widely within the Anglican Communion while hoping that the U. S. media and the wider public doesn’t notice…
Ben Myers is compiling a Church attendance manual. Here is part 1: arriving late.
Allison Pearson writes in The Telegraph that Wishy-washy Anglicans like me should speak up for the Church.
Jonathan Clatworthy writes for Modern Church that Hard work is not a virtue.
Paul Vallely writes for the Church Times about What really makes a nation Christian.
Simon Barrow writes for Ekklesia about Easter: actually it’s 50 days, and nothing to do with ‘Christian country’ ideology.
Barney White-Spunner writes for The Telegraph that Village churches need their own resurrection.
Diarmaid MacCulloch has given the fourth annual Princeton in Europe Lecture: What if Arianism had won? [63 minute video]
The Governing Body of the Church in Wales met this week in Llandudno.
The full agenda can be found here.
Earlier we published an article linking to the various documents issued for this meeting, relating to Same Sex Marriages.
The Archbishop’s Presidential Address is the subject of a press release: Quoting Bible texts does not settle moral disputes – Archbishop.
The full text of the address is available here.
This was reported by Wales Online as Church risks being seen as ‘homophobic’ if it doesn’t evolve, says Archbishop and by the BBC as Gay marriage ‘patience’ urged by Archbishop of Wales.
Another press release reports Church launches mediation service.
I think that if I were inventing a resurrection story, I would have had him reappear as victor over death with gaping unsightly wounds healed up. I would not, I suspect, have thought to have him going around with a hole in his side big enough to put one’s hand into. I might, I suppose, have run to some discreet scars and a little bitterness over how he was treated.
The Jesus who bursts back into Thomas’s life is much better than anything I would have imagined. His wounds are still open, with one plenty large enough to put a finger into. His preoccupation, though, is not with the past, but the future. He is moving his disciples on to a new world, where they take up the role he has carried. Jesus’s old work of forgiving (or not) will become their responsibility, and they will struggle to make others believe what they can never see.
So we enter a world where we know something new about healing, which is that probably we will never really be healed, although we may well be resurrected. What we are offered is a new life, not a patched-up old life.
I struggle to get my mind fully around this, just as I struggle to imagine writing the story that John writes of Jesus’s resurrection. There are memories, and actions, which I would like to be able to wipe out, to fully expunge from the record. I would like the ‘forgiveness’ or which Jesus speaks to mean that these things cease to be. But I think that that is not what is on offer. I suspect, reading this story, that forgiveness actually means that I will carry these holes in me forward for ever. A hole in my side wrenched by a mercifully lance and cruel damage inflicted intentionally to hurt me. They are mine forever.
I am not offered that these things will vanish. Instead, what I am offered is that they will become for my good, and for the good of others. If, in some ways, they will always define me, they will also become creative. I think, and I say this very tentatively, I think this is true. I suspect that the more I try to turn my face towards all that is good and positive, the truer it becomes.
I think you deserve at least some example. For me, the insecurities of my childhood experiences of my peers lead me to a solitude which is not, perhaps, quite natural to me. I am not any good in social contexts, and I never will be. It has made me miss taking up careers which might otherwise have been a joy to me. But it has also led me to be a much more reflective person, and to become a writer. This has come to define me, to become the holes in my hands by which others recognise me. The future beckons me. Maybe the writer I can still become will indeed imagine a better resurrection than mere healing.
Rosemary Hannah is currently writing a Victorian Whodunnit using up characters researched but not used in her biography, ‘The Grand Designer’; she also writes religious fiction.
The new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales claims to be the largest diocese in England by area with an area of 2425 square miles.
History will be made on Easter Day, April 20th, when the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales is created, the first new diocese in the Church of England since 1929, and, at 2,425 square miles, the largest diocese in England by area.
The same figure can be found on pages 9 and 31 of the statement of need for the new diocese.
But table 1 of Statistics For Mission 2012 lists four dioceses with an area larger than this.
|diocese||area (sq miles)|
However, we understand that the total land area of the new diocese is actually 2630 square miles. This makes the diocese the third largest in terms of size after Lincoln and York (though there is not much in it!).
Another error is that the previous new diocese in the Church of England (Derby) was created in 1927 and not 1929.
Cole Moreton has been interviewing the Archbishop of Canterbury for The Telegraph (and not just about same-sex marriages).
Part One (Friday) The Archbishop of Canterbury’s deadly dilemma
Part Two (Sunday) Archbishop of Canterbury: Sometimes I think: ‘This is impossible’
There are also these news items by Cole Moreton and John Bingham.
Justin Welby: the anguish I face over gay marriage
Church holds on to Wonga shares.
Other news outlets have covered the first part of the interview.
Kashmira Gander The Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Anglican Church cannot support same-sex marriage
Jack Simpson The Independent Justin Welby: Same sex ceremonies a balancing act for Church of England
Ben Quinn The Guardian Justin Welby: church ‘struggling with reality’ of same-sex marriages
The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the Passover of gladness,
the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
from earth unto the sky,
our Christ hath brought us over,
with hymns of victory.
Today is the day that either makes fools of us believers or that reveals the reality of our life in God. Either the resurrection was, as Bishop David Jenkins famously said, ‘more than a conjuring trick with bones’ (he was, of course, infamously misquoted as saying ‘merely a conjuring trick with bones’), or it was just a resuscitation, not a resurrection?
People have been resuscitated before — think of Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus, both raised back to life by Jesus — and there are many more stories across the faiths and traditions of the dead being miraculously brought back to life. The persons so raised presumably lived out their earthly lives and then died a second time, for good.
The resurrection was something else, an unprecedented event that, if true, changed the basis of our relationship with God, with other people and with the rest of creation. It makes possible the seemingly fanciful teachings of Jesus, as when he states that if his followers had even a little faith they could move mountains and perform miracles greater than they have seen him perform.
If the resurrection is what we believe it to be, then the risen Christ ushers us into a new kind of existence, a positioning in eternity within the life of Trinity, with all the power of the Divine available to us now. This is what Saint Paul believed and what he attempted to express in his great charter of emancipation in Romans chapter 8: ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.’ Paul was so convinced of the transformative effect of the resurrection that he repeatedly insisted that those who were in Christ were tantamount to being a ‘new creation,’ people who would be able to express in their lives the very nature of God.
The resurrection blows out the walls, the floors and the ceilings of our understanding of our own spiritual identity. What we do with open access to the Holy Spirit is up to us. It becomes a question of how much truth can we bear? How much life can we live? How much love can we take? How much do we trust the God who explodes our limited perceptions of who we are and what life is all about?
This Easter my prayer is that we will all be given the courage to open ourselves more to the infinite God, whose love we know and whose face we have seen in the man who resolutely climbed the hill to Golgotha.
Now let the heavens be joyful!
Let earth the song begin!
Let the round world keep triumph,
and all that is therein!
Let all things seen and unseen
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord hath risen,
our joy that hath no end.
Overnight the Dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield, and Ripon & Leeds ended and the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales was born.
Madeleine Davies writes for the Church Times that Yorkshire dioceses will celebrate Paschal rebirth.
Nick Baines is Moving on. He will become the acting Bishop of Leeds until he gets made ‘legal’ on 8 June at York Minster.
The new diocese has a new website.
Andrew Brown profiles Justin Welby: the hard-nosed realist holding together the Church of England for The Guardian.
Giles Fraser writes for the Mail Online: Bless you, Dave, for ‘doing God’. But there’s more to faith than your do-gooding religion-lite: A combative Easter message from the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s.
Tim Stanley responds in The Telegraph with Sorry, Rev, but Christianity isn’t just about being nice to people.
David Cameron writes for the Church Times about My faith in the Church of England.
N T Wright writes for ABC Religion and Ethics: Only Love Believes: The Resurrection of Jesus and the Constraints of History.
Jonathan Clatworthy blogs for Modern Church about Resurrection and kingdom.
Holly Baxter writes for The Guardian about The importance of Easter to this atheist.
Also in The Guardian Giles Fraser writes about The one day when Christians and atheists sing from the same hymn sheet.
A N Wilson writes for The Telegraph about Good Friday: the day we forget to remember.
John Dickson has Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter.
During Holy Week some 40 years ago, just as I was coming to the end of my teenage years, I first saw a concentration camp. It was a beautiful spring morning in the Austrian countryside, with signs everywhere of nature coming to life. Then we arrived at Mauthausen camp. I imagine the birds kept singing and the daffodils still danced in the breeze, but for us — a group of students nearing the end of our secondary school education — everything suddenly seemed totally still, as we entered a world that we had heard and read about but had never seen. Even as a cleaned up monument to this awful, cruel piece of history, the camp was terrifying.
It was Good Friday.
Back then, I was a committed atheist. The terrible appropriateness of the day was not in my mind as we approached the camp. And oddly enough, on the preceding evening, over a drink with my classmates, I had held forth on the impossibility that there could be a divine creator who would allow starvation, war and oppression.
Over the subsequent weeks, while reflecting on the experience, something occurred to me. The Via Dolorosa is not a sentimental journey. It is not the beautification of suffering, it is not the nobility of pain. God’s plan on Good Friday was not to invite us to contemplate a sense of cruelty redeemed, but rather of cruelty understood. We have to believe, and Jesus has allowed us to believe, that suffering can have a meaning. But suffering is not good, it is not beautiful, it is not destiny; it is not God’s will.
On that day, 40 years ago, I began, very slowly, on my own journey back to faith. Part of that faith is the belief that we cannot fully and properly live the Christian life until we have really, really understood Good Friday.
Ferdinand von Prondzynski is Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
Traditionally, we celebrate the Last Supper with a blaze of glory, in total contrast to the austerity of the Lenten season. The Gloria is sung, the sackcloth is laid aside and white vestments are worn to celebrate the Feast. We give thanks for ‘this wonderful sacrament’. Yet in this joyous moment, there are uncomfortable reminders that even the holiest moments are not immune from attack.
After Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, Luke warns us that this was no final defeat. He writes (Luke 4.13) ‘When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.’ Tonight, on this most holy night, he returns in envy and spite to attempt to wreck the celebration.
Jesus came to the table knowing that one of the disciples would betray him (Matthew 25.23). Peter at first refused to have his feet washed, the disciple thinking he knew better than his teacher. Luke (22.24) tells us that ‘A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.’ Matthew (20.20-28) had described this kind of contest more delicately, in saying it was a request from the mother of James and John to grant her sons first place in the kingdom of heaven, but the rivalry clearly bubbled away under the surface, and broke out again tonight.
They were all out for themselves, and Jesus knew it, saying (Matthew 26.21) ‘You will all become deserters.’ We recall that Peter protested, and Jesus recognised how great the threat was, saying (Luke 22.31). ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat’.
Even in our holiest moments we remain a prey to pride, envy, jealousy and selfishness. We are so full of ourselves that we fail to see the glory that is before us. We fail to listen to the voice of God. The fact that we are engaged in the most holy enterprise grants us no immunity from temptation. But the heart of the gospel is that even when we are failing, Jesus is not failing us. At the very point where Jesus tells Peter that all of the disciples will desert him, he assures Peter (Luke 22.32) that ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ He prays for us even as we are going wrong. He exhorts us to pray for ourselves when we are being tempted, as he did repeatedly in the Garden of Gethsemane. And the assurance is that though we will fail, he will accept us when we turn back. The father accepts the prodigal son back not with a reproach, but with a feast. The risen Christ welcomes Peter with a breakfast of fish by Galilee, and the repeat of that command to strengthen his brothers in the words ‘Feed my sheep.’(John 21). The fishermen had come empty handed to the meal, but Jesus supplies their want.
But then, we never did obey that command to ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ in our own strength. The initiative had to come from God. There was little left of faith in the two shattered disciples who left Jerusalem for Emmaus. But Jesus prayed for them. They recognised him as he blessed the bread, presiding at the first Christian Eucharist. It was not their remembrance of him, but a reunion with the risen Lord who remembered them and invited them.
Tonight, in this most holy night, Christ is preparing the feast. He prays for us that our pride, our envy and all our sinfulness will not prevail. He warns and teaches us of the dangers, as he did that night, and he assures us, whatever happens, that when we turn back to him, he will remember us. He has overcome the world. Tonight we can sing ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’.
Tom Ambrose is a priest living in Cambridge.
The Trustees of Anglican Mainstream, whose names are listed here, have issued this: The Ministry Continues: A Position Statement from the Trustees of Anglican Mainstream.
The following extract is only part of a much longer statement:
…6. We well understand that an appeal to the Bible will not in itself carry the day in our contemporary secular society. We will therefore continue to deploy four additional arguments which demonstrate why the 2013 Act is a serious mistake in public policy which needs to be reversed.
- Marriage – between a man and a woman – is good for human flourishing, an aspect of God’s common grace for the whole of humanity irrespective of people’s faith position. Public policy should be directed towards supporting marriage, not undermining it.
- Homes centred upon such marriages provide the best context for the bringing up of children, so that they can know the love and support of a mother and a father. Public policy should be directed towards supporting such homes for the benefit of children, whose needs should have priority.
- There is well-founded evidence of the physical and emotional harm which can be a consequence of sexual relations between persons of the same sex. Footnote 1
- Scientific enquiry into sexuality has shown that, rather than being a given, it is fluid, the product of a combination of factors including particularly nurture and experience Footnote 2 [and see also] J Michael Bailey. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78 (3), March 2000, pages 524-536; M Frisch, A Hviid. ‘Childhood Correlates of Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriages: A National Cohort Study of Two Million Danes’, Archives of Sexual Behaviour 35 (5), October 2006, pages 533-547; The Social Organization of Sexuality, University of Chicago Press, 1994, pages 307, 309; Female Bisexuality From Adolescence to Adulthood: Results From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study Developmental Psychology 2008, Vol. 44, No. 1, 5–14
Updated again Monday evening
There are numerous media reports today about this event.
Savi Hensman has this analysis: Another crisis for Church of England, newspapers warn
Andrew Brown has this view: The gay Anglican wedding exposes a creaking compromise within the church
This week’s Church Times carries a special report compiled by Tim Wyatt on sexual violence in Africa: First the rape. Then the stigma. Now the healing?
“One of the Janjaweed pushed me to the ground. He forced my clothes off, and they raped me, one by one. I did not have any energy or force against them.
“They used me. I started bleeding. It was so painful. I could not stand up… I was sick for seven days.”
This is the harrowing testimony of a 13-year-old girl from western Sudan. It is not an isolated incident. Starting in 2003, the government-backed Janjaweed militia terrorised locals across the region in what appeared to be a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the non-Arab population.
From the beginning, rape was used alongside guns and machetes as a weapon of war…
The main report is available to all, but subscribers can also read the Revd Dr Nyambura Njoroge writing on the gender debate in Africa Teaching men all about women and this leader comment Sexual violence.
The report mentions the efforts of several organisations working with the victims of rape, and who are attempting to change the culture and circumstances that contribute to sexual violence. Here are some relevant websites.
In the early Church there were people called ‘Gnostics’ who were eager to dilute the humanity of Jesus. For them it was far too vulgar a notion that the Son of God might actually have died on a cross. Some even claimed that angels did a last-minute switch so that it was really Simon of Cyrene who hung on the tree, presumably with a chorus of angelic sniggering. This is immoral nonsense.
The truth is that neither cutting Jesus down to size as a human being nor ‘pushing him upstairs’ as a glorified angel is any answer to the suffering of the world and our need of redemption. What eternal difference at all can the exemplary life of one pious Jew make to people being bombed and terrorized in Afghanistan, Syria, the Congo or South Sudan? Answer: precisely none. Jesus was made higher than any angel to be our flesh and blood Saviour. He came not primarily to show us how to lead moral lives. It is true that he did this; but much more important, he showed us once and for all how to die that we might live in eternity.
For Jesus, his entry into Jerusalem was not a triumph like that staged for a Roman emperor. It was the vindication of the truth of who he was. The scene is set for the drama of our salvation to be played out in the city where the holy name of God dwelt. Already the forces gathered against Jesus even as he is fêted by a crowd. Plenty of those who shouted ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ later shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Some just came to stand and stare, wanting to be entertained. But Jesus had not come for his moment of fame. The only way to understand and follow him is through the Cross. The Christ who gives meaning to our world today is the crucified Son of God who shares the humanity of every starving baby in South Sudan. We have hope not just of eternal life later, but hope in the struggles and challenges of today because we have no burden that he does not bear alongside us through his sacrifice. All the crucifying choices we may have to make as human beings are caught up in Jesus’s tears in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Nonetheless, the question persists and propels us into the mystery of suffering and apparent meaninglessness. Some Christians play a kind of roulette wheel of prayer whereby if you are really, really a Christian, you will be healed or set free. Of course it is God’s will to heal us; but sometimes that is the healing of a good death and, sometimes, mysteriously, the answer is ‘no’. I have no easy answer to the mystery of suffering; but I know that God has not abandoned us. All that we see in Christ broken and crucified reveals the love and the majesty of the Blessed Trinity who reaches out to each one of us.
The God worth believing in is the God whose Son enters Jerusalem knowing that he is going to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. This is the God whose glory is so great that it is not diminished by being laid aside for our salvation. This is the God who is more loving than love, so that everything is poured out for the world with nothing ever held back. This is the Spirit who is closer than close, who faithfully remains with us even when sin brings darkness and freedom is abused by pride. This is the God who is greater than great, more loving than love, and closer than close. And if we are to be followers of Jesus and not just bystanders looking for cheap thrills and easy answers, a renewed commitment is invited from each of us this Holy Week to be martyrs.
The saints of Iona belonged to a tradition that looked for martyrdom even if not in the finality of death. They invented an extra kind of martyrdom: they left their homes and crossed the seas to carry the Gospel to unknown lands. They called this a ‘white’ as opposed to a ‘red’ martyrdom. We are invited to be white martyrs this Holy Week.
It is this little martyrdom, this pilgrim journey to the Cross with Jesus this week that will open us to the delight of forgiveness which carries Hosannas from our lips to our hearts. This little death will reveal life to us, even if we are suffering ourselves. These steps to Golgotha will enlarge our sympathies and open our eyes to see Jesus more clearly; not only in this holy sacrifice but also in the faces of the people we do not like or do not care to know. Only at the foot of the Cross will we find out who we truly are and what we most wonderfully might become. There we shall be taught again that every suffering can be redeemed even when it is not taken away.
Stephen Conway is the Bishop of Ely
Updated Sunday morning (scroll down for new item)
Kelvin Holdsworth Understanding the Justin Welby Radio Phone-In Controversy. One extract:
…It looks as though the Archbishop is trying to set up a “reconciliation process” when he has already decided that the best outcome would be for the church to adopt a policy of blessing gay couples in Civil Partnerships but not affirming anything to do with same-sex couples and marriage. The trouble with this is that it won’t do for those who have come to the view that gay people and straight people should be dealt with equally because they are fundamentally equal in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God.
The suspicion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury and many others with him, is trying to address this question on the presumption that gay people are in some way disabled (or worse, dysfunctional) straight people. Does he believe that gay people just can’t help themselves and so something must be done for them? It may be to misjudge him terribly, but it feels very much like it.
The reality is that those who have campaigned long and hard for marriage to be opened up to same-sex couples have drunk deeply at the Civil Rights well of justice. They (we!) believe gay people and straight people should be treated equally because of a fundamental existential equality between gay people and straight people.
Any hope that the church could have satisfied people by blessing civil partnerships but refusing to affirm marriages contracted by gay and lesbian couples is 10 years out of date. Had the churches affirmed Civil Partnerships in the first place then they might be in a better place to affirm them now. The argument can be endlessly made that Civil Partnerships and Marriage confer the same rights. The trouble is, most people now accept that Rosa Parks was right. Even if the bus does get you to the same destination, travelling at the front of the bus and travelling at the back of the bus are not the same thing…
Jim Naughton reports on the North American trip: Welby’s assertion on massacre follows him “far, far away in America” and then offers this analysis:
…The grave in Bor [South Sudan] does not seem to be the mass grave that the archbishop was referring to in the radio broadcast in the United Kingdom last week when he initially stated that the victims had been murdered due to events “far, far away in America.” Indeed, the ENS story carries a “correction” that reads: “a correction was made to this article to remove reference to the location of the mass grave where Welby said he had been told Christians were murdered out fear that they might become homosexual because of Western influence.”
Welby had previously said that he would not reveal the site of the mass grave he spoke of on the radio to protect the community. His refusal to give further details on the massacre also means that his claims cannot be independently evaluated, and that his analysis of why the massacre in question occurred cannot be challenged.
Meanwhile, The Church Times has published a story in which it says that Sudanese bishops “confirmed … that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings.”
However, one of the three Sudanese bishops interviewed disputes this assertion and the quotation used in the headline of the story is not spoken by any of the bishops whom the Church Times interviewed.
Additionally, one of the bishops is said to have “verified” Welby’s experience at a mass grave that Welby has not said was in Sudan, and which at least one British religion reporter has placed in Nigeria.
One can appreciate Welby’s concern for the safety of Christians in Africa, and some readers may even be persuaded that it is necessary to discriminate against LGBT people in the West to save lives in Africa, but Welby cannot be given a pass for introducing 12-15 year -old right wing talking point into the debate over LGBT equality as though it were a proven fact, and then refusing to provide the details that would allow for a critical examination of his claim. (Secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches.)
In his radio interview last week, the archbishop said: “It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.”
Nothing he has said since then indicates that he doesn’t believe this to be the case. But everything he has said indicates he is unwilling to actually defend this assertion. That’s dirty pool.
Mark Oakley wrote a letter to the editor of the Guardian How the Church of England can tackle anti-gay violence
Archbishop Welby is right to understand that what is said by the Church of England transmits messages (Welby links killings in Africa to gay marriage, 5 April). The prejudice that kills Christians thought to be gay-friendly is the same as that which kills LGBT people themselves in increasing global homophobic crimes from Russia to Nigeria. Whether failing to support gay marriage here because of the risk it places African Christians under is shrewd or simply handing power to the oppressor can be debated. I am convinced that if such support isn’t forthcoming, those who commit acts of anti-Christian violence are likely to find other reasons to do so. However, one urgent move is now essential – to speak out in support of decriminalising homosexuality across the Commonwealth and wider world. To do this in a joint statement with Pope Francis would be a powerful communication of the church’s non-negotiable belief in God-given human dignity and underline the clear distinction between morality and criminality – just as Archbishop Ramsey recognised when he supported decriminalisation in this country. It would also help reduce the abuse and murder of LGBT folk that criminalisation is perceived to legitimate. As Alice Walker wrote, “no person is your friend who demands your silence”.
Canon Mark Oakley
Bishop Gene Robinson writes What the Archbishop of Canterbury Should Have Said About Gay Rights
…So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.
Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”
N T Wright writes for ABC Religion and Ethics On Palm Sunday, Jesus Rides into the Perfect Storm.
Archdruid Eileen of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley writes about the Church of England: Dying on Its Feet.
Alan Jacobs is interviewed by Christianity Today: The Book of Common Prayer Is Still a Big Deal.
Andrew Brown at The Guardian asks Is the internet really killing religion in the US?
Geoff Thompson writes for ABC Religion and Ethics Not Nearly Radical Enough: The Irony of John Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’.
Jonathan Clatworthy writes for Modern Church: Hell: the worst theory ever.
Kathleen Ward blogs on The problem with church growth.
Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that Forgiveness is not something you feel – it is something that you do.
The Guardian has a regular column What I’m really thinking and today it’s the vicar’s wife.
It has prompted this response from Archdruid Eileen of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley: A Vicar’s Wife’s Life.
John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, has announce that he will retire on 31 October 2014: Bishop John announces his retirement.
My list of current and forthcoming vacancies in diocesan sees is here.
Updated Saturday morning
Church of England press release:
Response to Government consultation on future of civil partnership
11 April 2014
The Church of England has submitted its response to the Government’s consultation document on the future of civil partnership. The 12 week consultation period opened in January and closes next Thursday (17 April).
The response, which can be found here, has been considered and approved by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops’ Standing Committee as well as by both Archbishops.
Details of the Government consultation can be found here:
The Church Times has reported this under the headline: Keep civil partnerships, Bishops tell Government.
The Church Times has a news report by Madeleine Davies ‘We face attacks if C of E marriage policy changes’
BISHOPS in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings…
On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, verified this report. “Gay relationships in the Church of England would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,” said. “Secondly, there would be continued violence against Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the communities.”
Any change would lead to a rift, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. “The Church of England blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to break relationship with the Church of England.
“As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the body affects the whole body as well.”
Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together.
“It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.”
But the online version of this story has been updated since the paper edition went to press, with this additional passage, expressing a slightly different view:
On Thursday, the Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, said that, if the Church of England blessed gay relationships, Christians in South Sudan would “go back and worship their traditional beliefs and Gods [rather] than worshipping the true God. . . Islam will grow rapidly in South Sudan because of the pagan believing on same-sex marriage.”
He argued, however, that it would not lead to reprisals in South Sudan, which would take a different path to that pursued in the West.
“We have been described by English people and American that we are a rude community . . . The question now, is who is rude now? Is it the one who is claiming his or her right? The one who is forcing people to accept his behavior?”
The leader column, which is behind the paywall, includes the following comment:
…But gay people are victims, too, and Archbishop Welby’s comments on LBC (News) involved the Church of England in their plight. It is unfair to accuse him, as some have, of allowing the C of E’s policy on same-sex marriage to be dictated by evil men. The nearest parallel is with hostage-takers. You do nothing to upset them, all the while resisting the desire to appease them. It is an agonising situation, felt keenly by the Archbishop, despite his ambivalence, to put it no more strongly, on the subject of same-sex relationships.
For all that, it is unlikely that the Church of England’s restraint will be matched by the murderous militias in Sudan, the DRC, and elsewhere. It assumes an unlikely degree of patience and sophistication on the part of the gunmen to suppose that they might understand the nature of the Church’s relationship with the state, its tolerance of principled dissent among its clergy, and the lack of a juridical bond between the different provinces of the Communion. The assumption that Christianity and Western decadence are cut from the same cloth has long plagued the Church’s relationships with its neighbours in Africa, the Middle East, and countries such as China…
Updated Thursday evening
The Archbishop of Canterbury is this week visiting Canada and the USA.
See Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Anglicans in Canada and the USA
From Canada, the Anglican Journal reports: Welby explains gays and violence in Africa remarks. An extract:
…Q: Were you in fact blaming the death of Christians in parts of Africa on the acceptance of gay marriage in America?
A: I was careful not to be too specific because that would pin down where that happened and that would put the community back at risk. I wouldn’t use the word “blame”— that’s a misuse of words in the context. One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said; they mostly imagined what they thought I said…It was not only imagination, it was a million miles away from what I said.
Q: So what exactly were you saying?
A: What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the church but around the world…And, this is not mere consequentialism; I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world. Now that will be more true in some places than in others. It depends on your links. We need to learn to live as a global church in a local context and never to imagine that we’re just a local church. There is no such thing…
The Anglican Journal also reports Welby & Hiltz discuss issues of sexuality, reconciliation
When Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby met with the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, he was “very interested” in the work of the Anglican Church of Canada’s commission on the marriage canon because of the reality that the Church of England will have to wrestle with the issue of same-sex marriage following its legislation in the U.K.
“Notwithstanding the declared position of the Church of England at this moment, he [Welby] is very conscious, of course, that there’s going to be a fair amount of pressure from within the Church of England to at least have some discussion around that [same-sex marriage],” said Hiltz in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “He hoped that we would stay in touch over the work of the commission, [because] inside the Church of England, they will need to have the same conversation.”
Welby was also very interested in the issue of reconciliation as it relates to the history of the Canadian church’s relations with indigenous people and its involvement in the Indian Residential School System. “As he said now, in the Church of England, things are coming to light in terms of abuse in church schools…they’re kind of at that early stage,” and Welby wanted to know how the Canadian church responded. “They’re compelled [to respond] and they will not stand in anyone’s way,” said Hiltz, adding that Welby was interested in the church’s 1993 apology to former residential school students for the harm and pain inflicted through the schools.
On the issue of the marriage canon, Hiltz said Welby was “very appreciative” that the commission will conduct a broad consultation across the Anglican Communion and with its ecumenical partners on the matter of changing the Canadian Anglican church’s marriage canon (church law) to allow same-sex marriage…
The archbishop then moved to Oklahoma, where he delivered this speech: Archbishop Justin’s speech at the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace conference, Oklahoma, USA
…During the news conference, Welby noted that he had made similar comments in the past and that he was trying to say that “at its heart is the issue that we’re a global church.”
“The Anglican Communion is a global church. And that wherever we speak, whether it’s here or in Africa, or in Asia or in any of the 143 countries in which we are operating, in which there are Anglicans, we never speak exclusively to ourselves but we speak in a way that is heard widely around the world,” he said. “And so the point I was making, because the question was essentially about why don’t we just go ahead and do gay marriages, we have a profound disagreement within the Church of England about the right thing to do, whether to perform gay marriages or have blessing of same sex marriages where the marriage has taken place in the civil system.”
Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales on March 29. Parliament by a comfortable majority passed The Marriage (Same-sex Couples Act) in July 2013.
The Church of England is “starting two years of facilitated conversation about this and we are not going simply to jump to a conclusion, to preempt that conversation in any direction at all but we need to spend time listening to each other, listening to the voices around the communion,” Welby said.
The example he gave during the call-in program of his experience at the site of the mass grave “was of a particular example some years back which had had a great impact on my own thinking,” he said during the news conference…
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published detailed guidance to explain the equality and human rights implications of this legislation. The guidance covers 5 main areas: the law; public authorities; the workplace and service delivery; religious organisations; and school education.
The material can all be found via this page.
Law & Religion UK has published an article summarising the key points.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has issued a statement on this. As Law & Religion UK reports (scroll down):
St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society and the EHRC
On 28 March the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a statement on the successful appeal by St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society to the Scottish Charities Appeal Panel against the direction of the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator. The nub of the statement (downloadable from here) is as follows:
“The EHRC notes that OSCR has now decided not to appeal the SCAP decision. The EHRC has no locus to appeal the decision itself, as only OSCR and the relevant charity have a right of appeal. The EHRC has however carefully considered the SCAP decision as it relates to discrimination law. The decision is not easy to follow, but it is the EHRC’s view that SCAP is mistaken in its understanding of the meaning of direct and indirect discrimination.
The Commission has carefully noted SCAP’s finding of fact, based on evidence provided by St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society during the hearing of the appeal, that: “In principle [St Margaret’s Children and Family Service] would consider an application to be considered as adoptive parents from a couple in a civil partnership.”
The Commission has therefore written to St Margaret’s advising it to ensure that its published policies and practices properly reflect its stated position that adoption applications from couples in civil partnerships will be considered in the same way as those from married couples; and to ensure that such applications are indeed considered equally. This will give gay couples wishing to adopt the confidence that they will be treated without unlawful discrimination”.
And Law & Religion UK adds the following comment:
The EHRC is obviously entitled to its opinion, though we wonder about the propriety of an agency of Government criticising a judicial decision: separation of powers, anyone? More fundamentally, the statement does prompt us to ask why, if SCAP got the law so wrong, OSCR didn’t appeal. And the only obvious answer that comes to mind is that OSCR is a lot less sure of its ground than the EHRC appears to be.
Updated Monday evening
Here are two articles which are supportive of the line taken by Archbishop Justin Welby on Friday:
Ian Paul has written What did Justin Welby say about gays and violence in Africa?
Andrew Goddard has written a long article The Archbishop, Gay Marriage and Violence: What are the issues?
The latter goes on to consider in some detail how the issues raised in the interview should be considered in the event that the Church of England, as a result of the “post-Pilling conversations” does eventually decide to make some change in its present official positions.
Here are two more articles:
Two more diocesan synods have voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation: Blackburn on Thursday and Southwell & Nottingham today. In each case the vote was in favour. 27 diocesan synods have now voted in favour and none against.
The next vote is in Worcester on 30 April.
Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.
Updated again Sunday 6 pm
Andrew Brown has written at CiF belief Welby’s argument against gay marriage has strength. But we can’t yield to moral blackmail
…Archbishops are not supposed to be Peter Singer-style utilitarians. And it seems to me that there are two things wrong with the Welby position from the point of view of Christian ethics. The first is surely that, while we have the right to make our own decisions about whether or not to yield to moral blackmail, we have no right to make them for other adults.
You might object that an archbishop is there to make decisions for other people, so different rules apply. But he is also there to set an example. And this leads to the second Christian objection to this kind of blackmail. Christians are called on to do what is right, and to trust that God will bring good out of it even if evil immediately follows. Failing to do what you believe is right is, in some lights, a kind of blasphemy.
Welby does not, in fact, believe in gay marriage, so he’s off that particular hook. And he has already said enough in favour of gay people to disgust the Ugandan and Nigerian churches. I don’t think you can accuse him of cowardice on this issue, even if he’s wrong…
…I do not doubt Justin Welby’s experience. As noted in a previous blog post I have lived in a country which criminalizes homosexuality. Changing Attitude and other organizations have consistently flagged up how very dangerous it is to be gay in the majority world.
In this blog post I want to examine the underlying logic of the Archbishop’s claims and question and problematize them. I apologize if my reasoning seems blunt and crude. I am currently fasting as part of EndHungerFast and my mind is not working at full tilt. Equally, I am very open to comments which help sharpen up my thinking in this area…
Susan Russell Archbishop of Canterbury chooses pathetic over prophetic
Claire George has an article which in addition to her comments includes a transcript of part of the broadcast: [Opinion] What did Justin Welby say about Africa and Gay people?
The Bishop of California, Marc Andrus wrote A word on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements
Kelvin Holdsworth You condemn it, Archbishop
This article is by the person who asked the archbishop the question that generated so much coverage of the programme: Rebel Rev lives up to her name
…I managed to get out just in time and asked the Archbishop the last question of the show. In a nutshell I was asking why, as priests, we couldn’t bless same sex couples and use our own conscience like happened when the remarriage of divorcees came about in church. This could be the case while we waited for a synodical process to go through that could change the rules to allow equal marriage in church.
I was shocked and saddened by Justin’s response. Much has been publicised and blogged about Justin’s answer by theologians and people far and wide in the Anglican Communion. As the person who asked the question and a bog standard priest in the Church of England I feel extremely let down by my institution and the Archbishop. He said that we couldn’t move forward with a more liberal agenda in the UK without it having a devastating effect on people in Africa. He told a story about standing at a mass grave and had been told the people were killed because of the liberal changes in America. That’s like wondering why a woman in a violent relationship who is murdered didn’t leave, instead of asking the murderer why he killed her. Violence always needs to be condemned. The Archbishop didn’t do this. Murder and homophobia are the issues, not liberalism in the UK. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandhi had given in to the violence and not challenged the marginalisation and oppression at the salt mines? How different would the world be if Wilberforce wasn’t listened to because the slaves might have been further abused? What would have happened if the civil rights movement hadn’t progressed because people were scared of the violence of the KKK? Women are killed and maimed today because they are being educated. Just ask Malala. Does that mean we shouldn’t educate girls? Apartheid was atrocious in its outpouring of violence. Should we not have campaigned because more black people would have been killed? What Justin said put the power in the hands of the oppressors and those who wield violence.
Let’s be clear, it’s not only Africa that kills people because of homophobia. I live in London, a very cosmopolitan city, yet my neighbour was killed in a homophobic attack. I had a friend who took his own life because he couldn’t cope with coming to terms with his sexuality in the face of homophobia from his family, friends and church. There are many people hurt and trapped by homophobia and a lack of acceptance in the UK…
Archdruid Eileen offers us Do not Feed the Organist and other useful signs.
Gillan Scott of God & Politics in the UK asks Where will we be in 2024? – Setting out a vision for the future of the Church.
Ben Martin blogs about Experiencing a Bishops Advisory Panel Rejection.
Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph: Bach and the icon of Jesus’s face.
Updated Sunday morning
A full transcript of the broadcast is now available: ARCHBISHOP’S PHONE-IN ON LBC RADIO: TRANSCRIPT.
Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop answers questions on LBC radio phone-in
Archbishop Justin spent an hour answering questions on LBC’s radio phone-in this morning, tackling topics ranging from same-sex marriage to the nature of God.
Listen again to the full programme here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGdBTMx1Vgo.
LBC Radio has this: Archbishop: Gay Marriage Could Mean Murder Of Christians. Embedded in that page is a six-minute clip of the part of the interview that is attracting the most media attention.
And also this: Archbishop Confronted by Angry Ann Widdecombe.
Guardian Andrew Brown African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby
Church Times Madeleine Davies Welby links gay marriage with African killings
Anglican Communion News Service Abp Welby: Anglican Communion sexuality decisions can mean African Christians suffer
Today’s Church Times contains a substantial article by him entitled Gender: what difference does it really make?
SAME-SEX marriage has come to England and Wales, and in response Churches are invoking the term “complementarity”. Before using a word, we should think about it carefully. What might complementarity actually look like, in either same- or opposite-sex relationships?
I should like to offer some philosophical tools for thinking it through. Philosophy need not lead us into abstraction, but can help us to understand real lives and relationships. I also want to consider how complementarity features in marriage: not so much, here, within a marriage, but - more provocatively - between different kinds of marriage…
His recent book Why Sacraments? also contains some material on same-sex marriage.
Somewhere buried beneath the readings pressed into the service of Mothering Sunday last week, are another set for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. In any given year these readings get obscured by the dust generated by the stampede to pay homage to a festival shaped more by the greetings card industry than the ways of God.
This year the Lent 4 gospel was the account of a blind man being healed in the fourth gospel. A blind man encounters Jesus. Typically, the man’s religious or faith credentials are not known, they are irrelevant. Jesus meets him at a point of need and heals him, although we are later told that this happened on the Sabbath, when religious law forbids any acts of work. God, Jesus says, is glorified when people are met at their point of need.
The man, having recovered his sight, is understandably jubilant and people marvel at his transformation. He is brought to the religious authorities. The man identifies his healer, but the authorities claim that this man could not have effected a healing, as he does not have the right religious credentials and in fact is a doubtful character. This is a more firmly held truth than the evidence of the man looking right back at them. Maybe he wasn’t born blind, but his parents are brought to witness that he was. The man is asked again, in order to have the opportunity to tell the story in a way that fits with religious authority, and he can’t. There is even a twist in the conversation when the man suggests that the religious authorities become Jesus’s followers.
For those of us who belong to formal religious organisations, and especially we who hold positions of leadership, there is a constant temptation to allow religious truth-claims to surround the place where we believe God to be, and we become the gatekeepers to this place. It sounds absurd if it is stated as baldly as that, yet it is one of the risks we run when we set up an organisation in the name of God: the interests of the organisation can quickly eclipse the interests of God.
Only recently, a colleague of mine, knowing that God is glorified when people are met at their point of need, wanted to transform the nave of their church into a night-shelter for the homeless. You can easily imagine the heated debates in their church council about the building as a heritage monument, about the risk of vandalism, about health and safety considerations and, of course, the very ready but unstated fear of being polluted by contact with the unclean.
When I was first taught the fourth gospel at university, our tutor insisted that it was written that way for the stage. Reading this story I can readily envisage the comic effect of a man clearly in receipt of the intervention of God, being denied by the authorities who claim that they alone are the ones to adjudicate authentic divine activity. The message is a salutary one for those of us running religious organisations. We need constantly to be brought back to the question of how we glorify the God we believe in. How is our organisation configured to do that? Is there anything we value more highly than doing this work of God, of meeting humanity at its point of need? If there is, whose glory is it serving?
Even in this late part of Lent, we are being asked the questions which will help root out what keeps us from doing what we claim we are called to do.
Andrew Spurr is Vicar of Evesham in the diocese of Worcester
The report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
The Ma Whea? report and a précis are available.
Ma Whea? Report and précis
The above document includes a report from the Doctrine Commission, which is also available separately.
Doctrine Commission Report and précis
And there is this article on the Anglican Taonga website.
Ma Whea? Report released
The long-awaited report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released.
TAONGA NEWS | 04 APR 2014
The long-awaited report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released.
The report, which is the fruit of 15 months’ work by five eminent New Zealand citizens, lists 10 options to inform the General Synod debate at Waitangi next month.
The options range from a more conservative statement about who can be blessed and ordained (ie a firmer statement than the canons now prescribe) through various degrees of change and liberalisation.
The options are:
Option A: Affirming Traditional Understanding
Option B: Preserving Present Circumstances
Option C: Bishops to Determine What Equals Right Relationships
Option D: Delegate to Diocesan Synods/Te Runanganui Power to Determine Right Relationships
Option E: Adopt a New Understanding
Option F: The Anglican Church Having Two Views
Option G: Dual Episcopacy
Option H: Planned Dismembering
Option I: Anglican Church to Add a New Rite of Blessing by Priests of Those in a Same Sex Relationship.
Option J: Adopt a Two Year Period of Focussed Discussion within Church Communities with a View to Making a Decision in (say) 2016
(These options are unpacked in a precis here. The unedited options can be read in the Ma Whea Commission report, which can be downloaded below. The list of options begins on P38.)
Ma Whea Report_2 final.pdf 1.43 MB
It is also important to note that none of these pathways is recommended – because in the words of Michael Hughes, this church’s General Secretary, “that is rightly a decision for the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui to make.”
The Ma Whea Commission (full title: Ma Whea?:Mei Fe Ki Fe?: Where To? Anglican General Synod Commission on same gender blessings and ordinations) was chaired by Sir Anand Satyanand, a lawyer who served as judge and ombudsman before being appointed as New Zealand’s 19th Governor General.
His fellow commissioners were Dame Judith Potter (a High Court Judge), Emeritus Professor Sir Tamati Reedy (Educationist), Mrs Mele Taliai (a Tonga New Zealander lawyer) and Professor Paul Trebilco (Professor of New Testament Studies).
The Ma Whea? Commission Report summarises 199 submissions on the ordination and blessing of people in same-sex relationships.
It summarises the biblical and theological work done by our church from the missiological, doctrinal, canonical, cultural and pastoral points of view. And in the light of Anglican ecclesiology, it considers ways forward.
The Ma Whea? report contains a number of appendices – including another significant and long-awaited piece of work, the report of the Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions.
This Commission was asked by the General Synod Standing Committee to look into the theological rationale for the possible blessing and marriage of people in permanent, faithful same-gender relationships.
“This report,” says Michael Hughes, “contains a full and robust theological rationale to support such blessings and marriages – and a thorough and equally robust assessment of that rationale, including a rebuttal of certain aspects.”
It does not recommend a position of this church on these matters. That too, says Michael Hughes, “is rightly the responsibility of the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui.”
(A precis of the Doctrine Commission report can be read here. The full report begins on P62 of the appendices to the Ma Whea? Report)
The Ma Whea? Commission was set up before the New Zealand Parliament passed its marriage equality legislation, and the Commission’s terms of reference were not changed to take account of that.
The Doctrine Commission, on the other hand, did its work in the wake of the law change, and it considers a theological rationale for the marriage of people in permanent, faithful same-gender relationships.
The Doctrine Commission’s full report can be downloaded below:
Doctrine Commission.pdf 876.81 kB
The GSSC commends both the Ma Whea? and Doctrine Commission reports to the church for prayerful consideration and discussion.
And through its General Secretary it has expressed “its deep gratitude to the members of both Commissions, for the extensive work they have undertaken to produce these two careful and comprehensive pieces of scholarship, which deserve to have profound and far-reaching impact on the life of the church.”
updated Thursday and Saturday
The Church in Wales has published some of the papers for next month’s meeting of its Governing Body, including three under the heading Same Sex Marriages.
The main paper is a report by the Standing Doctrinal Commission entitled The Church in Wales & Same Sex Partnerships. There is also an Executive Summary of the report. The executive summary is reproduced below the fold.
Finally there is a Procedural Note explaining how the Governing Body will have an initial discussion of the report at its meeting in April.
The procedural note referred to a number of background papers from the Standing Doctrinal Commission. These are now available.
Marriage as a Sacrament
Sexuality and the Image of God
The concept of Flourishing in Relation to Marriage as a Good, and the Question of Gay Partnerships
Same Sex Marriage – Biblical Considerations
Fundamental Scriptural Approaches
David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has published this useful article: Same-sex partnerships and the Church in Wales.
Report from the Church in Wales Standing Doctrinal Commission
The Church in Wales and Same-Sex Partnerships.
The report sets out initially the history of marriage as the background to the discussion of same-sex partnerships. In particular this section looks at marriage in Roman times; the Jewish understanding of marriage at the time of Jesus; the early church’s teaching, with its emphasis on celibacy, and the fact that not until the fourth century A.D. did a priest or bishop bless the couple getting married. Not until the thirteenth century, as well, was marriage seen as a sacrament. The report discusses the teaching of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer on marriage, and the crucial importance of the 1754 Marriage Act in England and Wales. Here, for the first time, marriage was only legally valid if performed in an Anglican church by an Anglican cleric. However by 1836 marriage in a registry office was allowed as a concession to non-conformists. The growth of cohabitation and same-sex civil partnerships is discussed, and finally the 2013 Same-Sex Marriage act is mentioned, which becomes law in March 2014, and sets the context for the discussion of the report.
The next section of the report (paragraphs 31-51) discusses the implications for the church of the scientific debate about sexual orientation. In particular, the final three paragraphs of this section argue that science should not determine the mind of the church, but there is a need to reflect on the growing scientific evidence that homosexual orientation should not be regarded as “a pathology but as a natural characteristic which, for a small but significant proportion of the population, is acquired before birth”. What is the moral and theological significance of this fact?
Therefore the report proceeds to discuss the place of scripture and doctrine (paragraphs 52-4). This section is brief, because the lengthy papers on this topic are on the Church in Wales’ website. What is important is that the church engages in a search for holiness for itself before God. The report then considers three options for the Church in Wales. One is a restatement of the traditional position, that marriage is only between a man and a woman (paragraphs 56-77). The second option is the blessing of same-sex partnerships, which is now allowed in some Anglican dioceses in Canada and the United States (paragraphs 78-102). Thirdly there is the option of marriage between a couple irrespective of sexual difference (paragraphs 103-136). Finally the report ends with an emphasis on what a pastoral response would look like.
The Archbishops’ Council has issued this press release:
Archbishops’ Council hearing on home for Bishop of Bath and Wells
31 March 2014
The Archbishops’ Council has appointed a committee to hear an objection raised by the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath and Wells to a Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence of the diocesan bishop.
The committee will meet at the Palace in Wells from 28-29 April. It will consider the grounds of objection, and all relevant circumstances, to the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the bishop’s residence from the Palace in Wells to The Old Rectory in Croscombe. It is for the Commissioners to satisfy the committee that the objection should not be upheld. If it fails to do so then the move will not go ahead.
The committee members are all members of the Archbishops’ Council; Mrs Mary Chapman (Chair), Mr Philip Fletcher and the Venerable Cherry Vann.
The committee will visit both the Palace and the proposed new house in Croscombe and hear evidence from the Bishop’s Council and the Church Commissioners. Both parties may call witnesses. It has also invited the new Bishop of Bath and Wells, Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the Chapter of Wells Cathedral and the Palace Trust to make representations. The meeting will not be open to the public.
The Archbishops’ Council is required under the regulations relating to section 7 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 to hear the objection. It is the first time that an objection has been raised under Section 7.
The decision of the committee is final and the decision and full reasons will be announced at an agreed date, to be confirmed, after the meeting.
Benny Hazlehurst has written Why the Bishops have got it wrong…
As the first same-sex marriages are conducted in England and Wales, much of the country is celebrating with the happy couples, but there are a significant group of LGB&T people who are being excluded from that joy by the Church of England.
The Bishops’ Valentine’s Day guidance on same-sex marriage was a shock to the vast majority of LGB&T clergy in the Church of England.
While apparently being magnanimous to lay people who get married to someone of the same gender, offering ‘pastoral provision’ for informal prayers and full access to the sacraments, the guidance also prohibited existing clergy in same-sex partnerships from getting married and said that it would not ordain anyone in a same-sex marriage.
At the stroke of a pen, it reintroduced a prohibition on marriage for some priests in the CofE, opened the gates to ecclesiastical guerrilla warfare in dioceses, and further distanced the House of Bishops from a substantial proportion of their clergy and people, not to mention the population at large…
The House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate on Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England) recently. The Hansard transcript is available here, and there is a video recording here.
WATCH issued this press release:
Westminster Hall Debate: Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England). Thursday 20 March
“I hope our debate has sent a message to the 4,200 ordained women that we greatly value what they do. The Church of England needs to embrace the gifts that men and women bring”, Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden.
WATCH congratulates Caroline Spelman MP and other Members of Parliament for taking part in the Westminster Hall debate on the role of ordained women in the Church of England over the past 20 years. Ordained women across the country will be affirmed to hear the many appreciative comments made on their contribution within Church and Society that has ensured that the priestly role has become “Transformational”. We hope all ordained women will welcome the recognition given in the debate that their work and ministry now seen as, “a valued, valuable and wonderful part of church life”. WATCH also concurs with the comment that much still needs to be done to ensure that the glass ceiling does not remain in place.
In the debate hope was expressed that the proposed legislation coming before the General Synod in July will go through. We welcome the assurance given by the Second Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, that all efforts will be made for the Measure to be fully properly considered, approved and passed into law well before Christmas. Sir Tony also offered the hope that we will see the first women bishops consecrated shortly thereafter.
We appreciated his reading from the New Testament showing the loyalty of the women who stood witness to Christ’s crucifixion, and how Mary Magdalene was the one sent to the disciples to tell of his resurrection. In this context, we welcome and fully endorse his comment that the last 20 years have demonstrated that women priests are well able to proclaim the risen Christ throughout the land. By their ministry they have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to the life of the Church, community and country.
WATCH welcomes the appreciation of its long years of campaigning work, together with those supporters in Deanery, Diocesan and General Synods who wish to see women enter the Episcopate.
We concur with the commendation of The Archbishop of Canterbury for the “urgent and effective manner” in which he has worked for the new legislation since his appointment.
Sally Barnes coordinator of the WATCH Parliamentary Task Force said,
“WATCH would like to thank those Members of Parliament who took part in this debate for the many affirming comments made from their personal contacts with ordained women. We are all heartened to know that after so long the value and worth of their vocations have been so emphatically recognised, along with their spiritual, pastoral insights and gifts. We look forward to the same recognition being given to those women who will be appointed as bishops and to the time when the Church of England will have finally broken the stained glass ceiling of discrimination. Then we, with so many others, will rejoice fully.”
Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail reported that Church is ‘running out of men to be bishops’: Labour MP uses debate on women being consecrated to says Anglican talent pool is drying up.
WATCH and GRAS have welcomed the approval of the women in the episcopate legislation by a majority of diocesan synods.
WATCH issued this press release.
WATCH encouraged by Diocesan Synod support for new women bishops legislation
Over the weekend five more diocesan synods met and voted, overwhelmingly in favour, on the new women bishops legislation. 25 dioceses have now voted and agreed on the legislation meaning it can now be returned back to General Synod in July 2014 for final approval.
Adding all the votes together for the 25 dioceses which have now voted gives a 94% majority, compared with a 77% majority from the votes of all 44 dioceses for the previous legislation in 2011.
Hilary Cotton, chair of WATCH said, “We are hugely encouraged by the voting so far. In almost all the dioceses a mere handful of laypeople have voted against the legislation. With this extraordinarily high level of support, I cannot see any rationale that General Synod members might use to explain a second defeat in July. “
GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) issued this press release yesterday.
Diocesan support for Women in the Episcopate
GRAS is delighted that the proposed legislation to enable women to be bishops has now received the support of the majority of the 44 Dioceses of the Church of England. So far the total number of Dioceses in favour of the legislation has reached 25 with none against. The measure now has the support required for General Synod to consider it for final approval when it meets in July. The remaining Dioceses are all meeting before the end of May and we expect them to give the measure the same level of support.
With such a strong mandate from the Diocesan Synods, which represent the ‘people in the pews’ of the Church of England, the General Synod would re-open serious questions about its fitness for purpose if it were to fail to give final approval to this measure in July.
GRAS hopes and prays that this legislation will receive final approval this year and make it possible for the first woman Bishop to be appointed in the Church of England as early as this year. However, we must be aware that this legislation will not bring about full equality between women and men in the Church of England, and there will remain a lot of work to be done in the legislation, structures and culture of the church before that day comes.