Thursday, 30 April 2015

Former Worcestershire vicar "not an employee"

Updated

From the Worcester diocesan website

Court of Appeal upholds clergy freedom

30 Apr 2015 By Sam Setchell

The Court of Appeal has upheld the freedom of clergy to be office holders rather than employees with its judgement in the case regarding former Worcestershire vicar, Mark Sharpe.

The court has agreed with the initial judgement of the Employment Tribunal, which ruled that Mr Sharpe was not an employee of the Bishop, the Diocese or anyone else.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Dr John Inge said: “We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has taken this view of the matter. There has been considerable consultation with the clergy on this issue as well as discussions at General Synod, and clergy have consistently said that they don’t wish to change their status as office holders. To become employees, clergy would lose the freedoms which are at the heart of the Church’s ministry and this is not something that they want to give up.

It is regrettable that UNITE fails to understand the context in which parish clergy exercise their ministry whilst the Church seeks to uphold the freedoms enjoyed by its clergy.”

Bishop John continued: “Mr. Sharpe’s claims of the various incidents which despoiled his ministry in Teme Valley South are disheartening to read. However I am encouraged to note that the clergy who have ministered in these churches both before and since Mr Sharpe’s appointment have all spoken very warmly of the people there and their experience doesn’t reflect any of the negativity that Mr Sharpe claims to have faced.”

BBC News has this brief report: Worcester vicar loses unfair dismissal appeal.

Updates

The full judgment of the Court of Appeal is here.

Frank Cranmer Law & Religion UK Church of England freehold incumbents not “employees”: Sharpe v Bishop of Worcester

Steven Morris The Guardian Vicar who claimed he was victim of four-year hate campaign loses court battle

Gavin Drake Church Times Clergy are office-holders, not employees, appeal court rules

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West Yorkshire and the Dales to get another bishop

The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales announced yesterday that it is to get another suffragan bishop in addition to the four it already has.

New Suffragan Bishop for the Diocese

In a move designed to add necessary capacity to the diocese’s leadership, the See of Richmond (which has been dormant since 1921) is to be revived to enable the appointment of a Suffragan Bishop for the diocese. The Bishop will mainly cover the Bishop of Leeds’ work in the Leeds Episcopal Area, working with clergy and parishes, and will occasionally deputise for Bishop Nick, who will remain Area Bishop of Leeds.

Bishop Nick says, “The need for this post is both urgent and pragmatic. After nine months it’s become apparent that it is not possible for one person to do the three jobs that my current role entails, ie., Diocesan Bishop of a very large diocese, Area Bishop of Leeds as well as the strategic leadership of the setting up of a brand new diocese (to say nothing of the national and international responsibilities carried by a diocesan bishop). This will free me up to attend to the macro work of the diocese (and help speed up the process of transition) as well as giving the Leeds Area the full attention it needs.

“We argued from the beginning that, at least for the first few years of this new diocese, the Diocesan Bishop would not have the capacity to also be the Area Bishop of Leeds. I’m glad that the validity of that argument has now been recognised.

“Because of the urgency, we need someone who can begin quickly, who knows the structures and complexity of the diocese and is someone whom I can trust, so the process for this appointment will be expedited, with a view to the person appointed starting in the summer or autumn.”

The reviving of the See of Richmond has received the full support of the Bishop’s Council and has been agreed by the Archbishop of York, the Dioceses Commission and the Church Commissioners. The post will be paid for by the Church Commissioners; the only cost to the diocese will be housing.

The appointment will be made under Common Tenure (ie. it won’t be time limited), but when the post is eventually vacated, the Diocesan Bishop would need to petition the Dioceses Commission to refill it, if appropriate.

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Refugees are humans

The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, has written an article: Bishop of Manchester: I want leaders who look on migrants with compassion.

Refugees do not come to sponge off our benefits system, but because they have been driven from their homes by conflict and persecution

Briefly, last week, migration got a face, a human face. It’s not usually handled like that across much of the UK media, but the tragic plight of desperate families drowning in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean into Europe forced us out of our comfortable discourse about an amorphous “them”.

Migrants, we saw, are real human beings, not the “cockroaches” that one columnist had described them as only a few days earlier. Hundreds have died already this year in the effort to cross from north Africa.

Save the Children, one of Britain’s most reputable charities, estimates 2,500 children could lose their lives along the Mediterranean refugee route in 2015.

The asylum seekers washing up, sometimes all too literally, on Europe’s shores, are not driven to put their lives, and their families’ lives, on the line because they’ve heard that the UK has a generous benefits system. They take appalling risks.

They trust themselves and whatever little money they can scrape together to people smugglers and to overcrowded boats, because life at home has become desperate. They are pushed, not pulled, towards the EU, forced out of their homelands by war, terrorism and the persecution of minorities….

There is also a news article about this, Bishop says Britain has a moral duty to accept refugees from its wars.

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Resourcing Ministerial Education - An update

Readers may recall that just before General Synod met in February the Bishop of Sheffield issued a note which was titled Financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education

Today, he has issued another note, this one is titled Resourcing Ministerial Education - An update.

The full text is copied below the fold.

The article to which he refers by Alister McGrath can be found linked from here.

And there was this other article reporting More criticism for Resourcing Ministerial Education.

Resourcing Ministerial Education - An update

There have been a number of developments in the ongoing RME process since General Synod. Questions have been in recent weeks in correspondence, in the Church Press and online. It seems a good moment to offer an update and some answers to the questions.

What’s happening now?

We’re in the midst of a process of engagement and consultation about the Reform and Renewal programme as a whole (there is a box on the front of the Church of England webpage dedicated to reform and renewal updates). There are a number of elements to this.

1. Members of the Archbishops’ Council and staff members are making visits to dioceses to explore the proposals as a whole and to seek feedback at Diocesan Synods, Bishops Councils and a range of other meetings. There has been a high takeup. The feedback from the meetings is positive.

2. Lead staff members are also making a second round of visits to Bishops and their staff to test out the outworking and possible modification of the proposals.

3. A questionnaire has been sent to all dioceses and theological education institutions on the details of the RME proposals and we have had a high rate of return.

4. There are large number of other meetings and conversations around this agenda, including with theological educators.

This process of gathering feedback and engagement will take a number of months.

What’s the feedback been like so far?

As you’d expect, there’s been a wide range of responses. The vision in the RME proposals has been warmly welcomed, as in the General Synod debates. There are a range of positive and negative responses to the specific proposals – some quite bracing to read and others much more positive.

It’s already clear (and was clear at Synod) that the original proposals will need a good deal of development and that (as we expected) far more detail will be required before decisions can be taken.

What is the process from here ?

The RME Task Group completed its work in January and so the process from here is being overseen by the Ministry Council, the Archbishops Council and the House of Bishops, who all have an important stake in the eventual outcomes.

We are hoping that a more developed set of proposals will be published in the early autumn – but it may take longer than this.

Is there a sufficient theological rationale for the changes?

The RME Report has been criticized for having an insufficient theological rationale. We will certainly try and make this rationale more explicit in the next group of proposals.

However, it was never the purpose of the RME report to develop this rationale from first principles. Paragraph 10 articulates the need for an iterative dialogue between the present needs of the Church and Scripture and tradition. The same paragraph sets the report within the formularies of the Church of England about ordination (including the ordinal).

Paragraph 14 clearly proposes retaining the diversity of the present pattern of training and the Common Awards. Paragraph 31 expresses full confidence in present patterns of IME and affirms the ongoing need for a mixed economy of residential, non-residential and context based training.

The report is about the future resourcing of ministerial education. It is fundamentally about how best to get best value from and where necessary increase the resources available, ensure that theological education is lifelong, more flexible, extends to lay people as well as the ordained, and that the best possible such education is offered to the largest number of people.

Is the report negative about academic theology and research?

Not at all. This point has been raised by Alister McGrath in his Church Times article of 17th April where he detects a “hostility to theological scholarship”. I’ve reread the report several times for anything which might indicate this and I can’t find it. Nor can I find any evidence for the view that theological engagement with ministry is seen as peripheral, a luxury or divisive. The RME Task Group would have identified wholeheartedly with Alister’s paragraphs on theological vision for ministry. We simply assumed that this would be shared ground.

Nor do the existing recommendations mean that there will be less engagement with theology degrees in the universities. Proposal 3, paragraph 36, argues for the continuation of research degree funding and the higher cost pathways in theology departments, though with more flexibility for dioceses than previously.

Is this all a cost-cutting exercise?

Emphatically not. See paragraph 15: “The full range of proposals put forward require further resources. We have identified a first estimate of what an increase in present investment might achieve (in other words another £10 m per annum).

This would be the biggest single uplift in investment in theological education the Church of England has made for a generation.

However in order to increase this investment we have to be absolutely sure that we are being good stewards of our present investment and that any new funds will have the outcomes the Church needs.

Will this mean a decline in residential training ?

This question was raised before the General Synod and I answered it in an earlier blog post.

Much will depend on the level at which the standard grant is set, on the provision for family maintenance which is made and on the framework for decisions about candidates provided by the proposed Bishop’s Guidelines. But with the intended 50% increase in the number of ordinands none of the three modes of training- residential, course and context based- needs to be anxious.

The evidence from all across the Church of England is that bishops, parishes, and clergy all place a high value on residential training as part of the mixed economy of training we need for the future.

Is more clergy the answer?

A number of people have raised the question of whether simply ordaining more clergy is an answer to the range of challenges we face and will lead to the growth we are seeking.

The hardest single point to communicate in the whole RME proposals is that a large increase in people offering for ministry will not lead to an increase in the total number of clergy.

We are facing a significant fall in the number of stipendiary clergy even on the most hopeful scenario of a 50% increase in vocations.

If we do nothing we face a very steep fall indeed in the clergy who will be available to dioceses in ten years time. Clergy are already very stretched across many dioceses. Dioceses, clergy and parishes are already very imaginative in rethinking deployment and patterns of working and that needs to continue. But the kind of reduction we are facing would mean a radical change to the Church of England’s ability to sustain Christian communities in every part of the country.

This is a situation we cannot ignore for the sake of future generations. The effects will be felt most in dioceses with fewer resources, in areas of unfashionable deprivation, in poorer communities. The evidence of the feedback and debate is that some sections of the Church of England have not yet faced these uncomfortable realities.

RME is not arguing for more clergy than we have now. It is putting the case (and urging prayer and action) for more vocations to all kinds of ministry so that the mission of the Church as a whole can grow and flourish into the future.

That means addressing the funding questions as well.

Can the additional costs of training be met from “central funds” ?

Some of the contributions to the debate assume that the Church of England has a large pot of money somewhere called “central funds”.

There is at present no “core funding from central funds”. The funding for ordination training is all provided by the dioceses, mainly from the sacrificial giving of church members.

That funding is pooled. The pooling arrangement has some benefits: richer dioceses contribute more than poorer dioceses and the dioceses which produce a large number of ordinands do not bear the cost of their initial training.

However, the present arrangements also have some serious disadvantages. They are complicated and inflexible. Decisions about an ordinand’s training are separated entirely from the consequences in terms of costs. The consistent feedback from Bishops and Dioceses is that theological training institutions need to be more responsive to the changing ministerial needs of the Church as a whole.

The General Synod Vote 1 which funds ministerial education has increased by 40% between 2004 and 2014 and at a rate which is significantly above the level of inflation, even at the higher measure of RPI. The number of ordinands in training has remained broadly constant. Dioceses tell us that they are struggling to bear additional costs over and above inflation given the pressures on their own budgets.

This cost pressure comes at a time when the Church of England as a whole discerns a need to see the numbers of vocations to ordained ministry rise. For that reason we are seeking ways of connecting decisions about training more intelligently with the costs and content of that training. We are also looking at drawing down additional resources for a limited period from the Church Commissioners as part of the wider Reform and Renewal agenda discussed by the General Synod in February.

Have would any additional funding be invested?

No decisions have been made about the quantity of additional funding required or the details of how it would be invested.

The Reform and Renewal programme has a number of elements which might be included in a request to the Church Commissioners from the Archbishops Council for additional funding to be released. All of that is the subject of the present consultation.

And finally….

I do not believe that RME advocates a “corporate, management driven institutional approach’ to ministerial training as some have argued. It is a report about resourcing. The clue is in the title.

In that context, the report advocates prayer, increased investment, continuity with the present patterns of training, good stewardship and greater flexibility as the Church looks to the future.

The Reform and Renewal process as a whole is a courageous attempt to help the Church examine its future direction, face uncomfortable truths in a spirit of hope and to better equip that Church in its understanding of and participation in God’s mission. I believe these are vital proposals at a key moment in our history. They are necessary but not sufficient for the reform and renewal of the Church. Doubtless they can be improved (and they will be) as the process continues. As ever, I look forward to the continued debate.

+Steven Sheffield
28 April, 2015.

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Monday, 27 April 2015

The defence of From Anecdote to Evidence is unconvincing

We reported earlier on the critique of From Anecdote to Evidence.

This week’s Church Times contains a letter to the editor from the Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council, and the Senior Strategy Officer for the Church Commissioners which purports to respond to that criticism. Do read the letter before the reply below. Professor Voas’ presentation mentioned in the letter can be linked to here.

Mark Hart has now responded to that letter with this: From Misrepresentation to Misrepresentation. Please read the whole of his article, which rebuts the letter’s claims point by point. He concludes with this:

…More positively, the letter does not try to contradict 7 of my 8 concluding points, nor my overall conclusion that ‘according to the research, the increase in growth to be expected from the use of these factors will be nowhere near sufficient to halt the relentless generational decline, even if the resources could be found to move every lever as far as possible’.

However, they end by trying to defend the claim to have an evidence base for the Reform & Renewal programme by saying that the Church Growth Research Programme is just one part of the evidence. Yet it has repeatedly been cited as the basis, it is claimed as ‘hard information’ compared with the anecdotal, and it is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and detailed research available.

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Joe Cassidy's funeral

We reported Joe Cassidy’s untimely death here. His funeral took place last week. St Chad’s College website has this brief report.

Dr Cassidy RIP

The funeral of our much loved Principal, Joe Cassidy, took place on Friday 17th April in Durham Cathedral. It was a wonderful tribute to the man and this college, which he has done so much to shape. The order of service, Bishop David Stancliffe’s sermon and the beautiful eulogy by his daughter, Emmeline, may be seen HERE.

I’ve copied those links below.
The Order of Service
+David Stancliffe’s Sermon
Emmeline Skinner Cassidy’s Tribute

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opinion

Lisette Thooft interviews Linda Woodhead for Volg Nieuw W!J: “Liberal Religion is Hardline Religion”.

Chrissy Sykes Thoughts from a baby Christian

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Monday, 20 April 2015

More coverage of the GAFCON primates meeting in London

We previously covered this event here.

Media coverage:

Church Times Madeline Davies GAFCON plans to touch more Anglican lives

Christian Today Ruth Gledhill Conservative Anglicans poised for ‘leap forward’, deny schism

Telegraph John Bingham Bishops back Church of England breakaway congregations

Ekklesia Savi Hensman Breakaway Anglicans’ ‘narrow way’

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines has written a critical blog article here: The real Church of England. Please read the whole article, but here is an extract:

…For a long time I have wondered if the Church of England ought not to be a little more robust in countering the misrepresentation and manipulation (of reality) that emanates from Gafcon. I am not alone. But, I have bowed to the wisdom of those who (rightly) assert that we shouldn’t counter bad behaviour with bad behaviour, and that we should trust that one day the truth will out. I am no longer so sure about the efficacy of such an eirenic response. I think we owe it to Anglicans in England and around the Communion to fight the corner and challenge the misrepresentation that is fed to other parts of the Anglican Communion. (I was once asked in Central Africa why one has to be gay to be ordained in the Church of England. I was asked in another country why the Church of England no longer reads the Bible and denies Jesus Christ. I could go on. When asked where this stuff has come from, the answer is that this is what a bishop has told them.)

The Gafcon primates say:

We are uniting faithful Anglicans, growing in momentum, structured for the future, and committed to the Anglican Communion.

Which means what – especially when they claim ‘gospel values’ and speak and behave in ways that do not reflect values of honesty, integrity and humility? And on what basis is the bulk of the Church of England reported (within Gafcon circles) as being unfaithful? And who writes the stuff they put out? Who is directing whom – who is pulling whose strings? And what would be the response if I wrote off as “unfaithful” entire provinces of the Anglican Communion where there was evidence of corruption, love of power, financial unfaithfulness or other sins? Does the ninth Commandment still apply today, or only where convenient? Is sex the only ethical matter that matters, or does breaking the ninth Commandment get a look in?

The Gafcon primates get their information (and money) from somewhere. The ‘take’ on the Church of England reflects simply the perceptions of a few. I bet the wider picture is not represented. They insinuate that some clergy and churches (decidedly congregations and not parishes – and thereby lies another issue) feel marginalised or fearful – treated like ‘pariahs’ according to Gafcon – so cannot be identified. Really? How pathetic.

I was once at a meeting of evangelical bishops in England when three English Gafcon men came to meet us. They had stated that this was the case and that bishops were giving their clergy a hard time. We asked for evidence so we could consider it before we met. Bishop Tom Wright and I were just two who were outraged at the misinformation, misrepresentation and selective re-writing of history presented to us. When we began to challenge this, we were told that we shouldn’t get bogged down in the detail and could we move on. And they got away with it. I am not making this up…

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

opinion

Andrew Brown The Guardian Faith no more: how the British are losing their religion

Michael Sadgrove On Reaching a Certain Age

David Benady PR Week Spreading the word

Ian Duffield Signs of the Times The 2015 proposals to re-brand the Church of England

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Alister McGrath criticises Resourcing Ministerial Education

The Church Times has published an article by Alister McGrath which is headlined It’s the theology, stupid. The strapline is clearer about the content of the article: What do we want from our clergy.

His view is clear:

…TO BE asked to minister without an informing vision of God (which is what theology is really all about), however, is like being told to make bricks without straw. What keeps people going in ministry, and what, in my experience, congregations are longing for, is an exciting and empowering vision of God, articulated in a theology that is integrated with worship, prayer, and social action.

Ministry has both vertical and horizontal dimensions, standing at the intersection of God and the world. Both those dimensions need to be sustained. RME’s exclusively pragmatic approach to ministerial training risks the loss of its core motivation and inspiration for Christian ministry.

This hostility towards theological scholarship seems to reflect a lack of understanding of what theology is, and why it matters. The training that we offer our ministers must do far more than simply acquaint them with the institutional ethos of the Church of England. It must energise them through engagement with the realities of the Christian gospel…

Do read the whole article.

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Church Times reports criticism of church growth document

Updated Tuesday afternoon

This week’s Church Times carries a detailed report of the analysis by Mark Hart which was reported on here earlier this week. See Cleric says report on church growth belies the research which also includes a very helpful summary of his criticisms (scroll down to read the bold print part).

There is also a Church Times leader on the subject: Lost in translation but this is available only to subscribers.

Update

The Church Times has now published a further article related to this. See

Madeleine Davies Church growth: Bishop Broadbent rounds on the critics of Reform and Renewal. The entire article should be read, but here’s a snippet:

…Several strands of criticism were addressed, including that put forward by the Revd Dr Hart, Rector of Plemstall and Guilden Sutton, last week (News, 17 April). Dr Hart’s paper, From Delusion to Reality looks critically at From Anecdote to Evidence, the 2014 report that examines evidence for which factors cause churches to grow ( News, 17 January 2014). The Reform and Renewal programme was based on this report. His paper questions self-reported growth figures and a confusion between cause and effect in the list of characteristics associated with growth.

Whether the research basis was reliable was “obviously an important question to ask”, Bishop Broadbent said. “But actually those characteristics are things that come back time and again in both English and German and American research on church growth, and which can be reiterated.”

Mr Hart had admitted that the Church was in decline, Bishop Broadbent said, but “he doesn’t therefore say what you do about the decline, merely that he thinks the analysis might be wrong.”

Dr Paul, who has a degree in mathematics, said that Mr Hart had suggested that “statistically, there is not clear evidence that changing all the levers that we can change is going to reverse the decline in the way we need to do it.

“Well we haven’t got any other levers, so let’s pull the ones we have…”

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Monday, 13 April 2015

How religious is the United Kingdom?

The WIN/Gallup International market research association has published the results of a recent survey taken in 65 countries. This shows that the UK is one of the least religious countries as measured by what people say about themselves.

The full press release is available here. It starts out:

Losing our religion? Two thirds of people still claim to be religious

  • 63% of people polled say they are religious
  • China is the least religious country with twice the amount of convinced atheists than any
    other nation (61%) followed by Hong Kong (34%), Japan (31%), Czech Republic (30%), and
    Spain (20%).
  • Thailand is the most religious country globally (94%), followed by Armenia (93%),
    Bangladesh (93%), Georgia (93%), and Morocco (93%)…

The wording of the question was this:

“Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not would you say you are: a. a religious Person, b. not a religious person, c. a convinced atheist, d. do not know/no response.”

Press coverage of this has been varied:

Guardian UK one of world’s least religious countries, survey finds

Telegraph Britain one of the ‘world’s least religious countries’, says poll and Mapped: These are the world’s most religious countries

Christian Today Two thirds of people worldwide are religious (but less than one third of Brits)

Daily Mail Brits among the least religious in the world: UK comes 59th in poll of 65 countries after only 30% of population say they have a faith

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From Anecdote to Evidence: An Evaluation

Updated

From Anecdote to Evidence is available here.

Mark Hart, Rector of Plemstall & Guilden Sutton, Diocese of Chester, has written an 18 page essay which evaluates this report. He has titled it From Delusion to Reality and you can read it in a PDF file located here.

His analysis makes use of a previously unpublished update dated September 2014 to a report by David Voas and Laura Watt, which was originally published in February 2014.

The updated version is now available here.

As the title of his analysis hints, his evaluation concludes that the evidence does not support the arguments now being made for the investment of substantial money by the Church Commissioners in order to stimulate church growth. His concluding paragraphs read:

The Church has recently embarked on a wide-ranging programme of ‘Reform and Renewal’, led with considerable energy and resolve, and this has quite understandably been a great source of encouragement to many. However, the Church Growth Research is cited as the evidence base for the success of these plans, and From Anecdote to Evidence represents the level of understanding of the research among the senior leadership.

It has been estimated that it will be necessary to borrow at least £100m from the future, using Church Commissioners’ funds, in order to implement the Task Group proposals. This paper therefore calls into question the basis for considering this an investment likely to pay back a return, in terms of either finance or church growth. It also calls into question the From Evidence to Action initiative which is designed to encourage parishes to implement the research findings as presented in From Anecdote to Evidence.

Despite appearances, this is not meant to be a negative analysis, even though it asks the Church’s leaders to accept that their research has provided no answer to the question of how to achieve sufficient numerical growth to offset the continuing decline.

The analysis here implies there is a need for much more radical thinking and planning, not less. The questions go wider than ‘How can we increase attendance figures?’ to include ‘What are the reasons for decline?’ and ‘What is an appropriate ecclesiology for a national Church in today’s social context?’ That requires attention to be given to all aspects of the Church’s role in society. And it requires the questions to be asked with a positive, outward look towards the people of the parishes rather than an inward, anxious focus on institutional strength.

The Church has officially moved from delusion to reality on attendance figures. It now needs to face the reality of what its own growth research is saying, and of why it was felt necessary to portray it in a way which would only create another delusion.

Read it all for yourself.

Update
I omitted previously to link to the blog article introducing this written by Mark Hart. He said:

…My paper shows that ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ systematically misrepresents or misinterprets the underlying report by David Voas & Laura Watt, thereby exaggerating the usefulness of the findings for numerical growth.

This has implications for the ‘Reform & Renewal’ programme (involving many Task Groups) which plans to borrow an estimated £100m from the future, on the evidence of this research, to invest in church growth…

Mark has now written a further note, From Even More Delusion to Reality, which says:

The C of E press release issued when ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ was published was even more false than the report itself:

“Researchers have concluded that while there is no single recipe, there are common ingredients strongly associated with growth in churches of any size, place or context:
These include: Leadership; A clear mission and purpose; Willingness to self-reflect and learn continually; Willingness to change and adapt according to context; Lay as well as clergy involvement and leadership; Being intentional about prioritising growth; Actively engaging children and teenagers; Actively engaging with those who might not usually go to church; Good welcoming and follow up for visitors; Commitment to nurturing new and existing Christians; Vision” (my bold)

Every one of these factors, it is claimed, according to a professional research conclusion, is strongly associated with growth, in any church in the land.
This is so untrue, as my paper shows (and see previous post).
This is not an academic argument. It is about the people and clergy of the parishes. They are affected by decisions made on the basis of these ‘findings’. They deserve better.

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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

GAFCON primates to meet in London

Updated Friday

In his Easter Pastoral Letter Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council notes that:

…The GAFCON Primates Council will soon meet in London, from the 13th to the 17th April, and we shall take counsel together so that our movement can grow strongly and be equipped to fulfil the vision of restoring the Anglican Communion’s commitment to biblical truth. It will also give us a special opportunity to meet with leaders of the British and Irish branch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the Anglican Mission in England. Please uphold us in prayer during this time…

George Conger reports in AMiE on the agenda for London GAFCON primates meeting that the ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach will be among those attending, and he writes:

Next week’s London meeting is expected to discuss the issue of whether to support a parallel Anglican jurisdiction akin to the Anglican Church in North America for England, and how such support should be shown.

In his 23 September 2014 pastoral letter to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), the group’s leader, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya wrote: “It is becoming clear that we must see the once missionary nations of the West as now themselves mission fields.” He further stated “the focus of the struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted from North America to England.”

To achieve this end, the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) had been “authorised by the GAFCON Primates to work within and, where necessary, outside the structures of the Church of England as a missionary society”.

Details of the Anglican Mission in England were reported previously, here.

Update
A communiquè has been issued. The full text is available here. The portion relevant to England is reproduced below the fold.

FCA UK & Ireland, formed at our initiative, continues to welcome and provide support for faithful Anglicans in the British Isles. We are particularly concerned about the Church of England and the drift of many from the Biblical faith. We do not regard the recent use of a Church of England building for a Muslim service as a minor aberration. These actions betray the gospel and discourage Christians who live among Muslims, especially those experiencing persecution.

We support Bishop John Ellison in resisting the unjust and uncharitable charges brought against him by the Bishop of Salisbury, and in view of the Great Commission, we note the sad irony that this former missionary bishop to South America now finds it necessary to defend himself for supporting missionary activity in his own country. We continue to encourage and support the efforts of those working to restore the Church of England’s commitment to Biblical truth. Equally, we authenticate and support the work of those Anglicans who are boldly spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and whose circumstances require operating outside the old, institutional structures.

We remain confident in the great good of gospel ministry, and we see what happens when actions impacting the Communion are taken without the priorities of the faith once delivered.

Wherever they are and whatever their circumstances, GAFCON continues to unite faithful Anglicans under a common confession of Christ’s Lordship and a desire to make disciples.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 10 April 2015 at 6:39pm BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Josiah Idowu-Fearon's views on the Anglican Communion

Titusonenine has published a transcript of a lecture given by Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon in Toronto in 2013 titled The Instruments of Unity and the Way Forward.

The original audio recording can be found here, at the website of The Cranmer Institute.

The transcript can be read from this link.

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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Jesus is risen

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Mary Magdalene
“That Saturday was such a long day. From sunset after we had buried him, we could do nothing. We went home and locked ourselves in and cried. Oh, how we cried. His poor mother could not be comforted, and the rest of us were no better. We had loved him so much, and known his even greater love in return. He’d inspired us and taught us and given us hope. And then, so suddenly, he was dead. Still, we were determined to do what we could to give him a decent burial, so as soon as it was getting light on that Sunday morning, we were up and dressed. We rushed out with our oils and spices and off to the hillside. But when we got there we were in for a shock. The grave had been opened. We hadn’t expected that and we were very frightened. But we couldn’t have begun to imagine what had really happened. No one was going to believe us, a group of poor women from Galilee. Was it really possible that he was alive?”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you were dead but now you are alive:
transform the torments of this world’s sin
that we may see your radiant glory.
You were raised from death to life:
may the power of your resurrection live in us,
that we may be channels of your true life beyond measure.
To you, Jesus, who have broken free from the bonds of death,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Jesus is placed in the tomb

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Joseph of Arimathea
“I’m Joseph of Arimathea. Like Nicodemus, I was a member of the Jewish Council. I’d only recently had a new tomb cut from the rock, near to the place. It was to be for me and my family. But it was beginning to get dark, and we had to bury his body before sunset. So I suggested laying him out there, and then we could come back on Sunday morning to tidy things up and anoint his body and say our prayers. That’s what we did, and the Governor ordered the tomb to be sealed and guarded. Of course, on Sunday morning it was all very different …”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, Lord of life, you became as nothing for us:
be with those who feel worthless and as nothing in the world’s eyes.
You were laid in a cold, dark tomb and hidden from sight:
be with all who suffer and die in secret,
hidden from the eyes of the world.
To you, Jesus, your rigid body imprisoned in a tomb,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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More about the new Secretary General at the ACO

Today the Anglican Communion Office has published two further announcements:

Appointment of Anglican Communion Secretary General: Statement from ACC Chair

The full text of this is reproduced below the fold.

Response to misrepresentation of remarks: Statement from the Rt Rev Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon

Statement from the Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon responding to misleading stories concerning a sermon in 2014 and an interview in 2007:

In Benin on Sunday 23rd March, 2014 at St. Mathew’s Cathedral where Knights and their wives were being admitted, I encouraged them to continue to uphold family values in their homes bringing up their children as Christians in order to make a difference in their society. I then went on to challenge the National Assembly, comparing corruption with homosexuality that they had just criminalized. I wished the National Assembly had spent all that time and energy to criminalize corruption rather than homosexuality which is not damaging the Nigerian society as is corruption.

I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalizes the gay community and I will never support it. The Church is called to love and protect everyone without discrimination, ‘love the person but hate the sin” whatever the sin may be, corruption, sexual sins of all kinds, misuse of power or anything else.

In this I believe I am affirming the position of the Anglican Communion in Lambeth 1:10.

In a Dallas interview in 2007 the question was about the Bible and culture. I did say by way of explanation that the West brought the Christian Faith to us and our forefathers embraced the faith finding it corroborated our view on marriage. Today, the same West are telling us that the position has changed. To the African, that is confusing, hence the difficulty between the Western church and the African church.

Again, my position is clear. For the majority of African Christians, the Bible judges culture, including African culture. As African Christians we must accept other cultures and the way they also understand the Bible’s relationship with culture. I accept and promote a culture of respect for such differences.

The Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon

Statement from the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, regarding the appointment of the Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon as new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion:

The Panel set up for the appointment of the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion acted with due diligence and was unanimous in appointing the Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

The Communion is in need of leadership at the ACO from the majority world, a situation that is long overdue. Bishop Josiah has demonstrated in his life and in his person the integrity required of the position and the fact that he is African also demonstrates the recognition of the place of Africa in the Communion.

The Communion is called to move on and we consider that Bishop Josiah is a gift to all for facilitating this movement into the fullness of the Communion’s witness in a divided, broken world. There is more than one issue to address and while some may question his suitability, many in the Communion from different convictions on the issues and both sides of the Atlantic Ocean can vouch for his integrity and commitment to reconciliation.

As I said at the announcement of his appointment, it is Bishop Josiah’s experience in this context and commitment to the life of the Anglican Communion that commends this appointment at this challenging time in our life together.

In responding to the appointment of Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon as Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, some have drawn attention to an article in a Nigerian newspaper concerning an address he gave in Benin on Sunday 23 March 2014.

The article misrepresents and distorts his comments in the sermon in which he challenged the National Assembly on the time and energy spent in criminalizing homosexuality and not the corruption that damages Nigerian society. The views attributed in the article to Bishop Josiah do not reflect what is widely known to be his position, both within Nigeria and amongst those who know him.

In a statement today he said:

“I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalizes this community and I will never support it. The Church is called to love and protect everyone without discrimination, ‘love the person but hate the sin’, whatever the sin may be, corruption, sexual sins of all kinds, misuse of power or anything else.”

It is well known that Bishop Josiah holds a conservative view on sexual relations outside of traditional marriage and holds to the commitments expressed in Lambeth 1:10. Through his involvement in the Windsor Report and the wider life of the Communion he has sought to be a bridge builder and interpreter between different cultures and views.

This is the context in which an interview in Dallas in 2007 should be read. As someone who seeks to assist understanding he has in his statement affirmed his commitment to this task:

“For the majority of African Christians the Bible judges culture, including African culture. As African Christians we must accept other cultures and the way they also understand the Bible’s relationship with culture. I accept and promote a culture of respect for such differences.”

May the “Way of the Cross” we walked yesterday remind us what the Church is about. May we listen to where the Spirit of our crucified saviour is leading us. Now is a moment of decision.

The Rt Revd James Tengatenga

Chair, Anglican Consultative Council

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Jesus is taken down from the cross

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Nicodemus
“I’m Nicodemus. I had met him a few times and spoken to him. Now he was dead. We thought it was all over. All we could do now for him was to get him down from that cross and give him some dignity in death. My friend, Joseph, and I went to his mother to offer our help. I think Joseph went to see the Governor and got his permission. So we were able to get him down and cover him up. It was a terrible task, but it was the last thing we could do for him. It was awful to see his mother holding his limp body and kissing his bloodied face. And we just kept asking ourselves, Why; why did this happen?”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, your friends and family mourned at your death:
give strength and comfort to those who mourn.
To you, Jesus, your body cradled by your mother in death as in birth,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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Friday, 3 April 2015

Jesus dies on the cross

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the Centurion
“I was the Centurion. My job was to supervise the whole execution and see it through until the three men were dead, and keep the crowds under control too. As the occupying power in a troubled territory we were used to executing rebels. But I remember this one. Of course it was at Passover, and the crowds were large and worrying. The Governor had us put a sign over him — that he was king of the Jews, and this is how any king of the Jews would end up. And it went so dark that day, you’d think it was the middle of the night. But the way he died was different too. He didn’t curse, he didn’t incite his friends to rebellion, he seemed to be saying his prayers and talking to his mother and a few friends. Through all the pain, through all the indignity and humiliation, he seemed to know what he was doing. Everything about him proclaimed his innocence.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you died on the cross
and entered the bleakest of all circumstances:
give courage to those who die at the hands of others.
In death you entered into the darkest place of all:
illumine our darkness with your glorious presence.
To you, Jesus, your lifeless body hanging on the tree of shame,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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Jesus is nailed to the cross

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a soldier
“The next thing was to nail him to his cross. Sometimes prisoners were tied up, other times we used nails. This time it was nails. It always took a whole squad of us to do this. Some to hold the cross secure, some to hold him and restrain him, then someone to hold the nail, and someone to hold the hammer. You had to put a nail through each wrist, so he would be held up by the nail between the two forearm bones. Then a single nail through both ankles. To breathe, a man would have to push himself up on these nails through his wrists and ankles.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you bled in pain as the nails were driven into your flesh:
transform through the mystery of your love the pain of those who suffer.
To you, Jesus, our crucified Lord,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Jesus is stripped of his garments

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a soldier
“I was a soldier in the guard. We were just doing our job, something we’d done dozens if not hundreds of times before. Crucifixion was our business. First thing was to strip the prisoner. No dignity was left to a man being executed, not even a cover for his nakedness. His tunic was woven all in one piece, I remember that, and we threw dice to see who would have it.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, stripped and beaten by your captors:
be with all who are deprived of their dignity
by the actions of their fellow human beings.
Your clothes were given over to a game of chance:
inspire us to protect the weak and innocent, and give dignity to all.
To you, Jesus, the Word made Flesh,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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New Secretary General at the Anglican Communion Office

The Anglican Communion Office announces: Nigerian bishop to be the Anglican Communion’s next Secretary General.

The Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon has been appointed to be the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

Dr Idowu-Fearon currently serves as Bishop of Kaduna in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) where he has earned a global reputation in the Church for his expertise in Christian-Muslim relations.

He was selected out of an initial field of applicants from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas…

For some background on him, see these two items:

A Discussion with Bishop Josiah Fearon of Kaduna (2010)

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon awarded the Cross of St Augustine (2013)

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Jesus falls the third time

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another woman
“After he’d fallen before, we’d run along the road, pushing through the crowd, through the city gate to the hill outside the walls. And just as we got there, he fell again, a third time. How much longer can this go on? And this time the soldiers don’t even try to force him to his feet. They’re already at the place.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, three times you prayed that this cup might be taken from you
and three times you fell under the weight of the cross:
hear our pleading, our cries of agony.
Three times Peter disowned you
and three times you bade him feed your sheep:
forgive us when we disown you and strengthen us to share your love.
To you, Jesus, sharer in our suffering,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem

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a woman
“My friends and I had been waiting for him to come to Jerusalem. We’d heard about the man from Galilee. We’d even seen him there and heard him speak. And now here he was. Surely it didn’t have to come to this? And as we cried he must have heard us, and drew on his reserves. ‘Don’t cry for me,’ he said, ‘cry for yourselves and your children’. How could he have known what would happen to us all these years later? Our beautiful city destroyed, and our Temple razed to the ground. Now there are no more sacrifices here.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, the women of Jerusalem wept for you:
move us to tears at the plight of the broken in our world.
You embraced the pain of Jerusalem, the ‘city of peace’:
bless Jerusalem this day and lead it to the path of profound peace.
To you, Jesus, the King of peace who wept for the city of peace,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 1 April 2015 at 3:00pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Jesus falls the second time

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a man
“We were walking into the city as the soldiers cleared the way out, so we stood to one side to watch. A man, helped by another man, was carrying his cross. Even with help he was struggling, and he stumbled and fell beneath the weight. Some of the crowd were yelling abuse at him, and others were crying. Despite everything there was something about him that stood out. I remember wondering who he was.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you suffered and fell under the ill-treatment of your captors:
be with all who cannot find the strength to get up and carry on.
Your captors were doing the job they had been given:
guard us from causing others to stumble and fall.
To you, Jesus, bearing the cross for the whole world,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen.

illustration: from a wood-engraving by Eric Gill, 1917

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 1 April 2015 at 8:00am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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