Tuesday, 30 September 2014

When will there be another Lambeth Conference?

The website Anglican Ink has published a story which is headlined: Lambeth Conference cancelled. This turns out to be based upon the following item from ENS:

House of Bishops leaving Taiwan with ‘hearts and minds expanded’

…In response to a question from Rochester Bishop Prince Singh about budgeting for the next Lambeth Conference and speculation about when and if the gathering will be held, Jefferts Schori told the bishops that the conference will probably not happen in 2018, which would have fit the conference’s traditional 10-year cycle. No planning or fundraising has taken place for a 2018 meeting, she said. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “has been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth [Conference] until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present,” she said. “As he continues his visits around the communion to those primates it’s unlikely that he will call such a meeting at all until at least a year from now or probably 18 months from now. Therefore I think we are looking at 2019, more likely 2020, before a Lambeth Conference.”Whenever the next Lambeth Conference occurs “it will have a rather different format,” she predicted. For intstance, it is likely that spouses will not attend “simply because of scale issues and regional contextual issues. Bishops’ spouses fill very different roles in different parts of the communion and the feedback from the last one was that it did not serve the spouses particularly well,” Jefferts Schori explained…

According to Anglican Ink:

The 2018 Lambeth Conference has been cancelled. The precarious state of the Anglican Communion has led the Archbishop of Canterbury to postpone indefinitely the every ten year meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.
A spokesman for Archbishop Justin Welby told Anglican Ink that as the archbishop had not yet met with each of the primates of the communion, he would not be commenting on the news. Since his installation last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled extensively and plans on visiting the 37 other provinces of the Anglican Communion within the first 18 months of his term of office…

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Understanding Same-sex Marriage

DLT Books has issued a press release announcing the publication of More Perfect Union: Understanding Same-sex Marriage by Alan Wilson. The text of this is reproduced below the fold.

John Bingham wrote about this book in the Telegraph under the headline One in 10 Church of England bishops ‘could be secretly gay’ – says bishop.

Alan Wilson has written on his blog about some recent reactions to his book, and about the recent College of Bishops meeting for “shared conversations”: Ins and Outs and Same-Sex Marriage.

** PRESS RELEASE FROM DLT BOOKS **

‘Alan Wilson is the only bishop in the Church of England who speaks for the full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the Church. In this powerful statement, he sets out the scientific, theological and Biblical reasons which have led him to believe that this is the truly Christian option.’ - Linda Woodhead MBE

‘An extraordinarily valuable contribution to the quest for an open and honest conversation around an issue that the Church can no longer sweep under the ecclesiastical carpet.’ – Steve Chalke

‘The joy of this book is a bishop telling the truth, not least about the way the gay issue has been handled in recent history, and the awful dishonesties in which we are now entrammelled as a result.’ – Jeffrey John


In a recent interview with Pink News Archbishop Justin Welby acknowledged that the Church of England had to accept same-sex marriage is now law in England and Wales, but Welby himself voted against the Same-Sex Marriage Act in the House of Lords in 2013. Indeed, even after having been passed into law on 29 March 2014, when the balloon went up and Messrs. Peter McGraith and David Cabreza made Britain’s first same-sex marriage at Islington Town Hall, many leaders of the Church of England remain strongly opposed. So much so that Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who married his long-term partner in April, was told to stop leading services and then barred from a post as an NHS chaplain.

In this important and timely book Alan Wilson argues that allowing gay people to marry is a moral purpose. Indeed, there is a burgeoning movement within the Church broadly in favour of same-sex marriage, not to mention leaders of the Church already in gay partnerships, who wish for their religion to fully ratify and acknowledge their relationships.

Wilson says: ‘I asked myself “what does God want for gay people?”. After re-revisiting the Bible, and more importantly getting to know gay people of all types and varying backgrounds, he decided the answer was that God wants for them the same as everyone else – flourishing faith, hope and love, involvement and inclusion.

Meanwhile, from a scientific perspective, More Perfect Union? asserts that homosexuality is part of a wide range of human sexual longing and expression, not an anomaly, a sickness, nor merely a lifestyle choice.

The vast majority of people Wilson encountered on his journey toward being in favour of same-sex marriage were not anti-gay, were ‘just trying to love their neighbour as themselves’, even if, in some cases, their heads lagged behind their hearts on the issue of gay marriage.

The ultimate aim of this book is to help Christians unite head and heart in a fully positive response to gay people marrying, and to enable them to wholeheartedly rejoice in such union, in doing so shaking off the hangover of years of stereotyping, fear and discrimination about gay people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alan Wilson became Bishop of Buckingham in 2003 after more than 20 years as an urban and suburban parish priest, and some prison ministry, and has a doctorate in Church History. He has been married for over 30 years, and has 5 children.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 at 3:15pm BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 27 September 2014

opinion

Marcus Borg Patheos A Christianity Co-Opted by Individualistic, Exclusivist Faith

Gillan Scott blogs Shock! Justin Welby admits that he believes in God

Charities Aid Foundation The Guardian The role of socially responsible investment in economic uncertainty

Karen Armstrong The Guardian The myth of religious violence

The Church Times has compiled its list of the 100 best Christian books. Yesterday (Friday) it revealed numbers 100 to 51. Numbers 50 to 11 and then 10 to 1 will be announced on 3 and 10 October.

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Friday, 26 September 2014

Andrew Watson to be next Bishop of Guildford

Updated Monday

From the Number 10 website

Diocese of Guildford: nomination of Andrew Watson

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
History: Published 26 September 2014
Part of: Community and society

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Andrew Watson for election as Bishop of Guildford.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Andrew John Watson MA, Bishop of Aston, for election as Bishop of Guildford in succession to the Right Reverend Christopher John Hill BD AKC MTh, whose resignation took effect on 30 November 2013.

Biographical notes

Andrew Watson is 53 and studied law at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was also a music exhibitioner, regularly playing his bassoon in various orchestras and chamber groups.

Following 2 years as a caretaker and youth worker in Islington, he trained for the ordained ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he met his future wife Beverly (who has since been ordained herself).

He served his title at St Peter’s, Ipsley, in Worcester diocese from 1987 to 1991, leading a church on the council estate where they lived, and served a second curacy at St John and St Peter, Notting Hill, in London diocese from 1991 to 1996, restoring the Grade 2* listed church of St Peter (which features prominently in the movie Notting Hill), and developing a community café, nursery school and prison visiting team.

From 1996 to 2008 he was Vicar of St Stephen’s, East Twickenham, in London diocese, where he planted 3 further churches and led teams to Norway and Sweden, Donetsk and the slums of Delhi.

He was a member of the General Synod from 2000 to 2008 and Area Dean of Hampton from 2003 to 2008.

In October 2008, he was consecrated Bishop in St Paul’s Cathedral. Since then he has served as the Suffragan Bishop of Aston in the diocese of Birmingham, overseeing the programme ‘Transforming Church’.

Andrew and Beverly have 2 girls and 2 boys, Hannah (24), Sam (22), Joe (19) and Lydia (15). He is the author of The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus (Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) 2008), Confidence in the Living God (BRF 2009) and The Way of the Desert (BRF 2011). He remains a keen musician and a China enthusiast, and enjoys reading, cooking, photography and walking stretches of the South West Coast Path.

From the Birmingham diocesan website: Bishop David is delighted that Bishop Andrew Watson is to be the new Bishop of Guildford

Update

From the Guildford diocesan website: New Bishop of Guildford announced

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 26 September 2014 at 10:06am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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A scientific critique of the Pilling report

The following article appeared in the Church Times issue dated 19 September 2014. It is reproduced here with the permission of the Church Times.

Unanswered questions on Pilling report

There are problems about its use of science and other evidence, says Chris Cook

At the College of Bishops’ residential meeting this week, the Pilling report was scheduled for further discussion (News, 12 September). The report is the work of the House of Bishops Working Group on sexuality, and was published last November.

In January, the College of Bishops published a statement acknowledging the “strongly held and divergent” views reflected in the report, and accepting its recommendation for “facilitated conversations” to continue the process of listening, reflection, and discussion. There are, however, several important questions that need to be addressed about the report, particularly on its approach to the evidence and use of science.

The report has been criticised from both sides of the debate, but the process of facilitated conversation requires that we all, with the Bishops, give it careful attention. It raises questions not only about how we interpret scripture, but also about how we interpret our knowledge of sexuality. The often unexamined assumptions about the relationship between science and theology which are embedded in these interpretative processes influence both the way in which we go about the debate, and the conclusions that we reach.

The working group that produced the Pilling report was asked to “draw together and reflect upon biblical, historical, and ecumenical explorations on human sexuality”, as well as other material arising from the listening process after the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

This task need not necessarily have involved attention to scientific explorations, and the group does not appear to have had a scientific adviser. It is commendable, therefore, that the group recognised the importance of the scientific evidence, and devoted a whole chapter of its report to it.

Reflecting on the scientific evidence, the group concludes that “neither the medical nor the social sciences have arrived at any firm consensus that would impact decisively on the moral arguments.” It further notes that it is in the nature of science to test hypotheses against evidence, and that the theses that emerge can always be challenged by new evidence.

Similarly, “the teaching of the Church, like a thesis in scientific enquiry, stands until the evidence contradicting it is sufficient to change it.” Such transformative evidence is not solely scientific, but it is clear that the group understood that, in part, it may be scientific. Unfortunately, it found that the evidence was “not unequivocal”, and that scientists “find their scientific knowledge supporting different conclusions”.

The reader may conclude that the scientific evidence did not help much. When it comes to reflecting on the traditional Anglican recourse to scripture, tradition, and reason, science — as a strand of reason — seems to contribute little or nothing to the conclusions reached in the report, other than to reinforce the sense of irreconcilable disagreement.

Perhaps, then, it is time to put aside the science, and return to the more important biblical and theological debate. This, I think, would be a deeply mistaken conclusion, and, clearly, the working group does, too; for it recommends that the Church should continue to pay attention to the “as yet inconclusive scientific work on same-sex attraction”.

“Same-sex attraction” is not a phrase that appears in scripture, and the working group — wisely, in my view — identifies the importance of the “Is this really that?” question as a key determinant of the different ways in which we interpret scripture on matters such as this. So when we discuss this (homosexuality or any other matter), we must ask whether or not it is the same as the that to which the biblical text refers.

If, however, this question is to be followed through faithfully, it requires that careful biblical exegesis be accompanied by an equally careful analysis of the scientific evidence. Both scripture and scientific evidence have to be interpreted, and each plays a part in the interpretation of the other, whatever privilege we may feel that we need to give one or the other.

But the interpretation of science, the “Is this …?” part of the question, is not the same as the interpretation of scripture, the “… really that?” part.

The Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, a member of the working group, found himself unable to sign the Pilling report. A dissenting statement and an appendix concerning scripture and same-sex relationships, both written by him, are, however, published with the report.

In the latter, he expresses concern that there has been a revisionist re-reading of scripture. Presumably, he is concerned that non-traditional interpretations of scripture have been adopted (by some) without due regard to a weight of biblical scholarship that continues to affirm the “traditional” biblical teaching on homosexuality.

Yet I do not believe that this is the primary problem. There has been a revisionist “reading” of our experience of human sexuality, and this, at least in part, has come about because of the way in which we now read scientifically.

First, our scientific concept of homosexuality is a modern one, acknowledging diversity within the range of normal sexual orientation; and, as such, was completely unknown to the Early Church.

Second, this scientific concept of homosexuality is no longer considered pathological, and mainstream scientific and clinical thinking concerning its origin and implications has changed out of all recognition; expectations for good professional practice now reflect this.

Third, as outlined in the report Some Issues in Human Sexuality (2003), there have been significant changes of understanding in Church and society more widely relating to various aspects of sexuality, including divorce and contraception, as well as homosexuality. As a result, we now interpret the metaphorical “text” of sexuality very differently from the ways we did 50 or 100 years ago.

Radical changes such as these have led to what Bishop Sinclair refers to as “revisionist” readings of scripture; but it is misleading and unhelpful to refer to re-readings in this way. There is no traditional reading of scripture on homosexuality to be revised, given that the modern scientific concept of homosexuality was unknown until the 19th century.

Notwithstanding the view of the whole working group that the scientific evidence is uncertain, many Christian professionals, as well as gay and lesbian Christians, experience significant unease at the way in which traditional readings of the Bible on homosexual behaviour have become associated with prejudice towards gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Traditional readings of scripture that now appear to promote such prejudice have therefore given way to new readings that seek to show that scripture is still authoritative and redemptive.

One problem, then, is that we are confused about whether we are talking primarily about the interpretation of scripture, or the interpretation of human experience, and that these two hermeneutic processes are inextricably linked with one another, at least - but not only - for Christians in the Western world.

A second problem that I encounter as a practical theologian, and as a scientist reading this report, is that I do not see the critical rigour in evaluating scientific evidence which I should expect to find here. This is evident in numerous ways, but a single example may suffice to illustrate the nature of the problem.

The submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists is quoted in support of a now widely accepted clinical and scientific view, based on peer-reviewed publications, that homosexual orientation is compatible with normal mental health. It is the experience of stigma and discrimination in society that contributes to the greater-than-expected mental-health problems experienced by some gay and lesbian people.

The report, however, immediately counterbalances this viewpoint with an opposing one, taken from a booklet published by a Christian organisation committed to a particular theological view in relation to matters of sexuality, Core Issues Trust.

Thus, it is alleged, the view of the Royal College is “neither proven nor ruled out by the evidence”, and an alternative possibility, that homosexual orientation “cuts against a fundamental gender-based given of the human condition, thus causing distress”, is equally neither proved nor ruled out.

Having consulted the peer-reviewed primary-research papers on which the opposing viewpoints are based, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that the Core Issues Trust has simply marshalled scientific evidence in support of a position that has previously been determined by a particular interpretation of scripture. Thus, the point of view that it promotes is not so much based on scientific evidence as it is an apologetic for a theological tradition.

It is impossible, however, to reach this conclusion (or the alternative possible conclusion that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has misinterpreted the scientific evidence in support of another agenda), without consulting the primary-research publications oneself. Unfortunately, in its report, the working group shows little evidence of having done this.

A third and more fundamental problem is that science and theology are both concerned with asking and answering questions. The six questions chosen for attention in the section of the report which deals with scientific evidence are themselves significant.

The first question, dealing with sexual dimorphism, evokes an answer concerned largely with intersex syndromes and transsexualism, both of which are more or less beside the point so far as homosexuality is concerned. And yet none of the questions deals with the important issue why homosexuality is no longer classified as a psychiatric disorder.

There is a question about the causes of homosexuality, and much is made about what we do not know by way of answer, but there is no question asking whether homosexuality is something that people choose, or whether it is something more essential to personal identity, something that is discovered about oneself rather than chosen.

It is not clear how the scientific questions addressed in the report were identified, but the choice of questions would seem to have been significant in determining the conclusions reached. Some questions that were not asked are inherently both scientific and theological, notably the all-important “What is natural?” Failure to ask these difficult questions has let us all off the hook in relation to the thorny problem of how we engage scientific with theological reasoning in our understanding of sexuality.

This, in turn, has made it difficult to develop a coherent Christian view of sexuality which has both scientific and theological integrity.

A fourth and final problem that has not been addressed is that scientific terminology is precise, and open to examination — even when contested — in a way that ancient Hebrew and Greek terminology (for example, words such as “arsenokoitēs”) is not.

Homosexuality is a modern term; St Paul never talks about “homosexuality”, but only about homosexual acts and desires (and using language that is different from ours).

Scientific discourse on homosexuality requires that we distinguish carefully between sexual orientation, sexual identity (which has anatomical, genetic, psychological, and social dimensions), sexual attraction, and sexual behaviour. This care is sometimes lacking in the report.

Thus, questions are formed using words that are not quite right for the purpose (for example: “Is sexual attraction fixed and immutable?” when it is actually sexual orientation that appears to be under discussion). Sexual identity is discussed only in the section on homophobia, and none of these terms seems to be adequately defined anywhere in the report.

Had the scientific questions been chosen differently, and had the evidence been evaluated more critically in searching for the answers to them, I believe that the theological implications might have been different, or at least more helpful.

We interpret scripture, scientific evidence, and our experience of our sexuality according to complex and often hidden assumptions, which do not always lead us to sound conclusions. Where we start, whether with scripture or science, is probably less important than having the wisdom to formulate the right questions, the courage to ask them, and a constructively critical, rigorous, but also compassionate spirit with which to pursue the answers.

As we approach the process of facilitated conversation which the Pilling report has recommended, and which the Bishops have endorsed, I hope that more critical attention will be given to the scientific evidence. It has the potential to help us to address new questions to scripture, which, in turn, may help us to find that scripture is authoritative and salvific in ways that we had not previously expected.

In response, scripture presents us with important theological and prophetic questions about patterns of stigma and prejudice, which science has identified as underlying (and consequential upon) much mental ill-health.

Dr Chris Cook is Professor of Spirituality, Theology and Health at Durham University.

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

General Synod - projected timetable for November 2014

The projected timetable (see below) for the November 2014 Group of Sessions of General Synod has been published here. It is accompanied by this note:

The holding of the group of sessions remains contingent on the legislation to enable Women to become Bishops having completed all its remaining stages. It was found expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament on 22 July and will debated in the House of Lords on 14 October. We await a date for the Commons debate. A further update will be published as soon as possible and in any event before the end of October.

Monday 17 November
1.45 pm – 7.15 pm

1.45 pm Worship
Formal business
Report by the Business Committee

Legislative Business:
Enactment of Amending Canon No 33 (relating to Women in the Episcopate)

Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Legislative Business:
* Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Measure allowing diocesan stipends funds to invest on a ‘total return’ basis – First Consideration
* C of E (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure – Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Amending Canon No 35 (relating to Canon B 12) – Revision Stage and Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Draft Scheme amending the Diocese in Europe Constitution
* C of E (Naming of Dioceses) Measure – Revision Stage

4.40 pm ‘Take Note’ debate on the Professional Guidelines for the Clergy

5.40 pm Worship

Questions

Tuesday 18 November
9.15 am – 1.00 pm

Holy Communion in the Assembly Hall

10.30 am Presentation followed by Debate on Violence against Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria

12.15 pm Legislative Business (Continued from Monday 17 November)

2.15 pm – 5.00 pm

2.15 pm Anglican-Methodist Covenant: Report from the Joint Implementation Commission

Bradford Diocesan Synod Motion on the Spare Room Subsidy

4.40 pm Farewells

Prorogation

Contingency Business:
Priavte Member’s Motion on Canon B 38

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 25 September 2014 at 9:08am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

New Bishop of Gloucester 'likely to be a woman'

The BBC has reported that the Archdeacon of Cheltenham has said that New Bishop of Gloucester ‘likely to be a woman’.

The first woman bishop in the Church of England could be in the Gloucester diocese, a senior clergyman has said.

The archdeacon of Cheltenham’s comments came during an open meeting where some 70 people shared their views on what qualities the new bishop should have.

The Venerable Robert Springett said he felt the likelihood was “really pretty high” as the diocese could now pick the best person regardless of gender.

Cheltenham is one of the two archdeaconries in the Diocese of Gloucester.

Gloucester will be the first diocese to hold both of its Crown Nominations Commission meetings after the expected coming into effect in November of all the legislation allowing women to be bishops in the Church of England. The meetings are scheduled for 8 January and 19/20 February 2015.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 24 September 2014 at 5:31pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Is the seal of the confessional under threat?

Law & Religion UK has a detailed discussion about this topic, triggered by this headline in the Mail on Sunday:
Vicars set to reveal secrets of confession: Church of England may axe 400-year-old sacred law to let clergy report sex attackers

The very very thorough analysis by David Pocklington is here: CofE to axe seal of confessional? Do read it all.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 at 1:00pm BST | Comments (39) | TrackBack
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Monday, 22 September 2014

Farewell to Welfare!?

Here’s a press release from The National Estate Churches Network:

Farewell to Welfare!?
National Estate Churches Network Annual Conference 2014

1st October St James Church Thurland Rd, Bermondsey, London SE16 4AA
15th October St Michael in the City Upper Pitt St, Liverpool L1 5DB

The National Estate Churches Network has sent us news of their forthcoming conference:

This year’s annual conference explores the effect that the Cuts are having on the people of our poorer housing estates. We are really excited that our keynote speaker at both venues is John Battle the brilliant long-time campaigner and advocate for those who are marginalised. As well as high quality input, there will be time to share and reflect together. What does our Christian Faith demand of us who live and work with those who really feel the impact of benefit reform? Can we make the system better or is it really ‘Farewell to Welfare’?

Book online or you can phone or text 07933 438304 for a booking form.

A whole day conference at just £20 including lunch.
1st October or 15th October 2014 10am-3.30pm

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 6:25pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Reminder: conference on theology of marriage

Way back in June, we announced that the LGBTI Anglican Coalition would host a conference on the theology of of marriage in the light of equal marriage, at St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY on Saturday 27th September, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. That is this coming Saturday.

The conference is titled To Have and To Hold. Here is the flyer.

If you have not already booked to attend, there is still time to do so.

All the details are available from here or book at Eventbrite here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 7:13pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 20 September 2014

opinion

Church of England Newspaper editorial The battle for the soul of the Church

Isabel Hardman The Spectator Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops

Phoebe Thompson of Premier Youthwork spoke to Sally Hitchiner about Diverse Church.

Jules Evans has interviewed Richard Chartres: The Bishop of London on Christian contemplation.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that If Justin Welby has doubts about God it’s no bad thing (with reference to this story).

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 11:00am BST | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

College of Bishops - shared conversations

The Church of England started its series of “shared conversations” on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission this week in the College of Bishops. The College has just finished its meeting and published this press release.

College of Bishops Meeting
17 September 2014

The College of Bishops of the Church of England has met for three days. Two of the days were devoted to the first of a series of shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The context and process for the conversations were set out in a paper to General Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield on 26 June 2014 available here which also identified two outcomes for the process.

The first is to enable the Church of England to reflect, in light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church “proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation” as a missionary church in a changing culture ?

The second objective is to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another. Recognising that this was the experience of the first disciples and apostles who went on to proclaim the Gospel across the world, how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?

As part of the conversations the college shared the different responses being expressed in the life of the church and the deeply held convictions and experiences that inform them. In this the college reflected the diversity of experience and view held by the country as a whole. The college also acknowledged that at this stage it was not seeking to achieve consensus nor to make any decisions but rather the purpose was being open to see Jesus Christ in those who took an opposing view to their own position.

The resource materials and process prepared for the college will be further developed in the light of the experience there before they are rolled out in regional conversations early next year.

In addition to participating in the shared conversation process the college received presentations on a wide range of issues including Iraq and the Middle East, Science and Religion, Discipleship, Resourcing Ministerial Education and other matters.

A podcast interview with the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Manchester reflecting on the shared conversation process is available here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 5:59pm BST | Comments (80) | TrackBack
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Welsh Code for Women Bishops published

The Church in Wales has published its Code of Practice in relation to the Ministry of Bishops following the Canon to enable the Ordination of Women as Bishops. Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops, it was presented to the Governing Body, which is meeting in Lampeter, this afternoon. The Church issued this press release.

Code for Women Bishops aims to keep all included – Archbishop

Guidelines for new legislation to ordain women as bishops aim to make everyone feel valued in the Church, regardless of their views on the issue, the Archbishop of Wales said today (September 17).

Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops at the request of its Governing Body, the “Code of Practice” accompanies the women bishops’ legislation which came into effect on September 12, exactly a year after the Church’s historic vote.

Publishing the Code at the Church’s Governing Body meeting today, the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said it was designed to be as inclusive as possible as the bishops saw God’s call in people on both sides of the debate.. He urged the Church to unite in proclaiming the Gospel.

He said, “The Code of Practice we have produced has not been produced for the benefit of one side or the other in the debate but for the whole church. That is what you asked us to do. The Bill explicitly says that the Code should be drawn up in such a way that every member of the Church in Wales might feel secure. In other words, this Code is not just for those who in conscience dissent but is a code for every member of the Church in Wales.”

He added, “Bishops have a particular responsibility for matters of faith and order and we want to be as inclusive as possible which is why we are able to affirm wholeheartedly the ordination of women to the episcopate and can also accept that provision should be made for those who cannot accept their sacramental ministry. By making such a provision, our hope is that no-one will feel the need to leave the Church in Wales…

“In the Church in Wales, we, as your bishops, quite frankly see Christ at work in our members, married or single, gay or straight, we perceive the call of God in women to all three orders, and we are respectful of the faith of those who cannot in conscience receive such ministry. In these issues, as in others, we invite the Church to unite in the greater task of proclaiming the Gospel.”

The bishops wrote the Code after consulting widely across the Province. Its guiding principles were:

  • Any woman Diocesan Bishop becomes such on exactly the same terms, and with the same jurisdiction, as any other Diocesan Bishop in the Province;
  • Provision for those who object to the ministry of women bishops has to be pastoral, not structural;
  • Those who in conscience cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women should not be excluded from being considered for ordination;
  • No specific alternative bishop should be provided for those who are unable in conscience to accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but there should be a means to request and receive alternative sacramental provision.

The Code of Practice itself, and the Archbishop’s address to the Governing Body are also online.

The Code of Practice and explanatory note.

The bishops’ full explanation of the Code of Practice, as outlined by the Archbishop in his Presidential Address to the Governing Body.

The Code is short, and is copied in full below the fold.

Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru : The Church in Wales
Mainc yr Esgobion : The Bench of Bishops

A Code of Practice in relation to the Ministry of Bishops following the Canon to enable the Ordination of Women as Bishops

Principles

1. The Church in Wales is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender. It holds that all those whom it duly elects, canonically ordains and appoints to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience.

2. Anyone who ministers within the Church in Wales must be prepared to accept that the Church in Wales has reached a clear decision on the matter.

3. Since the Church in Wales continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including other Churches of the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Bench of Bishops acknowledges that this decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment and reception within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God.

4. Within the Church in Wales, those who on grounds of theological conviction and conscience are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion. The Church in Wales therefore remains committed to enabling all its members to flourish within its life and structures as accepted and valued. Appropriate provision for them will be made in a way intended to maintain the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church in Wales.

5. Since the Code of Practice needs to be both strong and flexible enough to respond to a changing situation in the future, and since the Governing Body has entrusted the Bench of Bishops with the task of agreeing a Code which commits the Bench to making provisions for all the members of the Church in Wales, the Bench reserves the right to amend the provisions of this Code as may be necessary in the future.

Provisions

1. Should a woman become a diocesan Bishop in the Church in Wales, her jurisdiction as a diocesan bishop is recognised unreservedly and without qualification as set out in the Canons and Constitution of the Church in Wales for a diocesan bishop.

2. Individual members of the Church in Wales who, on grounds of conscience, are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of a woman diocesan bishop, shall not be required to do so against their conscience, and alternative provision shall be made.

3. A diocesan bishop shall make for such members within their dioceses all reasonable provision for appropriate sacramental episcopal ministry on such occasions as necessary upon submission of a request in writing from those individuals supported by their parish priest.

4. The bishops of the Church in Wales commit themselves to making themselves available to their colleagues to assist one another in facilitating any such provision.

5. No bishop shall be obliged to bring proceedings against any member of the Church in Wales on the grounds that such a member dissents in conscience from the provisions of the Canons enabling Women to be Ordained as Bishops or Priests.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 at 5:48pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality

From Mamba Online:
30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality

More than 30 African scholars, theologians, faith leaders, activists and students have issued a powerful declaration in support of LGBT equality on the continent.

The leaders from nine African countries gathered in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, between 28 to 31 August.

They met for an “historic consultation on human sexuality, religion and equality,” wrote Dr Michael Adee, Director of the Global Faith & Justice Project.

The event was organised by Adee, who is also an elder in the US Presbyterian Church, and Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest, from Political Research Associates.

The countries represented included Cameroon, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe…

The full text of the KwaZulu Natal Statement is copied below the fold.

The KwaZulu Natal Declaration

We, African religious leaders, scholars, and members of civil society are highly concerned with the well-being of our beloved continent and with the demonization and criminalization of sexual minorities on the continent,

We, African religious leaders, scholars, and members of civil society met for a consultation in KwaZulu Natal on August 28-31, 2014, in response to the recent contentious debates regarding human sexuality on the continent. Recognizing that we are part of the global community, we met in South Africa, a country with a constitution that recognizes and protects the rights of sexual minorities,

Aware of the traditional leadership roles that academics, religious institutions, and churches in Africa have played in promoting social justice and human dignity,

Troubled by the misuse of religion to further marginalize and exclude sexual minorities from society and faith communities,

Noting the recommendations on human sexuality from the World Council of Churches 10thAssembly to the Central Committee, and the subsequent approval of the Terms of Reference for the Human Sexuality Reference Group to walk together in a pilgrimage of Justice and Peace from 2014-2021,

Observing the resolution on violence and other human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa issued in April 2014 by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights,

Acknowledging the deaths and threats of death, the violence, discrimination, that sexual minorities, women, and children face on the continent,

We call on all religious institutions, especially Christian Churches

  • To care for the least amongst us as Christ has done,
  • To create safe spaces for encounter with the sexual diversity within the body of Christ,
  • To talk openly about sexual diversities and adversities in human sexuality,
  • To break out of the vicious cycle of shame, secrecy, violence, and silence that demeans, demonizes and kills,
  • To openly condemn violence against sexual minorities.

We call on all African scholars and academic institutions

  • To take full responsibility to reflect and produce credible scholarship on human sexuality,
  • To conduct research that gives momentum to African local institutions, the Church, and indigenous knowledge and practices to further the understanding of human sexuality,
  • To incorporate issues regarding human sexuality in the development of knowledge,
    *To guide the public in understanding sexual diversity.

We call on all our governments in Africa

  • To take seriously the mission of the state to protect all citizens, including those with disabilities, and all communities affected by, and living with HIV and AIDS,
  • To seek legislative and social reforms that further the protection of and improvement of the livelihoods of sexual minorities,
  • To dialogue with African local traditional, political and religious institutions to promote human dignity,
  • To eliminate colonial sodomy laws and to oppose attempts to further criminalized sexual minorities.

We call on all Africans on the continent and in the diaspora

  • To respect the human rights of all people including sexual minorities,
  • To oppose and desist from violence directed toward sexual minorities, and to support families and communities of sexual minorities.

We call on the international community and partners

  • To respect while supporting Africa’s journey and processes towards a better understanding of human sexuality and socio-economic, political and religious inclusion of sexual minorities,
  • To denounce all misleading information on issues of human sexuality.
  • To support our commitment to produce and disseminate scholarly and general publications throughout Africa and beyond.

We, African religious leaders, scholars, and members of Civil Society assembled in this KwaZulu Natal consultative gathering commit to uphold these recommendations. We also commit to share this vision with all partners and Africans across the continent and the diaspora and to be inclusive in our journey toward a better understanding and respect of the diversity of human sexuality through research, advocacy, publications and consultations.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at 10:58pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Monday, 15 September 2014

Malcolm Brown and David Porter talk about the Shared Conversations

Updated

Church of England press release: Reflections on shared conversations process ahead of College of Bishops

15 September 2014
In a podcast interview Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, and the Revd Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, talk about the process of shared conversations that has flowed [from] the Pilling report as the College of Bishops of the Church of England gathers for its annual residential meeting in Leicestershire.

The College will conduct shared conversations for the next two days in small groups with the discussions remaining confidential, mirroring the wider proposed process.

In an interview recorded ahead of the meeting of the College David Porter and Malcolm Brown recognised that whilst a uniform view on the issues was highly unlikely, the potential for the Church to model a different and more Christ like way of disagreement would be crucial.

Malcolm Brown said: “There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations about hidden agendas. I hope that we’ve unpacked that sufficiently in the light of Pilling indeed to show that that isn’t the case. There’s a lot of reassurance that says this is what it says on the tin and it’s not something hidden.”

David Porter added: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.….And that we develop that rapport, that capacity to disagree well, that means that when we get to the process which is beyond the shared conversations when decision will have to be made, the way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ. And that even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.” He adds that he hopes people will see the way the conversations are being held and say: “Look at how these Christians love one another because of the way they disagree well.”

Listen to the interview here:

https://soundcloud.com/the-church-of-england/shared-conversations-discussion

The interview is 11 minutes long.

The Pilling report is here:

https://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/pilling-report.aspx

Update
The Church Times has a report of this by Madeleine Davies headlined ‘No hidden agenda’ behind sexuality conversations

THERE is no “hidden agenda” behind the shared conversations on sexuality that begin this week, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs said on Monday.

In a recording published on the Church of England website, Dr Malcolm Brown spoke of a desire to ensure that “some of the fears that are not certainly intended to be substantiated are dispelled. There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations, about hidden agendas and things like that. I hope we have unpacked that sufficiently . . . to show that isn’t the case.”

Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, charged with overseeing the conversations, said: “It is what it says on the tin. It’s a process of shared conversation. It’s about creating space that they can feel a certain amount of confidence because someone is there helping hold the ring, so that all voices will be heard; that people will be able to engage with each other in a respectful way, to come and talk about the change that we see in the culture around us in relation to questions of human sexuality, and the diversity that exists within the Church, about how we should respond as people of faith to that…

This article also repeats the remarks from the Bishop of Willesden that we reported on earlier here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 September 2014 at 4:50pm BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 13 September 2014

opinion

In response to the article by Eric Pickles that I linked to last week, Andrew Brown writes in The Spectator about The theological illiteracy of Eric Pickles.

Richard Beck blogs about Search Term Friday: Type 1 and Type 2 Errors and Deciding Who Is Going to Hell.

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph: The full glory of Miss La La.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 13 September 2014 at 11:00am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 12 September 2014

Church Times reports on Pemberton tribunal claim

Today’s Church Times contains two items relating to the legal action taken by Jeremy Pemberton.

News report: Madeleine Davies Pemberton mounts a legal challenge over lost NHS job

and (same link, scroll down) Rob Clucas The Bishop’s ruling: a legal opinion.

From the news report:

…On Tuesday, a spokesman for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “We have received notification of legal action by Canon Jeremy Pemberton, and at this stage we have no further comment to make.” No comment has been received from the Archbishop of York.

Once an employment-tribunal claim is received by an employer, he or she is usually required to respond within 28 days. One of the uncertainties of this case is whether or not the Bishops can be defined as employers.

On Tuesday, Dr Russell Sandberg, senior lecturer in law at Cardiff University, said: “It depends upon the facts of the case - there is now no presumption that ministers of religion are not employees.

“Furthermore, the definition of employee for discrimination-law purposes is wider than [it is] for unfair dismissal.”

Dr Sandberg also suggested that bishops of the established Church could be considered as holding a public office.

The case, if it is accepted by a tribunal, will also test the interpretation of the Equality Act (2010). Dr Sandberg said: “Organised religions can rely upon an exception from the normal rules forbidding discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, either in order to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.”

He warned, however, that the scope and extent of these exceptions was “largely unknown, given the lack of case law, and uncertainty which arose in parliamentary debates”.

From the opinion article:

…But there are complicating factors. First, I understand that the post would be paid for by the NHS. In this situation, is the Church the employer, or the NHS Trust? The NHS Trust, as a public body, has specific positive duties in relation to the Equality Act and sexual orientation (and other protected characteristics), and it is not clear how these would be reconciled with the permitted discrimination under Schedule 9(2). Also, could the Church be a public body? This is at present unclear.

Second, there is a question mark about how adequately the Equality Act 2010 gives effect to the European directive that it was aiming to implement (transpose). Is the implementation of the European legislation defective in failing to require proportionality in the compliance and non-conflict principles of Schedule 9(2) of the Act? This was the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its second report on the Equality Bill, concerning the amend­ments to the Bill that were made at committee stage in the House of Lords.

Where domestic legislation attempting to transpose the directive fails, and a case comes to court, there is a general obligation in EU law on the domestic court or tribunal to interpret the national law in a way that gives effect to European law. If the Act cannot be reinterpreted to comply with the directive, there may be a claim of direct effect, if the case is against a public body.

Whether a remedy is available to an individual will depend on the possibility of the direct effective­ness of the framework directive in the case of the Church’s (or the NHS Trust’s) being a public body in refusing to employ clergy in a same-sex marriages.

Canon Pember­ton’s decision to take legal action against the Arch­bishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell & Notting­ham is interesting. The law here is complex and unclear…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 September 2014 at 9:29am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Reflections on the Shared Conversations

Updated again Monday evening

Last month Rachel Mann wrote on her blog about Shared Conversations’ and the place of LGBTI people in the C of E.

‘When are the shared conversations starting and who’s going to be involved?’

…I’ve been thinking an awful lot about this (by church standards!) imminent process in the past couple of weeks. While this fact is no doubt a symptom of my need to get out more, my rumination is also unsurprising. Like pretty much every LGBT person who has chosen to stick around within the church I am profoundly conscious of the extent to which ‘we’ have been treated as something to be talked about, as an issue. So there’s a part of me that’s intrigued by the possibility that we might be talked to. Really talked to.

And, yet, the Pilling Report was also, supposedly, part of a process of being talked to and with. As someone who conversed at length with members of the Pilling Committee I’m not especially convinced I was listened to. It would not be beyond the possibility that I might be the kind of person who was asked to participate in the upcoming conversations. (And I suspect there will be a goodly number of people who – as much out of a desire to know what this process will involve – will be keen to participate.) And yet that previous experience has made me suspicious of the whole process.

In some respects it feels like the world is changing fast. The number of ‘coming outs’ recently, including Vicky Beeching, has hopefully left some church people thinking, ‘are there actually any straight people in the church?’ (;-D). However, the treatment of Jeremy Pemberton and the patchy nature of support for LGBT people in the C of E should give pause. As someone said to me recently, ‘We live in a bubble in Manchester diocese.’ It is a place where – more or less – LGBT lay and ordained can thrive and feel supported. You don’t have to travel too far outside the bounds of the city to experience a quite different reality.

Why am I suspicious about the ‘shared conversation’ process? Partly because ‘conversations’ have been going on in one form or another since at least the Consultations of the ‘70s. And yet it’s not clear that the C of E institution qua institution has shifted that much.

However, I am more concerned about whether the conversations will truly be conversations. The notion of ‘conversation’ includes the meanings of a ‘turning together’ or a ‘changing together’ as well as a living amongst or dwelling together. It is a mesmerizing possibility, but given things like the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement (aka The Valentine’s Day Massacre) it’s difficult for those of us who have been traditionally excluded from welcome in the church to trust that those with power, privilege and authority will genuinely place their privilege at risk of conversion, of conversation.

I believe that, in conversation, a mutual conversion to one other is certainly possible and I guess many of us would still be willing to give it a go. But we’d better hope God is around to give all participants a reality check, a regular kick in the shins.

This week Accepting Evangelicals has published A Woman’s Courage and the House of Bishops…. This discusses the case of Vicky Beeching who is a Patron of AE. But it then goes on to discuss the meeting next week of the College of Bishops:

…Next week, the Church of England’s College of Bishops meet to talk about sexuality. They will spend 2 days together with facilitators trying to find a way to have open conversations on the issue.

According to the CofE briefing paper, “Under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, Canon David Porter, a team of around 20 trained facilitators will support a process of conversations across the Church of England. They will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory. The process will begin at the meeting of the College of Bishops in September where the bishops will spend two days working in small groups with facilitators.”

These shared conversations are essential for the Church of England, but they will only work if the conversations are truly open and honest. That will take courage.
There are many Bishops who support same-sex relationships but have been too afraid to say what they really think. As one diocesan Bishop said to me at General Synod, “Benny, you know what I think, but I’m chicken – I am too afraid to say it!”

There is also a sizeable minority of the Bishops who are gay themselves. For many of them it is an open secret – one which is only protected by the loyalty and compassion of others which will not ‘out them’ to the world. How stressful must it be for them to continually keep quiet or deflect the conversation or sign up to statements which strike at the very heart of their being.

If the shared conversations next week are to move the Church forward, there must be a greater honesty, greater courage, and greater grace at work than ever before.
Women are renowned for their moral courage, and although there are no women Bishops in post yet, perhaps the courage of people like Vicky Beeching can inspire and challenge our Bishops to have a more open and honest conversation next week. It is certainly long overdue.

Update
The Church Times carries a news report on the forthcoming meeting, see Bishop ‘not optimistic’ on eve of shared conversations by Madeleine Davies.

This article has now been replaced by a new one reporting on the recorded interview published on 15 September, but it still contains the remarks quoted below.

…On Tuesday, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said: “It won’t be an easy conversation - more difficult than that on women bishops - but we are absolutely going with this. . . It is clear that the facilitated conversations over women bishops did make a difference in terms of helping people understand each other better.”

He was, however, “not optimistic about the outcomes. Archbishop Justin has broached the concept of ‘good disagreement’. I don’t think we know what that might look like. There is a huge polarity between those who want the C of E to hold to its historic understanding of marriage - and not to change its canonical and liturgical formulae - and those who want the C of E to embrace total equal treatment, expressed in a change in relation to doctrine, marriage, and pastoral practice. Some are looking for a ‘two integrities’ approach - personally, I can’t see the Church holding together on that kind of basis.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 9:17am BST | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Shared Conversations

Press Release

LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Church of England’s Shared Conversations

From 15 to 17 September, the College of Bishops of the Church of England will be meeting for two days to start the process of Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The LGBTI Anglican Coalition welcomes this first step and our members will be praying for a successful outcome to the meeting. Although we have reservations about the context in which this is taking place – articulated very clearly in the recent letter sent from the Trustees of Changing Attitude to all those attending the meeting – nevertheless we welcome the initiative, and hope it bears fruit.

We believe that there are two specific ways in which the College can and should signal that the meeting has been successful.

* The first is to affirm in public that some of their members are themselves gay or bisexual.

* The second is to affirm that within the College there exists a diversity of opinion about the policy issues surrounding sexuality, including both the recognition of civil partnerships and the acceptability of same-sex marriage as a legal right.

These two small steps would do much to enhance the credibility of the bishops, and to encourage LGBTI clergy and laity to participate in subsequent stages of the conversations process.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 9:10am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Monday, 8 September 2014

Jeremy Pemberton files employment tribunal claim

The following statement has been issued by the lawyers acting for Canon Jeremy Pemberton:

STATEMENT REGARDING LEGAL ACTION TAKEN BY JEREMY PEMBERTON

“Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first British clergyman to enter a same sex marriage, has confirmed that he has filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. The action is being brought because of the sanctions imposed upon him as a result of his marriage. Canon Pemberton married his long term partner Laurence Cunnington in April of this year. Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused. This led to the withdrawal of a job offer from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Commenting on his decision to issue proceedings in respect of the alleged discrimination that he has suffered, Canon Pemberton said “I am deeply saddened that I have had to take this step against church authorities. However, I feel I have been left with little choice, having found myself being punished and discriminated against simply for exercising my right to marry. I will be making no further comment until these matters have been resolved through the court process.”

Among those assisting Canon Pemberton in his claim are Helen Trotter, a specialist employment and discrimination barrister from Kings Chambers and leading ecclesiastical lawyer, the Revd Justin Gau, from Pump Court Chambers.”

8th September 2014

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 6:42pm BST | Comments (64) | TrackBack
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Changing Attitude England writes to the College of Bishops

Press Release: Changing Attitude England writes to the College of Bishops

A week ago the Trustees of Changing Attitude England wrote to every bishop and elected senior woman in advance of the meeting of the College of Bishops from September 15-17 when they will start the process of Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The change in attitude and practice which the shared conversations are designed to explore has already taken place. The change is not universally acknowledged and has not been formally approved by the House of Bishops or the General Synod. Lesbian and gay clergy have married and are intending to marry. Many lesbian and gay lay couples have already married. Their families and friends and congregations welcome them and celebrate their marriages.

The attitude and practice of many bishops has already changed. Many already affirm that the Church of England is a Church which should include LGBTI people equally in ministry and relationship. Some bishops give their blessing and approval to civil partnered lesbian and gay couples without asking whether the relationship is sexually intimate.

The Reverend Colin Coward MBE, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:

“The internal divisions in the House of Bishops over the Pastoral Guidance and the policy about same-sex marriage are all too obvious. The Pastoral Guidance issued in February never had sufficient support from the whole House and was unworkable from the start.

“The change is not sudden or superficial. It has been evolving for decades as the secular movements for justice for LGBTI people and the Christian campaigns for equality have developed and matured.

“There is a noticeable increase in despair and depression among LGBTI clergy. Partnered clergy are unwilling to marry and those in civil partnership are reluctant to convert their CP to marriage fearing hostile action from their bishop. LGBTI clergy conclude that they will never be able to move to a new post if they marry and that there is effectively no future for them in the Church of England. Potential ordinands are dissuaded from pursuing a vocation.

“People are angry at what they perceive to be the hypocrisy in the incoherent practice of the House of Bishops and the failure to honour lesbian and gay clergy who marry, are in a civil partnership, known to be living with a partner or in a relationship. The teaching of the House of Bishops is now effectively that lesbian and gay clergy couples should live in an unmarried state rather than committing themselves publicly to one another in fidelity and love. Men and women in ministry no longer want to work in an environment which is deceitful and dishonest.”

Changing Attitude England urges a change of policy and practice on the House of Bishops in response to the high levels of anxiety and insecurity being felt LGBTI clergy, licensed lay ministers, and ordinands and the anger and frustration being felt by gay and straight Anglicans.

We urge the House of Bishops to review the Pastoral Guidance document:

  • There are strong theological arguments for accepting and celebrating same-sex partnerships, including marriage.
  • Clergy and congregations should be free to conduct services of thanksgiving and blessing for married same-sex couples.
  • The threat of sanctions against clergy who marry should be removed to enable LGBTI clergy and lay ministers to participate in the mutual conversations.

The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.

The text of the letter:

To the College of Bishops and elected senior women

We are writing to every bishop and elected senior woman in advance of the meeting of the College of Bishops from September 15-17. We urge a change of policy and practice on the College and House. The current situation is creating high levels of anxiety and insecurity for LGBTI clergy, ordinands and those exploring a vocation, and to some extent, licensed lay ministers as well.

The change in attitude and practice which the mutual conversations are designed to explore has already taken place. The change is not universally acknowledged and has not been formally approved by the House of Bishops or the General Synod but a change in Church practice has already happened.

Lesbian and gay clergy have married and are intending to marry. Many lesbian and gay lay couples have already married. Their families and friends and congregations welcome them and celebrate their marriages. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Christians allow themselves the freedom to marry and to construct their faith and their ethics and morality according to their reading of Scripture, their inheritance in the faith, prayerfully and after deep reflection and encounter with the living God.

The attitude and practice of many bishops has already changed. Some of you give your blessing and approval to civil partnered lesbian and gay couples without asking whether the relationship is sexually intimate.

The change is not sudden or superficial. It has been evolving for decades as the secular movements for justice for LGBTI people and the Christian campaigns for equality have developed and matured.

Whatever fruits the mutual conversations bear following their conclusion in November 2016, many of you in the College of Bishops and many members of General Synod already affirm that the Church of England is a Church which should include LGBTI people equally in ministry and relationship. This is already the practice of many in our Church.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton

We are writing now because of the refusal of Richard Inwood, acting bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, to grant Canon Jeremy Pemberton a licence because of his marriage to Laurence Cunnington. As a result, Jeremy’s appointment as Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services Manager at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was withdrawn.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s case has attracted a lot of media attention. The media and the majority of people don’t understand what the Church is doing and are confused by the attitude of bishops. This is having a very negative effect on people’s impression of the Church, on the integrity of Christianity in England and on mission and evangelism, reinforcing people’s perception of the Church as systemically prejudiced.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Anglicans, lay and ordained, our families, friends and congregations, have reacted strongly. People are angry for a number of reasons. Many of you will understand why.

People are angry because of the effect this has had on Jeremy and in particular the loss of the new post to which he had been appointed. The way Jeremy has been treated is leading to increased despair and depression among LGBTI clergy.

Division in the House of Bishops

The internal divisions in the House of Bishops are becoming more obvious as a result of the difference in the treatment of Jeremy Pemberton by the acting bishop of Southwell and Nottingham compared with his treatment by the Bishop of Lincoln and by Andrew Foreshew-Cain’s treatment by the Bishop of Edmonton.

We know from conversations with a number of bishops that some will either take no action against gay priests who marry or will impose the lightest of penalties following the example of +Lincoln and +Edmonton.

Other bishops will impose a harsh penalty by refusing to grant or withdrawing a license or PTO.

The Pastoral Guidance issued in February never had sufficient support from the whole House and was unworkable from the start.

People see a House of Bishops in which the divisions over the Pastoral Guidance and the policy about same-sex marriage are all too obvious.

The effect on LGBTI Anglicans

People in Changing Attitude England’s networks are deeply disappointed by the failure of the bishops known to be supportive of lesbian and gay clergy and relationships to express their support more clearly and strongly.

The divergence of practice has several effects:

  • It is frightening clergy who live with a partner into deciding not to marry and for those in a civil partnership, into deciding not to risk converting their CP to marriage.
  • It is intimidating clergy to conclude that they will never be able to move to a new post if they marry and that there is effectively no future for them in the Church of England.
  • It is dissuading potential ordinands from pursuing a vocation because they do not want to limit their future options by submitting to enforced celibacy.
  • It is making people depressed and fearful.

There are other reasons for the anger people feel:

  • Clergy are angry at what they perceive to be the hypocrisy of the House of Bishops in the incoherent practice now adopted and the failure to honour lesbian and gay clergy who are married, in a civil partnership or known to be living with a partner or in a relationship.
  • The teaching of the House of Bishops is now effectively that you prefer lesbian and gay clergy couples to live in an unmarried state (living in sin as you would describe a heterosexual couple) rather than marrying, thereby committing themselves publicly to one another in fidelity and love and providing legal protection for their relationship.
  • The current ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is now unworkable. Adult men and women in ministry no longer want to collude with bishops, working in an environment which is deceitful and dishonest, being made responsible for the collusion which hides the secret.

Despite what has been said above, more lesbian and gay clergy are planning to marry or to convert their civil partnership to marriage from December onwards.

The Future

The House of Bishops need to review the Pastoral Guidance document urgently to achieve justice and coherence.

  • We urge a proper via media which acknowledges that there are strong theological arguments for accepting and celebrating same-sex partnerships, including marriage.
  • We urge you to give clergy and congregations the freedom to use their discretion in conducting services of thanksgiving and blessing for married same-sex couples.
  • We urge you to remove the threat of potential sanctions against clergy who marry (made real for Jeremy and Andrew). It is impossible for LGBTI clergy and lay ministers to participate in the mutual conversations while this threat hangs over us.

You need to respond to the anger and frustration being felt by LGBTI laity and clergy. The temperature is rising and people are calling for urgent action. We are not prepared to wait for the conclusion of the mutual conversations for the changes which have already occurred to be approved by the House of Bishops.

Yours sincerely,

The Reverend Colin Coward MBE
and the Trustees of Changing Attitude England

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 11:25am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 6 September 2014

opinion

Archdruid Eileen On Encountering a Church
and Going to Church is a Waste of Time

Laurie Brock who blogs at Dirty Sexy Ministry discusses dating and the single priest: Eat, Priest, Love.

Ian Paul asks What kind of leader is Justin Welby?

Eric Pickles The Telegraph The fight against intolerance begins at home

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 6 September 2014 at 11:00am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 September 2014

Anglican Social Theology

book cover
Anglican Social Theology: Renewing the Vision Today London: Church House Publishing, 2014 ISBN 978-0-715-14440-4. pp.240. £19.99 pbk.
Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, reviews Anglican Social Theology.

Anglican Social Theology gives an overview of the theological traditions and ideas underlying the Church of England’s involvement in the public affairs of the nation since the late 1930s. Interesting essays on the legacy associated with Archbishop William Temple, and on more recent “post-liberal” ideas, are joined by helpful insights and reflections from evangelical and Roman Catholic perspectives.

It is “offered as a resource for parishes and church members who are responding in numerous practical ways to widening social divisions and other problems in contemporary society.” It “looks to develop strong theological foundations for social action initiatives by churches”.

I myself badly need the book and I’m very grateful for it, though I cannot pretend to understand all of it. I need the book because I need to discover and develop “strong theological foundations for social action”.

Any new Bishop of Liverpool stands on giants’ shoulders and from that perspective sees the horizon slipping and sliding. I see David Sheppard who spoke courageously for the urban poor in his own speeches and books and through “Faith in the City” which he inspired. I see James Jones who was asked by the Government to chair the Hillsborough Independent Panel because he was seen as a leader in and beyond the community of faith, and to have the wisdom and credibility to do the job well.

But the horizon is slipping and sliding. “Faith in the City” was addressed by the Church to the nation, in the secure belief that the two had a language in common and a platform of mutual respect on which to stand. It assumed an unruffled process by which groups of clever, (mostly) middle-aged (mostly) men would meet together in a room and by thinking carefully about things would come to agreement, and would make progress together for everyone’s benefit. That way of working is described in this book as the “Royal Commission” approach.

But “Faith in the City” was not received with agreement. It offended many in power. It was contentious and controversial and it made and continues to make an enormous difference to the Church’s self-understanding, and on the ground to help people through CUF and its offshoots, and through other practical initiatives. For many in the Thatcher years the Church was seen as a credible voice of opposition, sometimes perhaps the only voice of opposition. However that road was ending and “Faith in the City” was its terminus.

The only Church of England report to have sold as many copies as “Faith in the City” is “Mission-Shaped Church” on which I worked with Bishop James Jones. I believe the report is vital to the future of a Church that can make a difference; but it was addressed by the Church to the Church as a means of getting to grips with a changing England. Like “Faith in the City” it was contended and controversial, but only within the Church. And when Bishop James made his own enormous contribution to the Liverpool region, it was not as the patron of a church report. The Hillsborough Panel was, inevitably and rightly, far more specific and far more emotional than a Royal Commission. It was, and is, a matter of public justice in public view. Years of denial and evasion have been exposed, and the patience and perseverance of the families of the 96 who died has been vindicated. This has been a harrowing process and the Church has been at the heart of it; but it was not a Church initiative and if it had been, it would not have done what it has.

And now the horizon is slipping and sliding more and more wildly. The gyroscope of our public theology has badly slipped. The Church’s public credibility is deeply contended within and outside the Christian community. We don’t have to look far for the evidence. The Pilling report sought to stand in that old tradition of calm, magisterial reflection on difficult issues, as the Church more widely tried to do in the national debate over same-sex marriage. Readers of “Thinking Anglicans” will remember the result.

What will be next for the Church? A disaster, or a genuinely engaged conversation with surprising outcomes? Avoiding the disaster will need a rare and a key resource — good public theology, ordinary theology, designed for and understandable by ordinary Christians.

Anglican Social Theology offers a toolbox with which to make that resource. But it does not offer the resource itself. Its tone is set too high. It is introverted, academic and erudite, sometimes eye-wateringly so.

But to make such a resource; there’s a task for the Church’s theologians. Because polemic and shouting may be necessary but they are not sufficient. It is thinking together about God — corporate theology — that gives the mind a place to stand, and from that place to reflect wisely on what’s happening around. Otherwise the Church has nothing to say outside its own circle, and our internal culture wars become exchanges of insult, or clashes of popular prejudice between Daily Mail people who happen to be Christians and Guardian people who happen to be Christians.

Among the martyrs of the Hitler years were the sophisticated Bonhöffer and the simple church worker Franz Jägerstätter. Whether it was high-modern Lutheran theology or a penny Catholic catechism, both had resources to use, a place for their mind to stand. I hope that Anglican Social Theology will help us develop similar resources for our generation. On its own it is not enough and does not pretend to be. But even so I need it, and maybe you do too.

One final word. For me the most helpful chapter is that exploring “post-liberal” social thought and written by John Hughes, a wonderful young thinker and priest whose tragic death a few months ago has robbed the Church of a future leader of real stature. He will be deeply and greatly missed. I hope that any future edition of this book will be dedicated to him.

Posted by Paul Bayes on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 4:10pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Where did your bishop go to school?

Following up on the recent Milburn report, today’s Church Times has analysed the educational background of the bishops of the Church of England.

The detailed results are listed only on the website, below the text of the article appearing in the newspaper.

Read it all at Half the Bishops in the C of E were educated privately.

…Data collected by the Church Times shows that [Welby] is not alone in being educated privately. While he is the only Etonian, 48 (exactly 50 per cent) of the 96 serving bishops whose schooling could be determined were educated in the independent sector. Thirty-five (36 per cent) attended a grammar school; just 13 per cent attended a comprehensive school.

Analysis of the bishops’ undergraduate education shows that 43 (42 per cent) took a first degree at Oxford or Cambridge. The University of Durham was, by a large margin, the third-commonest Alma Mater: 17 per cent of bishops received their first degree from the institution…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 7:45am BST | Comments (43) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Archbishop invites young Christians to spend year praying at Lambeth Palace

Updated

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced this new initiative today.

Archbishop of Canterbury invites young Christians to spend year praying at Lambeth Palace

Thursday 4th September 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby is opening up Lambeth Palace to adults aged 20-35 to spend a year living, praying and studying together as a radical new Christian community.

In a unique experiment, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is to open up Lambeth Palace in London to Christians aged 20-35 – inviting them to spend a year living, studying and praying at a historic centre of the Anglican Communion.

Launching in September 2015, the Community of St Anselm will gather a group of adventurous young adults from all walks of life, hungry for a challenging and formative experience of life in a praying community.

The Community will initially consist of 16 people living at Lambeth Palace full-time, and up to 40 people, who live and work in London, joining part-time. The year-long programme will include prayer, study, practical service and community life.

Members of the Community will live in a way the ancient monastics would recognise: drawing closer to God through a daily rhythm of silence, study and prayer. But, through those disciplines, they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church.

Lambeth Palace is in the process of recruiting a Prior to pioneer this new venture and direct its worship and work. The Prior will work under the auspices of the Archbishop, who will be Abbot of the Community.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that the church should always be engaged in doing things that make no sense if God does not exist. The thing that would most make no sense at all if God does not exist is prayer. Living in a praying community is the ultimate wager on the existence of God, and is anything but comfortable or risk-free. Through it people subject themselves to discipline, to each other in community, and, above all, to God.

“I expect this venture to have radical impact – not just for the individuals who participate but for life at Lambeth, across the Church and in the world we seek to serve. This is what we expect in following Jesus. I urge young people to step up: here is an open invitation to be transformed and to transform.”

The Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, said: “Archbishop Justin is passionate about prayer and about community. The renewal of prayer and Religious Life is the first of his three priorities, and that is what the Community of St Anselm is all about.

“We are inviting people from all around the Anglican Communion – and beyond – to live a year in God’s time. There are no qualifications for joining the Community except a longing to pray, to learn, to study together the things of God, and so to be stretched in body, mind and spirit.”

“Archbishop Justin longs that Lambeth Palace be not so much a historic place of power and authority, but a place from which blessing and service reach to the ends of the earth.”

END

We have also been sent these notes.

  • Four members of the international ecumenical foundation Chemin Neuf came to Lambeth Palace earlier this year to live as a praying community. They will continue to share in the daily round of prayer that underpins the Archbishop’s ministry, while providing invaluable assistance and specialist expertise with this new venture.
  • To be eligible to apply to join the Community, applicants must be aged between 20 and 35. No formal theological, or any other, qualifications are necessary. Applications will be welcome from all over the world, from Christians of any denomination. It will be an ecumenical community.
  • Those who join the Community will be asked to contribute towards the programme and living expenses.
  • Applications will open early next year. Keep checking the website for updates.
  • Saint Anselm, a Benedictine monk and brilliant scholar, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1114. His motto of ‘faith seeking understanding’ reminds us that the faith journey begins with an active love of God – and from this love a deeper knowledge of God follows. Anselm became a monk when he was 27 – when he first enquired about the possibility, aged 15, he was turned away.

Update

John Bingham The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury offers monastic gap year at Lambeth Palace

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 11:11am BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Archbishop speaks about minorities in Iraq

Updated Thursday morning

Madeleine Davies writes in the Church Times Welby invokes Holocaust at vigil for Middle East minorities

CHRISTIANS in the Middle East have not been treated so badly since the invasion by Genghis Khan in 1259, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Wednesday. He later invoked the Holocaust when addressing an interfaith vigil at Westminster Abbey.

At a press conference at Lambeth Palace in the morning, the Archbishop said: “It took the barbarism of the jihadist militants to wake us up. But this . . . is a new thing. There has not been treatment of Christians in this region in this way since the invasion of Genghis Khan in 1259, 1260. . . I think we find it hard to believe that such horrors can happen.”

He was speaking after a meeting and prayer service with representatives of Middle East Churches, many of whom had just come from the region. In a joint statement, read out by Archbishop Welby, they warned that the region was “in desperate danger of losing an irreplaceable part of its identity, heritage and culture”…

Lambeth Palace releases:

Channel 4 News Simon Israel Archbishop: we must counter the ‘obscene simplicity’ of IS ideology

Christian Today Ruth Gledhill Iraq: What influence does Justin Welby have in bringing British Jihadists to justice? and also Carey Lodge This evil must stop: Archbishop of Canterbury on Iraq

The Tablet Ruth Dodd Archbishop joins Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders to pray for peace in the Middle East

Huffington Post jessica Elgot Archbishop Of Canterbury Joins Jewish And Muslim Faith Leaders To Declare #WeAreAllHuman

Updates

Guardian Ruth Gledhill Archbishop of Canterbury condemns Isis persecution of Christians

Telegraph John Bingham Prince of Wales ‘heartbroken’ for Christians in Iraq [story does also refer to the archbishop]

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 10:50pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Archbishop Herft talks about Multiculturalism

The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Roger Herft is preaching at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 13 September at the Anglican Catholic Future national festival Life Abundant.

Here is a talk he gave in July to the Diocese of Melbourne ministry conference, entitled Chutney and Chow mein – making disciples in a multicultural Australia. There is much food for thought here for Anglicans in other countries, including the Church of England.

(Other materials from that conference can be found here.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 12:09pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Monday, 1 September 2014

Everyone Counts 2014

Our friends at Anglicans Online have drawn our attention to this survey that the Church of England is about to carry out in a representative sample of parishes.

Everyone Counts 2014: Growing the church for all

Everyone Counts is a congregational survey with a focus on diversity. In October around one in six churches will take part in the survey, answering a few simple but important questions about how they identify and their connection to the church.

Currently, volunteers across the dioceses are getting ready for the survey. This page provides additional information for the churches and coordinators involved. Later we will post updates on the project, additional materials and interim findings.

These papers are available.

Everyone Counts 2014 Information for Churches

Everyone Counts Coordinator FAQs

Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England [a background paper presented to the Archbishops’ Council]

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 1 September 2014 at 6:23pm BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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