Friday, 9 March 2018

John Perumbalath to be next Bishop of Bradwell

Press release from Number 10

Nomination of Suffragan Bishop of Bradwell: 9 March 2018
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Dr John Perumbalath.

Published 9 March 2018
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Dr John Perumbalath, BA, BD, MA, MTh, PhD, Archdeacon of Barking, in the Diocese of Chelmsford, to the Suffragan See of Bradwell, in the Diocese of Chelmsford in succession to the Right Reverend John Michael Wraw, BA, who died on 25 July 2017.

The Venerable Dr John Perumbalath (52) hails from the ancient Syrian Christian community in Kerala, India, and trained for ministry at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune. Before his ordination he worked as a youth worker among university students for two years and as a theological educator for three years. He was a parish priest in the diocese of Calcutta (Church of North India) from 1995 to 2001. He served on the General Synod of CNI and on its Theological Commission. Since his move to the United Kingdom, he served in the diocese of Rochester as Associate Priest at St George’s Beckenham(2002-05), Team Vicar in Northfleet & Rosherville (2005-08), Vicar of All Saints, Perry Street & Diocesan Urban Officer (2008-13) before he was appointed the Archdeacon of Barking in 2013.

John also holds a wider role locally and nationally. He chairs the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) and London Churches Refugee Network. He is a member of the General Synod and sits on the Appointment Committee of the Church of England, Mission & Public Affairs Council, and the trustee board of Westcott House, Cambridge.

John is married to Jessy, a Mathematics teacher and they have a daughter, Anugraha, a medical student. John has contributed reflections for Church House Publishing and has taken up speaking engagements in various provinces of Anglican Communion. He holds postgraduate degrees in Philosophy and Biblical studies and a doctorate in hermeneutics.

Chelmsford diocesan press release: New Bishop of Bradwell:
 ‘God wants Essex to flourish’

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Friday, 12 January 2018

Bishop of Ramsbury Announces Retirement

The Diocese of Salisbury has announced that the Suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury, the Rt Revd Dr Edward Condry, will be retiring at the end of April.

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Friday, 10 November 2017

Bishop of Derby announces his retirement

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, has announced that he will retire from 31 August 2018.

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Monday, 30 October 2017

Bishop of Penrith to retire

The Cumberland & Westmorland Herald reports today that the Bishop of Penrith, the Right Revd Robert Freeman, is to retire next Easter. Penrith is a suffragan see in the diocese of Carlisle. As yet, there is nothing about this on the diocesan website.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

CofE Director of Communications appointed

Church of England press release

Director of Communications appointed
23 October 2017

The Church of England is pleased to announce the appointment of Tashi Lassalle as Director of Communications.

Bringing extensive experience of leading communications and marketing teams in the financial and professional services sectors, both in the UK and overseas, Tashi will oversee the work of the Church of England’s communications department, working across traditional media, digital platforms and publishing.

Based at Church House, Westminster, the department serves the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board as well as working closely with Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces, bishops’ offices, dioceses and cathedrals.

Tashi, 39, has held a series of senior posts in the brand and marketing fields, most recently as Head of Communications and Marketing for Lloyd’s of London and previously as Head of Communications at Actis, the private equity firm. She has lived and worked in the US and Denmark as well as London.

She came to faith as a student at Cambridge. She worships at St Mary’s, Long Ditton in Surrey.

She said: “The Church of England makes a unique contribution to the spiritual, cultural and social fabric of this country.

“It has a bright and vibrant future.

“It’s a great privilege to take up this position.

“I look forward to serving and enabling the life changing vocation of the Church’s diverse ministry and mission.”

William Nye, Secretary General to the General Synod, said: “We are very glad to welcome Tashi Lassalle to the post of Communications Director for the Church of England’s national institutions.

“She combines a personal commitment to the mission of the Church with wide professional experience in a range of sectors.

“She will help us build on the existing strengths of our communications effort across multiple channels, recently recognised in awards for our digital evangelism campaigns.”

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Tashi to her new appointment.

“Her experience and imagination will be a huge asset to the Church of England in its task of proclaiming the gospel in an age of social media.

“She knows the scale of the challenge and I wish her well in all that lies ahead.”

Notes to Editors

Tashi will take up the post in early November 2017.
A photograph is available here.

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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Life peerage for Richard Chartres

The Prime Minister announced the names of five new crossbench life peers on Thursday. The list inlcuded The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Chartres, KCVO, DD – lately Bishop of London (1995 to 2017).

London diocesan website: Peerage for Bishop Richard announced
Archbishop of Canterbury: Archbishop welcomes crossbench peerage for Bishop Richard Chartres

English diocesan bishops, other than archbishops, are not normally created peers on retirement. Two who were are David Sheppard of Liverpool and Richard Harries of Oxford.

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Gavin Ashenden "consecrated as missionary bishop"

Christian Today reports that Gavin Ashenden, who left the Church of England earlier this year, has been “consecrated as a missionary bishop to the UK in the Christian Episcopal Church”.

In her report, Ruth Gledhill writes that “he will work closely with Bishop Andy Lines, also recently consecrated a missionary bishop to work with conservative evangelical churches” and that Ashenden was consecrated in Vancouver “during the course of an Episcopal Synod”.

Ashenden is quoted as saying that the Church of England had “not been very generous” in providing conservative or traditionalist bishops. And further: “I will oversee anybody who asks. I have a trail of people coming to my door asking for support, spiritual direction and advice. Obviously my oversight will be informal, it will have no legal basis at all.” He said he was approached by the Christian Episcopal Church, which regards it as a “duty” to help traditionalist Anglicans across the globe.

There is a press release here which is dated “29 September”.

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Open Letter to Primates

The General Synod Human Sexuality Group have published the text of a letter sent from them to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion ahead of their meeting next week.

In the letter the Group (which represents 240 synod members and wants the Church of England to be fully inclusive of LGBTI people) reminds the Primates that “the direction of travel” for the church is now “clearer than ever”.

In a press release, Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of the Group said:

Synod has shown both in its non-acceptance of the House of Bishops’ Report on Same-Sex Relationships and in its desire to condemn conversion therapy and welcome transgender Christians, that it wants to be a fully inclusive church. The status quo is no longer an option — people are deeply concerned about the impact on our mission to the nation of the Church’s current stance towards LGBTI people.

Group member Jayne Ozanne said:

The medical profession, including the World Health Organisation, is clear that conversion therapy causes stigma and prejudice towards the LGBTI community. It is critically important that the Church recognises this and takes a lead to condemn it.

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

To All Primates of the Anglican Communion
26 September 2017

Dear Brothers in Christ

We write to you following a significant year for the General Synod of the Church of England, which has seen elected representatives from across our dioceses take decisive steps towards an inclusive Church that can better serve both our Church and nation, and in particular the LGTBI community. This has involved General Synod ‘not taking note’ of the House of Bishops’ Report on Same-Sex Relationships, the condemnation of Conversion Therapy (notably by all but one of the House of Bishops), and the request for liturgies to welcome our Transgender brothers and sisters in Christ.

The direction of travel for the Church of England is clearer than ever, for which we give thanks.

There are inevitably those who would like to deny these measured steps towards the full inclusion of all within the Body of Christ, but their voices are becoming fewer. Even so, we are committed to walking together with them – as we hope and pray they will do with us.

Many of us were involved in signing the letter that was sent to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York ahead of your last meeting in January 2016. We were grateful for the personal apology that Archbishop Justin made regarding the way the Church has treated the LGTBI community in the past, yet were saddened that his was a lone voice in doing so. We welcomed however the section of your communiqué, issued at the end of your meeting, that stated:

‘The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.’

Persecution of the LGTBI community continues in many of your countries, some of whom still treat being non-heterosexual as a capital offence. For instance, according to a 2016/17 report by Amnesty International relating to one African province ‘Police continued to arrest LGBTI people. Men perceived to be gay were attacked by mobs and were blackmailed and targeted for extortion.’ We would therefore ask what steps you are taking to make good this commitment?

The basic premise for the condemnation of conversion therapy by the Church of England is that being of a non-heterosexual orientation is neither a disease, nor an illness nor indeed a sin. To treat it as such is to create a society that will harbour prejudice and stigma that causes known mental health damage to the LGTBI community. This is true the world over, and so we would ask that you prayerfully consider the impact of such practices in each of your own countries — as well as the damage that they inflict on minorities whose voices are often left unheard.

Please be assured of our prayers as you discuss your Task Group’s Report, as well as the other items on your agenda some of which, such as evangelism, are directly affected by this issue.

We hope and pray that you will continue to listen to the voices of LGTBI people as you do so, as to do otherwise will continue to prolong many misconceptions and beliefs, and undermine the Archbishop of Canterbury’s assurance that there will be ‘no more talking about us without us’.

Yours in Christ

The Executive Committee of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group:

The Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Southwark (Chair)
Ms Christina Baron, Bath & Wells
Ms Tracey Byrne, Southwell & Nottingham
The Revd Canon Robert Cotton, Guildford
The Revd Andrew Dotchin, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich
Ms Jay Greene, Winchester
Canon Jenny Humphreys, Bath & Wells
The Revd Chris Newlands, Blackburn
The Revd Bertrand Olivier, London
Ms Jayne Ozanne, Oxford
The Revd Neil Patterson, Hereford
The Revd Canon Priscilla White, Birmingham

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Monday, 18 September 2017

Food Poverty in Britain

The Church Urban Fund has issued a report, introduced by its Executive Director, Canon Paul Hackwood …

… that sheds light on the extent of food poverty in the UK. It shows that 1 in 50 British adults used a food bank in 2016. It also shows that 5% of British adults missed meals last year because they could not afford to eat.

These figures offer a deeply troubling reflection of food poverty in Britain. At Church Urban Fund we are calling for a response to this from all sections of society. Government, businesses, and individuals all have a responsibility to make a difference. The responsibility for tackling this issue cannot be left with churches and charities, important though this work is.

I encourage you to take a look at the report and our recommendations for action. We are working hard to bring an end to hunger in the UK and so any contributions you can make to this work will be greatly appreciated.

The full report can be found at the CUF website here.

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Friday, 26 May 2017

Church of Scotland apologises and moves towards same-sex marriage

The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland has issued this press release: Assembly agrees apology to gay people and accepts same sex marriage report.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has approved an apology to gay people for the history of discrimination they have faced in the Church.

Commissioners also approved a report which could pave the way to allow some ministers to conduct same sex marriages in the future.

The text of this press release is copied in full below the fold.

Some press coverage of this:

Guardian Harriet Sherwood Church of Scotland in step towards conducting same-sex marriages

BBC Kirk’s General Assembly moves towards allowing gay marriage

The Herald Kirk backs same sex marriage in church, and formal apology to LGBT people and a leader column: Kirk takes step in the right direction

The Scotsman Kirk agrees to apologise for failing to recognise gay people and Leader comment: Kirk is right to apologise

Christian Today Church of Scotland apologises for discrimination against gay people, moves toward accepting gay marriage

Assembly agrees apology to gay people and accepts same sex marriage report

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has approved an apology to gay people for the history of discrimination they have faced in the Church.

Commissioners also approved a report which could pave the way to allow some ministers to conduct same sex marriages in the future.

The Assembly voted in favour of instructing the Legal Questions Committee to conduct new research into the availability of legal protection for any Minister or Deacon who refuse to officiate ceremonies as a matter of conscience.

A report of the committee’s findings will be presented to the General Assembly next year for further discussion.

Commissioners also agreed that the Church should take stock of its history of discrimination against gay people, at different levels and in different ways, and apologise “individually, corporately and seek to do better.”


An amendment to recognise the Church’s doctrine and practice in matters of human sexuality and marriage was accepted by the General Assembly.

The decisions were taken after three hours of impassioned debate over options presented by the Theological Forum.

The debate was carried out in a spirit of grace and humility, but there was no mistaking the strength of feeling expressed in the Hall.

Some commissioners on the traditionalist wing of the Church claimed the report was “biased” and “one-sided” but their arguments failed to carry the majority with them.

A majority agreed that the Theological Forum, in consultation with other councils of the Church, should investigate theologically, the theme of reconciliation to address divisions between churches and wider society.

Presenting the report, Theological Forum convener, Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, said he and his colleagues could see “no sufficient theological reason for the Church not to authorise specific ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings”.

He added that this would be possible “if doing so does not prejudice the position of those who decline to do so for reasons of conscience”.

Professor Torrance told commissioners that the Church’s journey on the issue had parallels with the one it has taken on the ordination of women in the 1960s.

He said the debate was initially won by ‘justice arguments’, reluctantly accepted by traditionalists,
Professor Torrance said opponents later gave way to a new theological understanding which made room for women’s ministry.

Professor Torrance added said that the Forum was trying to frame the argument on same-sex marriage in a new way, drawing on the work of theologian Robert Song:

“Song suggests that rather than the old fraught polarisation of heterosexual versus homosexual, where the notion of homosexuality is demonised as disobedient to a creation expectation to pro-create, it needs to be reframed,” he added.


Speaking after the debate, Rev Scott Rennie, minister at Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, said he was “delighted” that the General Assembly had decided to move forward on the issue.

“There was a real feeling that we have to find space for everyone in the Church and I hope it is not too many years before I am able to marry people of the same gender,” he added.

But Rev Mike Goss, clerk of Angus Presbytery who has been representing the traditionalist wing of the Church in media interviews this week, said he and his colleagues were “frustrated” that the Church was not coming together over the issue.

“Although there were things in the report that myself and friends felt could have been better expressed, it has not altered where things are with this debate,” he added.

“I hope that by having it today, we have highlighted that we do not feel that our position has been well reflected in the report itself and that will help the Church know where we are coming from.”

Mr Goss said he had “no difficulty apologising” to the gay community.

“If I have caused hurt to other folk unintentionally then I am more than happy to do it,” he added.

Speaking after the debate, Professor Torrance said he felt that the Church as a whole understood that the Theological Forum was trying to move it out of a “culture of mutual denunciation into a non-binary situation”.

“A non-binary situation is the only one in which we can honour each other and enable mutual flourishing,” he added.

In a world where political and social issues are becoming increasingly polarised, the spirit of respectful dialogue in the Assembly Hall today is a welcome reminder that debate is still possible without resorting to ever more divisive rhetoric.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 26 May 2017 at 11:11am BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

More about Jesmond's episcopal consecration

The original Church Times report has been updated: Vicar of Jesmond warns against trying to discipline curate ordained bishop by breakaway Church.

It now reports that the Diocese of Newcastle has made a public statement. Here’s what it says:

The Bishop of Newcastle is aware that a minister holding her licence to a parish within the Diocese has taken part in a service of consecration as a bishop under the auspices of an overseas church.

It is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop.

It is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the Archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister.

In this case neither has been sought.

The Archbishop of York is being kept informed.

The Church Times goes on to report:

The Vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, the Revd David Holloway, responded to the diocesan statement on Tuesday afternoon with the comment that it was “quite wrong”, owing to the diocese’s failure, in his view, to study the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 properly.

He also stated that the Clergy Discipline Measure did not apply, since “matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial” were not covered by it, and the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 had been declared by a C of E working party not to command “the necessary confidence of the Church”.

If it were to be used, he said, it would “be utter folly and invite a range of reciprocal heresy trials”.

Earlier, Law & Religion UK published this note: Church of England: confusion over episcopal consecration in Newcastle. This contains a number of useful links to background documents.

And Christian Today has Church of England issues warning against conservative minister consecrated as rebel bishop.

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Jesmond Parish Church issues press release

Jesmond Parish Church has issued this press release:

On St Athanasius’ Day, 2 May 2017, Jonathan Pryke, the senior minister, under its vicar, of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, was consecrated a “bishop in the Church of God”. This was by the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA (the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa), formerly known as CESA (the Church of England in South Africa) and whose orders of bishop, priest/presbyter and deacon are recognized by the Church of England. But like the new ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) whose orders are also recognized, it is not in communion with the Church of England. Officially the Church of England is in Communion with the heterodox ACSA (the Anglican Church of South Africa), and with the heterodox TEC (The Episcopal Church [of America]). But, in practice, many orthodox English and Global Anglicans are in communion with both REACH SA and ACNA.

The service took place neither in a Church of England “place of worship” nor an unconsecrated place of worship designated under s.43 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. It did not take place in Jesmond Parish Church. The ceremony was according to the REACH SA consecration Holy Communion service with only REACH SA bishops taking part. The declaration, however, was to the Church of England’s Canon A5 which says:

“The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.”

The oath was of “all due reverence and obedience” not to the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA but to “bishops and other chief ministers” under whom Jonathan is set. So he has a dispersed responsibility and duty: in things temporal to the Bishop of Newcastle, with whom, sadly, in things spiritual, Jesmond Parish Church along with other churches in the diocese are in impaired communion; in terms of Jesmond Parish Church, to the vicar of Jesmond and where there is united agreement, to the Jesmond PCC; and, pastorally, to one of the participating REACH SA bishops. This bishop particularly understands the English situation and does not want to see bishops “parachuted in” to form a new “orthodox church” or “province”. He sees the role of REACH SA simply as helping English people have the courage to take responsibility for reforming the Church of England to be in line with Canon A5, to evangelize and to see growth. This consecration took place after considerable discussion and encouragement from leaders in the Church of England, and with the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA convinced it right to proceed after discussion with the Secretary of GAFCON.

There is a very lengthy section entitled Information for Editors which can be read by following the link above and scrolliing down.

Another copy formatted as a PDF is now available here. I recommend reading it carefully in full.

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Conservatives consecrate their own bishop in Newcastle

Updated again Tuesday lunchtime

George Conger has reported at Anglican Ink that a Church of England clergyman has been consecrated a bishop by persons as yet unamed, acting on behalf of the “Church of England in South Africa”, a body whose website says that the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) is now the “official operating name” of CESA.

George’s report: Missionary bishop for Britain consecrated at Jesmond and is copied in full below the fold.

The clergyman is Jonathan Pryke of Jesmond Parish Church. His Crockford entry reads:

Curate, Jesmond (Clayton Memorial Church)

Born: 1959

Ordained Deacon: 1985
Ordained Priest: 1986

Trinity College Cambridge BA 1980
Trinity College Cambridge MA 1985

Ordination Training
Trinity College Bristol BD 1985

Curate, CORBY (St Columba and the Northern Saints) Peterborough 1985-1988
Curate, JESMOND (Clayton Memorial Church) Newcastle from 1988

The Church Times has this report by Tim Wyatt: Jesmond curate’s breakaway consecration surprises both diocese and conservative Evangelicals

THE authorities in Newcastle diocese still seem to be in the dark after an assistant curate of a conservative Evangelical parish church in the diocese was reportedly consecrated bishop through the action of a breakaway Church in South Africa.

The curate, the Revd Jonathan Pryke, has served at Jesmond Parish Church since 1988. He was consecrated by bishops from the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) at a service in Newcastle earlier this month, several sources told the Church Times.

But a spokesman for the diocese simply said today: “The Bishop of Newcastle is aware of reports concerning this matter and is seeking clarification.”

The Church Times has repeatedly attempted to contact both Bishop Pryke and his Vicar, the Revd David Holloway, but neither has responded…

This AMiE Statement in response to the consecration of Jonathan Pryke has also been published:

The AMiE Executive Committee recently requested that the GAFCON Primates support the consecration of a Missionary Bishop. We were overjoyed when they agreed to do this for the sake of gospel growth.

We can confirm that the consecration of the Revd Jonathan Pryke was a gospel decision taken independently of AMiE. His consecration was never discussed at our Executive meetings.

Jonathan is a valued member of the AMiE Exec and we are thankful to God for his abundant gifts and wisdom. We will be praying for him in this new season of his ministry.

This statement has been issued by GAFCON UK: Statement on the consecration at Jesmond Parish Church

8th May 2017

Gafcon UK are aware that Jesmond Parish Church have for some years been in a form of impaired communion with the Bishop of Newcastle, and have developed a special relationship with REACH-SA (formerly CESA).

Over the past few years, several clergy have been ordained by REACH Bishops to serve in the Jesmond church network and in one other part of England.

The leadership of Jesmond church have for some time been speaking publicly about the need for new missionary Bishops in Western nations who can oversee new Anglican ministries in the Celtic model. The reasoning can be found in the statement from the 2017 Jesmond Conference, here.

Gafcon UK have been informed of the latest developments but cannot comment further at this stage.

Text of Anglican Ink original article:
Missionary bishop for Britain consecrated at Jesmond
A missionary bishop has been consecrated for evangelical Anglicans seeking a reformation for the reformed catholic faith in England. Participants in the 2 May 2017 consecration of the Rev. Jonathan Pryke at Jesmond Parish Church in the Diocese of Newcastle by bishops of the Church of England in South Africa (CESA) hope their ceremony will see a renewal and rebirth of the faith in England.

However, critics within the conservative movement warn this may be the start of the fracturing of the traditionalist coalition in the Church of England, with each faction opposed to the recent innovations of doctrine and discipline forging their own way forward.

Sources close to the participants in the ceremony state the decision to consecrate Bishop Pryke (pictured) was taken against the counsel of GAFCON-UK. At their meeting in Lagos last month, the GAFCON primates called for the consecration of a bishop to support members of the Scottish Episcopal Church who could not continue in that denomination should it enact legislation permitting same-sex marriage this summer, and for Anglicans alienated from their bishops in England over doctrine and discipline.

However the Jesmond consecration was not what GAFCON had in mind, its general secretary Archbishop Peter Jensen told Anglican Ink. “This is not exactly parallel to the GAFCON initiative, and indeed is entirely independent of it. But it does show, I think, that the situation in England is becoming very difficult for those who want to hold the traditional and biblical view,” he said.

Details of the Tuesday consecration have not been made public, and it is not known at this time the names of the bishops who participated in the ceremony and what Bishop Pryke’s brief will be. A request for comments directed to the Rev. David Holloway, vicar of Jesmond, the Church of England’s national press office, and the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt. Rev. Rod Thomas, have not yet been answered.

However, a paper released at the close of the 27-28 Feb 2017 Jesmond Conference explains the thinking behind the consecration, AI has learned.

The Jesmond Statement argued the identity of the Church of England was not in its buildings, synods, or clergy. The identity of the Church was:

“[G]iven in the judgment of an Employment Tribunal in 2011 when a disaffected clergyman was taking his Bishop and Diocese to Court. The judge, however, ruled: “The Church of England has no legal personality … the title ‘Church of England’ denotes an amalgam of what sometimes seemed an infinite number of bodies with no precise or clear picture … of how the various jigsaw parts interact … the ultimate authority to restructure lies with the Church’s parliament, the General Synod, subject to the Westminster Parliament” (so the Synod is an ultimate body for restructuring but not for revising doctrine or ethics). And this judgment, after a reversing appeal by the clergyman, was upheld after a diocesan final appeal by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
That judgment helps us define the ultimate identity of the Church of England, which is not in its structure, nor even in its ordained ministers. For as the doctrine of the Church determines the authority of the bishops and clergy, we have to go to The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974 for the defining doctrine of the Church of England. It is there in these words: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”
Those also are the words of Canon A5. And it is those words that give you the Christian faith according to the Catholic Western English Reformed tradition. And that is the established faith of this nation and defines the Church of England doctrinally. We consider that that faith needs to be recovered by a new Reformation.

The bishops of the Church of England had failed in their mandate to safeguard and promote the faith. The statement noted: “because the bishops have for so long accepted the defiance of the Church’s teaching and rendered the Church pluralistic, they no longer see their function as leading the Church towards its identifying and agreed agenda,” as set down in its canons.

The leadership of the Church of England’s bishops “has been reduced not to leading the Church to what the Church universal judges to be its common good, but to the desire for ‘good disagreement’. And that, theologically, is between good and evil goals and objectives, with the aim being for the proponents of those divergent goals and objectives ‘to walk together’. That, of course, may be possible in the world, but quite forbidden in the Church,” the statement said.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Church of Scotland report on human sexuality

The following press release from the Church of Scotland has been issued today:

The latest report from the Theological Forum on human sexuality to come before the General Assembly has been published.

The comprehensive document will be considered by Commissioners in Edinburgh next month.

The document has found its way into the public domain ahead of schedule, before all the General Assembly reports are published in the Blue Book on Thursday.

In light of the report appearing in the national press, the Principal Clerk has authorised its immediate publication to allow Commissioners, members of the church and members of the public to understand fully the content and context.

The General Assembly is being asked to consider two key issues.

  • Authorise the Legal Questions Committee to undertake a further study on the legal implications of conducting same-sex marriages and report back to the General Assembly in 2018. *
  • Invite the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better.

In releasing the report the Convener of the Theological Forum, the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, said: “The Report addresses what has been a long running argument in all the churches.

“In years past there has been an idea that in time one side in this argument would emerge as the sole victor.

“We don’t think like that now.

“That is why we are arguing for what, last year, the Forum called ‘constrained difference’.

“This is saying that within limits we can make space for more than one approach.

“It is closely similar to what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls ‘mutual flourishing’.

“This is a centrist report, aimed at encouraging mutual flourishing.”

The Principal Clerk, the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, said: “It is unfortunate that this report has found its way into the public domain before this year’s volume of Assembly Reports has been published.

“However, it is important that people are now able to access the full report.

“It will now be for the Assembly to decide whether it wants to ask the Legal Questions Committee to pursue further research on the matters which would require to be addressed in any new legislation permitting Ministers and Deacons to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“If the General Assembly does move in this direction a further report will be heard in 2018.”

The full text of the report is available here.

The previous report published in 2013 is still available here. As we reported at the time the best analysis of that report was by Law & Religion UK: Men and Women in Marriage, and the Church of Scotland.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Doing Good

The think tank Theos has marked its tenth anniversary with a new report called Doing Good: a future for Christianity in the 21st century, a title that echoes its first report in 2006, Doing God.

A press release from Theos can be read here. In the foreword, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster write:

Nick Spencer charts a view of the future for Christianity in the UK, drawing on the wealth of data and evidence that Theos has accumulated in its years of research.

That view is one in which service is central, but it is service-as-witness, service that is firmly rooted in, shaped by and unashamed of its faith in Jesus Christ.

The report’s idea of “Christian social liturgy” expresses how Christians can combine their fidelity to the two greatest commandments — loving God and loving neighbour — in a way that is simultaneously distinctive and inclusive.”

The report can be downloaded as a pdf from the Theos website, and an article by Nick Spencer here.

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Friday, 8 April 2016

Justin Welby on his secret father

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this personal statement this evening.

In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby but, in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne.

This comes as a complete surprise…

Do read it in full.

The statement is also carried by The Telegraph: Justin Welby on his secret father: ‘What has changed? Nothing’.

The Archbishop’s mother, Lady Williams of Elvel, has issued her own statement, also in The Telegraph here.

The Telegraph carries several articles related to this story.
Charles Moore Winston Churchill’s right-hand man and an affair to shake the Establishment
Charles Moore A No10 hot house of drinking, affairs and Winston Churchill’s bedside meetings
Charles Moore and Gordon Rayner Justin Welby: DNA test reveals my secret father was Sir Winston Churchill’s private secretary
Leader article Justin Welby’s personal story of courage is better than a thousand sermons
Charles Moore and Gordon Rayner How 1950s law change averted crisis in Anglican Communion

BBC News has Archbishop of Canterbury learns real father was Churchill’s private secretary.

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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

interview with Bishop George Bell's victim


Today’s [Brighton] Argus carries this lengthy interview by Joel Adams: Bishop George Bell’s victim: “He said it was our little secret, because God loved me.”

TODAY, for the first time, the victim of George Bell has spoken about the sexual abuse she suffered as a five-year-old child at the hands of the wartime Bishop of Chichester.

Speaking exclusively to The Argus, she described how he repeatedly molested her over a period of four years while telling her that God loved her.

Her testimony brings new clarity to a story which has changed the world’s perception of one of the most revered Anglicans of the 20th century since news of a church payout was announced last October…

Harriet Sherwood also covers the story for The Guardian: Victim describes how she was abused by bishop George Bell.

The original Church statements on this case are here.


The Bishop of Chichester has issued the following statement following the publication of the Brighton Argus article.

Dr Warner said:

“It is testimony to her courage and integrity that the survivor who brought the allegations against George Bell has been prompted to speak out. My hope is that the telling of her story will contribute to her sense of being heard by those within and beyond the Church who are willing to listen with an open mind and respond with compassion and clarity.

“The presence of strident voices in the public arena which have sought to undermine the survivor’s claims has added in this case to the suffering of the survivor and her family. To that extent it is not surprising that she felt it necessary to take the courageous decision to speak out in public and reveal the personal details which the Church could not.

“Words of apology written in a letter can never be enough to express the Church’s shame or our recognition of damage done. However, the apology that I made on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester is genuine and a sincere expression that lessons are being learnt about how we respond to accusations of abuse.

“In some responses to the George Bell case, and to the original statements from the Church nationally and locally in the diocese of Chichester, we have witnessed shocking ignorance of the suffering felt at many different levels by victims of abuse.”

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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Easter date to be fixed?

At yesterday’s press conference following the meeting of Anglican primates the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the primates had voted to join discussions with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches to set a common, fixed date for Easter.

John Bingham The Telegraph Easter date to be fixed ‘within next five to 10 years’

Ben Quinn The Guardian Christian leaders attempt to fix global date for Easter

BBC News Archbishop Justin Welby hopes for fixed Easter date

Andrew Griffin Independent Easter to be fixed to one date all the time, Archbishop Justin Welby says

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Anglican Primates agree to set fixed, common date for Easter

Wikipedia has a number of articles on the date of Easter.

Reform of the date of Easter
Easter controversy

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Gift Aid declarations – a helpful concession by HMRC

At the end of a very long consultation about the precise wording of the Gift Aid declaration HMRC published a new series of template declaration forms to be used by charities from April 2016. The intention of the new wording is to emphasise to donors that, in order for the charity to claim Gift Aid on their donations, they must have paid tax at least equal to the amount claimed. It was assumed that the new wording would be obligatory from that date; however, in response to requests from charities – mainly, but not exclusively, the Churches – that they be allowed to continue to use their present stocks of pre-printed Gift Aid envelopes with the out-of-date wording, HMRC has made an extremely helpful concession, as follows:

“Following approaches made to HMRC by various charities and churches that hold stocks of pre-printed Gift Aid donation envelopes that were ordered and printed just before the new Gift Aid declarations were published on our website, it has been agreed that charities, churches, cathedrals, parishes etc. can use up their current stock of pre-printed Gift Aid collection envelopes beyond April 2016.

Our guidance will continue to recommend that charities introduce the new wording by April 2016, because we want to reduce the numbers of non-taxpayers that currently complete Gift Aid declarations.

The Gift Aid legislation has not changed and consequently previous versions of the Gift Aid declaration and Gift Aid envelopes used by donors after 6 April 2016 will still be valid and can be accepted by charities and churches” [our emphasis].

The e-mail concludes by asking the original recipient to forward the message to his network of contacts within the Church of England. But its interest is much wider than that, so we thought we should publicise it on the blog.

The concession extends to all charities but it is likely to be of particular importance to Churches because, unlike the vast majority of secular charities, they have weekly collections during services. Nevertheless, we would agree with HMRC that charities and Churches should, if at all possible, introduce the new wording by April 2016, if only in the interests of good housekeeping.

Frank Cranmer

[This was originally posted on 10 November 2015 on the Law & Religion UK blog but is copied here with permission as it needs the widest publicity possible before church treasurers start binning their out-of-date Gift Aid envelopes.]

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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Statement on the Rt Revd George Bell (1883 -1958)

The Church of England issued the following statement today.

Statement on the Rt. Revd George Bell (1883 -1958)
22 October 2015

The Bishop of Chichester has issued a formal apology following the settlement of a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse against the Right Reverend George Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death on 3rd October 1958.

The allegations against Bell date from the late 1940s and early 1950s and concern allegations of sexual offences against an individual who was at the time a young child.

Following settlement of the claim the serving Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Dr. Martin Warner, wrote to the survivor formally apologising and expressing his “deep sorrow” acknowledging that “the abuse of children is a criminal act and a devastating betrayal of trust that should never occur in any situation, particularly the church.”

Bishop Warner paid tribute to the survivor’s courage in coming forward to report the abuse and notes that “along with my colleagues throughout the church, I am committed to ensuring that the past is handled with honesty and transparency.”

Tracey Emmott, the solicitor for the survivor, today issued the following statement on behalf of her client:

“The new culture of openness in the Church of England is genuinely refreshing and seems to represent a proper recognition of the dark secrets of its past, many of which may still not have come to light. While my client is glad this case is over, they remain bitter that their 1995 complaint was not properly listened to or dealt with until my client made contact with Archbishop Justin Welby’s office in 2013. That failure to respond properly was very damaging, and combined with the abuse that was suffered has had a profound effect on my client’s life. For my client, the compensation finally received does not change anything. How could any amount of money possibly compensate for childhood abuse? However, my client recognises that it represents a token of apology. What mattered to my client most and has brought more closure than anything was the personal letter my client has recently received from the Bishop of Chichester.”

The survivor first reported the abuse to the then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, in August 1995. Bishop Kemp responded to the correspondence offering pastoral support but did not refer the matter to the police or, so far as is known, investigate the matter further. It was not until contact with Lambeth Palace in 2013 that the survivor was put in touch with the safeguarding team at the Diocese of Chichester who referred the matter to the police and offered personal support and counselling to the survivor.

In his letter to the survivor Bishop Warner acknowledges that the response from the Diocese of Chichester in 1995, when the survivor first came forward, “fell a long way short, not just of what is expected now, but of what we now appreciate you should have had a right to expect then.”

In accordance with the recommendations of the Church Commissaries’ report into the Diocese of Chichester in 2012 the settlement does not impose any form of “confidentiality agreement” restriction regarding public disclosure upon the individual. In this case the survivor has expressed the desire to remain anonymous.

Following a meeting between the survivor and Sussex police in 2013, it was confirmed by the police that the information obtained from their enquiries would have justified, had he still been alive, Bishop Bell’s arrest and interview, on suspicion of serious sexual offences, followed by release on bail, further enquiries and the subsequent submission of a police report to the CPS.

A formal claim for compensation was submitted in April 2014 and was settled in late September of this year. The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.

The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.

The copy of the statement on the Diocese of Chichester’s website is preceded by this statement by the Bishop of Chichester.

The statement to follow communicates news that has brought us a bewildering mix of deep and disturbing emotions. In touching the legacy and reputation of George Bell, it yields a bitter fruit of great sadness and a sense that we are all diminished by what we are being told.

Our starting point is response to the survivor. We remain committed to listening to all allegations of abuse with an open mind. In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties. We face with shame a story of abuse of a child; we also know that the burden of not being heard has made the experience so much worse. We apologise for the failures of the past.

The revelation of abuse demands bravery on the part of a survivor, and we respect the courage needed to tell the truth. We also recognise that telling the truth provides a legitimate opportunity for others to come forward, sometimes to identify the same source of abuse.

We also believe that in the Church of England as a whole, and certainly in the diocese of Chichester, we have done all we can to ensure that our safeguarding policies reflect best practice, and are fully and evenly implemented. The statement below speaks of an earlier report of this case, in the 1990’s. There will no doubt be some who allege a cover-up by the Church. We acknowledge that the response then would not be adequate by today’s standards, although that falls far short of a cover-up. In the present context, the diocese of Chichester has worked with Police and other agencies to ensure that we have sought the fullest understanding possible of what happened.

Please hold in your prayers all victims of abuse, especially those who have never been able to seek or receive help and a proper response. Please pray for all who are affected by this news, especially those who are our ecumenical partners, those unable to comprehend its implications, and those whose faith is damaged by it. Please pray for the diocese of Chichester, for each other, lay and ordained, as we seek to remain faithful to our apostolic mission in spite of much that could discourage and deter us.


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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Peter Ball sentenced

Updated Thursday

Our previous article on Peter Ball is here, with links to earlier articles.

Peter Ball was sentenced to 32 months in prison this morning.

[Update: the sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Wilkie can be read here.]

The Church of England issued this statement.

Statement on the sentencing of Peter Ball
07 October 2015

“It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a Bishop in the Church of England has today been sentenced for a series of offences over 15 years against 18 young men known to him. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.

We apologise unreservedly to those survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse and pay tribute to their bravery in coming forward and also the long wait for justice that they have endured. We note that there are those whose cases remain on file for whom today will be a difficult day, not least in the light of the courage and persistence that they have demonstrated in pressing for the truth to be revealed. We also remember Neil Todd, whose bravery in 1992 enabled others to come forward but who took his own life before Peter Ball’s conviction or sentencing.

As the Police have noted Peter Ball systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality. He also abused the trust placed in him by the Church and others, maintaining a campaign of innocence for decades until his final guilty plea only weeks ago. Since that plea was made processes in the Church have begun to initiate formal internal disciplinary procedures against Peter Ball.

Operation Dunhill began as a direct result of the safeguarding officer at Lambeth Palace raising concerns about Peter Ball following a church initiated review of files. The approach to the police was a proactive step on the part of the national Church leading to a self-initiated referral via CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre) to Sussex Police in 2012. This led to active co-working between Lambeth Palace, the Diocese of Chichester and Sussex Police on a complex enquiry with full information sharing. We pay tribute to those detectives whose work on this case over the past three years has led to this conviction and sentencing.

Since Peter Ball’s guilty plea on 8th of September this year questions have been raised about the Church’s handling of this case. As a result the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has commissioned an independent review of the way the Church responded.

The independent review will examine the Church of England’s cooperation with the police and other statutory agencies and the extent to which it shared information in a timely manner. It will also assess the extent to which the Church both properly assessed the possible risk that Bishop Ball might pose to others and responded adequately to concerns and representations submitted by survivors.

Further information about the arrangements for the review will be available in due course. The Archbishop has confirmed that the report of the review will include a detailed account of how the case was handled within the church and will be published.

The Church of England always takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward with confidence that safeguarding procedures will be followed.

Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.”

Paul Butler, lead Bishop on safeguarding for the Church of England

You can listen to Bishop Paul Butler responding to the Peter Ball case by following this link.

Press reports

Nicola Harley The Telegraph Peter Ball: Ex-bishop jailed for 32 months for exploiting young priests for sex

Sandra Laville The Guardian Bishop escaped abuse charges after MPs and a royal intervened, court told

Press Association in The Guardian Sexual abuse victims of Peter Ball sue Church of England


Tim Wyatt Church Times Prison for Bishop Peter Ball, but victims still seek justice

Comments are closed for this article.

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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Petition calls for Bishop of Sodor and Man to resign

An online petition was launched on 7 September calling on the Bishop of Sodor and Man to resign: Bishop Stop the Bullying!. The petition is now closed with 194 signatures.

The Manx media picked up the story earlier this week.

John Turner Isle of Man Today Online petition calls for Isle of Man’s Bishop and Archdeacon to resign

Manx Radio Petition calls for bishop’s resignation

It is also reported that the bishop had a heart attack on Monday, although he appears to be well on the way to recovery.

Adrian Darbyshire Isle of Man Today Bishop recovering from heart attack

Isle of Man Today Bishop speaks to iomtoday about heart attack ordeal

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bishop Peter Ball pleads guilty

The Church of England issued this press release today.

Statement on conviction of Bishop Peter Ball
08 September 2015
Statement from the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, lead bishop on safeguarding

“Following a hearing at the Central Criminal Court today Bishop Peter Ball has pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault and one charge of misconduct in public office.

We offer an unreserved apology to all the survivors and those affected by this news. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

We are aware that two individuals will not have the opportunity to have their case heard in criminal court following the plea agreement.

Peter Ball was charged with the offences following his arrest in November 2012 and as a Church we have provided full co-operation with the police throughout their investigation.

The Church of England always takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.”

Sussex Police statement

Our earlier articles
Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted [March 2014]
Chichester sexual abuse: two arrests [November 2012]

Press reports

Sandra Laville The Guardian Former bishop admits sexually abusing young men
Peter Ball victims accuse C of E, police and CPS of sexual abuse cover-up

BBC News Former bishop Peter Ball admits sex offences

The Telegraph Ex-bishop admits sex abuse 20 years after victims complained

Comments are closed for this article.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Climate change, the Archbishop and the Pope

I wrote here about the Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change, and the Pope’s encyclical letter Laudato Si’.

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has now written an analysis of the approaches to climate change taken by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church: Climate change, the Archbishop and the Pope.

General Synod will be holding two debates on some of these issues on the last day of next month’s group of sessions (Monday 13 July). The two motions are copied below the fold. The day will start with private group work on the environment. These are the papers issued to members:

Group Work Bible Study Material on Environment
GS 2003 - Combatting Climate Change: The Paris Summit and the Mission of the Church [item 25]
GS 2004 - Climate Change and Investment Policy [item 26]
GS Misc 1113 - Birmingham Diocesan Synod Motion on Fossil Fuel Disinvestment
GS Misc 1114 - Oxford Diocesan Synod Motion on Fossil Fuel Disinvestment
[These last diocesan synod motions are not being debated, but the papers are provided as background information.]

The Bishop of Salisbury (Chair of the Environment Working Group) to move:
25 ‘That this Synod, believing that God’s creation is holy, that we are called to protect the earth now and for the future, and that climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poorest, and welcoming the convergence of ecumenical partners and faith communities in demanding that the nations of the world urgently seek to limit the global rise in average temperatures to a maximum of 20C [sic - should be 2°C], as agreed by the United Nations in Cancun:
(a) urge all governments at the COP 21 meeting in Paris to agree long term pathways to a low carbon future, supported by meaningful short to medium term national emissions pledges from all major carbon emitting nations;
(b) endorse the World Bank’s call for the ending of fossil fuel subsidies and the redirection of those resources into renewable energy options;
(c) request the Environment Working Group to develop Shrinking the Footprint to enable the whole Church to address the issue of climate change, and to develop and promote new ‘ecotheological resources’, as proposed by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network in February 2015;
(d) request the Ministry Division to hear the call of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network bishops for programmes of ministerial formation and in-service training to include components on eco-justice and ecotheology; and
(e) encourage parishes and dioceses to encourage prayer and fasting for climate justice on the first day of each month.

The Bishop of Manchester to move:
26 ‘That this Synod, accepting that the threat posed by climate change to the environment and human wellbeing requires urgent action to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, and recognising that achieving this effectively without creating damaging and unintended economic consequences requires political subtlety, flexibility and a focus on achievable change:
(a) affirm the policy on climate change and fossil fuel investment developed following the Southwark DSM passed by the Synod in February 2014, recommended by the EIAG, and adopted by the National Investing Bodies (‘the NIBs’);
(b) welcome the disinvestment by the NIBs from companies focused on the extraction of oil sands and thermal coal;
(c) urge the NIBs to engage robustly with companies and policy makers on the need to act to support the transition to a low carbon economy and, where necessary, to use the threat of disinvestment from companies as a key lever for change; and
(d) request the EIAG and the NIBs to report to the Synod within three years with an assessment of the impact of the policy adopted, including the efficacy of engagement and the progress made on portfolio decarbonisation.’

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Faith leaders declaration on climate change

Faith leaders in the UK, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a declaration on climate change late on Tuesday.

Archbishop of Canterbury join faith leaders in call for urgent action to tackle climate change
16 June 2015

Faith leaders in Britain have pledged to fast and pray for the success of key international negotiations over climate change in a new declaration warning of the “huge challenge” facing the world over global warming.

Representatives of the major faiths including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said climate change has already hit the poorest of the world hardest and urgent action is needed now to protect future generations.

In the newly-launched Lambeth Declaration, signatories call on faith communities to recognise the pressing need to make the transition to a low carbon economy…

The text of the declaration is copied below the fold.

The declaration was launched at a service in St Margaret’s, Westminster, yesterday. Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, preached this sermon.

There was also a mass climate change lobby outside parliament.

Emma Howard The Guardian Thousands join mass climate change lobby outside UK parliament
Adam Vaughan The Guardian Thousands gather in London to lobby their MPs over climate change – as it happened
Jo Siedlecka Independent Catholic News Thousands lobby Parliament for action on climate change

Comment includes:

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change
David Atkinson Fulcrum Climate change and the churches

Today Pope Francis has issued an encyclical letter: Laudato Si’ on care of our common home. The Church of England has welcomed the Pope’s encyclical.

Lambeth Declaration 2015 on Climate Change

As leaders of the faith communities we recognise the urgent need for action on climate change.

From the perspective of our different faiths we see the earth as a beautiful gift. We are all called to care for the earth and have a responsibility to live creatively and sustainably in a world of finite resources.

Climate change is already disproportionately affecting the poorest in the world. The demands of justice as well as of creation require the nations of the world urgently to limit the global rise in average temperatures to a maximum of 2oC, as agreed by the United Nations in Cancun. We have a responsibility to act now, for ourselves, our neighbours and for future generations.

The scale of change needed to make the transition to a low carbon economy is considerable and the task urgent. We need to apply the best of our intellectual, economic and political resources. Spirituality is a powerful agent of change. Faith has a crucial role to play in resourcing both individual and collective change.

We call on our faith communities to:

Recognise the urgency of the tasks involved in making the transition to a low carbon economy.

Develop the spiritual and theological resources that will strengthen us individually and together in our care of the earth, each other and future generations.

Encourage and pray for those engaged in the intellectual, economic, political and spiritual effort needed to address this crisis.

Work with our communities and partners in the UK and internationally to mitigate the effects of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world;

Build on the examples of local and international action to live and to work together sustainably,

Redouble our efforts to reduce emissions that result from our own institutional and individual activities.

As representatives of the vast numbers of people of faith across the globe we urge our Government to use their influence to achieve a legally-binding commitment at the international Climate Change talks in Paris, and with the continuing programme beyond. Through our various traditions we bring our prayers for the success of the negotiations.

We call with humility, with a determination enlivened by our faith and with awareness of the need for courage, justice and hope. We are faced with a huge challenge. But we are hopeful that the necessary changes can be made - for the sake of all who share this world today - and those who will share it tomorrow.

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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

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 25 April 2015 at 10:14pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Joe Cassidy

It is with much sadness that we have learned that the Revd Canon Joe Cassidy died yesterday, 28 March, after a short illness. He was 60.

Joe was a frequent commenter on this Thinking Anglicans blog, and also a valued contributor to our ‘just thinking’ series, writing challenging and pastoral pieces from a sound scholarly position. In the wider world he was the Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham, a place where many of our clergy have trained and where he will be much missed. Before joining the Church of England he had been ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and was a member of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, in his native Canada.

The Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, was his neighbour in the city, and has written this personal reminiscence.

To his wife Gillian and to his children and family we send our condolences.

May he rest in peace!

Simon, Simon and Peter

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 29 March 2015 at 7:14pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Monday, 23 February 2015

The Church of England and the living wage

The Sun newspaper (in an article behind its paywall) reported this morning that some cathedrals and churches are hiring staff on salaries below the living wage. This is despite last week’s pastoral letter from the House of Bishops calling on employers to pay at least this amount.

Tim Wyatt reports the story for the Church Times: Investigation into church salaries leads to Living Wage row.
So too does BBC News: Church of England pays some workers below living wage.

There is a press release from the Church of England, and comments from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 23 February 2015 at 3:57pm GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 15 January 2015

On Rock or Sand?


On Rock or Sand?: Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future, edited by the Archbishop of York, is published today (according to Church House Bookshop and Amazon) or next week (according to the Archbishop).

The Archbishop’s announcement states:

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu’s book ‘On Rock or Sand?’ is to be published next week with contributions from experts in economic, political, social and religious disciplines, including Lord Adonis, Sir Philip Mawer, Oliver O Donovan, Andrew Sentance and Archbishop Justin Welby…

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: “The book addresses crucial questions about the moral principles that undergird the way Britain is governed. It is about building firm foundations for Britain’s future and setting out the essential values we need to build a just, sustainable and compassionate society in which we can all participate and flourish. We need to rediscover the true meaning of the word economy – it means a household, a community whose members share responsibility for each other. The giant that must be slayed is income inequality - where some few have far too much and the many have too little.”

and includes a video introduction to the book by the Archbishop.

Press reports and comments

Ian Johnston The Independent Anglican archbishops accuse Coalition of abandoning poor amid culture of selfishness

John Bingham The Telegraph
Archbishops’ pre-election assault on ‘evil’ of inequality in Coalition Britain
Church of England’s pre-election blast revives memories of Faith in the City

Ben Riley-Smith The Telegraph David Cameron pledges to do more to help poor after Church of England criticism

BBC News Low earners are being left behind, say archbishops

Isabel Hardman The Spectator Archbishop John Sentamu on why politicians are like men arguing at a urinal

Mark Tran The Guardian UK economy is a ‘tale of two cities’ say archbishops

The Guardian Archbishops speak out on inequality: extracts from On Rock or Sand?

Andrew Brown The Guardian Archbishops try to inject Christianity into welfare state with inequality attack

Lucinda Borkett-Jones Christian Today Archbishop of York: “English Christians ain’t persecuted”

Pat Ashworth Church Times C of E’s pre-Election publication warns of lose-lose situations for many towns and cities


Financial Times editorial Lambeth’s turbulent priest utters harsh truths
Chris Giles Financial Times Church’s book stronger on morals than policy

Peter Dominiczak The Telegraph David Cameron facing row with Church as he ‘profoundly disagrees’ with Archbishops’ attack

The Telegraph editorial Selective wrath

Helen Warrell, Jim Pickard and Clear Barrett Financial Times English archbishops attack government over rising inequality

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Monday, 8 December 2014

All Party Parliamentary Group on food poverty

The All Party Parliamentary Group on food poverty released its report Feeding Britain today. The Group was chaired by the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton, and Frank Field MP.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke at the launch and a copy of his speech is available here, and an article written by the Archbishop on food poverty in the Mail on Sunday is available here.

There was much media anticipation of the report overnight.

Patrick Wintour and Patrick Butler The Guardian Tories seek to avert rift with Church of England over food bank report
and Nick Clegg calls for rethink on benefits sanctions to help tackle food poverty
Andy McSmith The Independent Food banks: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urges politicians to face up to Britain’s hunger
Matthew Holehouse The Telegraph Families go hungry as supermarkets send millions of tonnes of food for landfill
ITV News ‘Stop food waste and speed up benefits payments to end UK hunger,’ say MPs and church in foodbank report
Hannah Richardson BBC News ‘Pay benefits faster’ to reduce hunger, MPs urge

And more since publication

Graham Riches The Guardian Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them
Rose Troup Buchanan The Independent Almost 50% of referrals to food banks in the UK are due to ‘issues with the welfare system’
Frank Field and John Glen New Statesman Food banks: why can’t people afford to eat in the world’s sixth richest country?
Lucinda Borkett-Jones Christian Today Britain’s hunger crisis: Bishop of Truro says benefits system doesn’t work
Keith Hebden Ekklesia Feeding Britain: A start, but much more emphasis on justice needed

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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.

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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Faith leaders unite to condemn assisted dying law

Twenty four British faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have today called for Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill not to be enacted.

From the Archbishop’s website

Assisted Dying Bill: Archbishop signs faith leaders’ statement

Wednesday 16th July 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby today joins over 20 British faith leaders calling for Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill not to be enacted.

In a joint statement ahead of the House of Lords debate on Friday, the faith leaders said that if passed the bill would have “a serious detrimental effect on the wellbeing of individuals and on the nature and shape of our society.”

This is followed by the full text of the statement and a list of all the signatories.

Press reports on opinions about the bill include:

John Bingham The Telegraph Religious leaders unite to condemn assisted dying law

Andrew Brown The Guardian Church of England split over assisted dying as debate looms

Denis Campbell and Dominic Smith The Guardian Assisted dying: leading doctors call on Lords to back legalisation

We reported earlier on the views of George Carey and Justin Welby.

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Good Neighbours

The Church Urban Fund and Theos yesterday published a report Good Neighbours: How Churches Help Communities Flourish. From the press release:

10 million rely on church community, new research shows

New research conducted for Church Urban Fund, shows that 10 million adults a year use community services provided by churches and church-run organisations. This is more than half of all those who access these services. The wide range of support includes food banks, luncheon clubs and night shelters along with relationship courses, financial advice and access to computers and the internet.

In a foreword to the Church Urban Fund/Theos report Good Neighbours: How Churches Help Communities Flourish, launched yesterday in the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: “This report demonstrates the scale and nature of that love for neighbour in practical action. It shows that relationships are at the heart of every community, and that churches are at the heart of local communities. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Church is part of the solution for building community blessing at every level.”

The full report and an executive summary can be downloaded from the Church Urban Fund website here.

In this new piece of research, Church Urban Fund and Theos set out to understand the impact of local churches in deprived communities in England. We sought to explore what churches do to support people in their communities, and also how and why they do it.

This research project is a ‘critical appreciation’ of what churches offer their communities – it argues that church-based activities offer both breadth of national reach and depth. It shows that:

  • The Church in England reaches approximately 10 million people each year through its community activities, even excluding ‘familiar’ church activities – Sunday services, Christmas, Easter, Harvest, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
  • Churches reach people in a uniquely relational way, building platforms for neighbourliness and relationships to grow.
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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Fleet Street's last religious affairs position axed

William Turvill of the Press Gazette reports that Fleet Street’s last religious affairs position axed as Ruth Gledhill leaves Times after 27 years.

There are also to be changes at the BBC as Wyatt switches from defence to religion.

Nick Baines blogs Religion for the Times.

Michael Sadgrove blogs Farewell to Ruth Gledhill, Fleet Street’s Last Full-Time Religious Affairs Correspondent.

The National Secular Society reports Big changes for religious reporting.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England)

The House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate on Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England) recently. The Hansard transcript is available here, and there is a video recording here.

WATCH issued this press release:

Westminster Hall Debate: Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England). Thursday 20 March

I hope our debate has sent a message to the 4,200 ordained women that we greatly value what they do. The Church of England needs to embrace the gifts that men and women bring”, Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden.

WATCH congratulates Caroline Spelman MP and other Members of Parliament for taking part in the Westminster Hall debate on the role of ordained women in the Church of England over the past 20 years. Ordained women across the country will be affirmed to hear the many appreciative comments made on their contribution within Church and Society that has ensured that the priestly role has become “Transformational”. We hope all ordained women will welcome the recognition given in the debate that their work and ministry now seen as, “a valued, valuable and wonderful part of church life”. WATCH also concurs with the comment that much still needs to be done to ensure that the glass ceiling does not remain in place.

In the debate hope was expressed that the proposed legislation coming before the General Synod in July will go through. We welcome the assurance given by the Second Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, that all efforts will be made for the Measure to be fully properly considered, approved and passed into law well before Christmas. Sir Tony also offered the hope that we will see the first women bishops consecrated shortly thereafter.

We appreciated his reading from the New Testament showing the loyalty of the women who stood witness to Christ’s crucifixion, and how Mary Magdalene was the one sent to the disciples to tell of his resurrection. In this context, we welcome and fully endorse his comment that the last 20 years have demonstrated that women priests are well able to proclaim the risen Christ throughout the land. By their ministry they have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to the life of the Church, community and country.

WATCH welcomes the appreciation of its long years of campaigning work, together with those supporters in Deanery, Diocesan and General Synods who wish to see women enter the Episcopate.

We concur with the commendation of The Archbishop of Canterbury for the “urgent and effective manner” in which he has worked for the new legislation since his appointment.

Sally Barnes coordinator of the WATCH Parliamentary Task Force said,
WATCH would like to thank those Members of Parliament who took part in this debate for the many affirming comments made from their personal contacts with ordained women. We are all heartened to know that after so long the value and worth of their vocations have been so emphatically recognised, along with their spiritual, pastoral insights and gifts. We look forward to the same recognition being given to those women who will be appointed as bishops and to the time when the Church of England will have finally broken the stained glass ceiling of discrimination. Then we, with so many others, will rejoice fully.

Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail reported that Church is ‘running out of men to be bishops’: Labour MP uses debate on women being consecrated to says Anglican talent pool is drying up.

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted

The Church of England issued this press release this afternoon.

Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted
27 March 2014

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said today:

“We can confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service announced today that Bishop Peter Ball will be prosecuted for misconduct in public office and indecent assault. The church has been working closely with Sussex police throughout this investigation. The full police and CPS statements are now available. The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. But we can never be complacent. We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

We have also put support systems in place for all those affected in anyway by today’s charges. Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344. Although we cannot comment on this case any further at the moment, lessons must be learnt and it is our mission that all our churches are places of safety and joy, of justice and the enrichment of life.”

Statements by the Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some press reports:

Madeleine Davies Church Times Bishop is charged over sex-assault offences
BBC Former Bishop Peter Ball faces sex offence charges
Sandra Laville The Guardian Church of England bishop charged with indecently assaulting two young males

The bishop was originally arrested in November 2012, as we reported at the time.

Comments are closed for this article.

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Thursday, 23 January 2014

"Priest 'bullied' out of his Merseyside church"

Updated Saturday evening and Monday morning

Last September, Richard Blackburn, the Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool, established an episcopal visitation to the parish of St Faith’s, Great Crosby. The visitation was carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe, and his report has now been published. Today’s statement from the diocese, Report on the Episcopal Visitation to St Faith’s Crosby, starts

A report of an episcopal visitation carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe has found serious failings in the PCC and amongst the laity at St Faith’s Crosby. The report outlines major failings in the governance of the parish which has led to what can be described as a culture of bullying towards the Priest in Charge, Father Simon Tibbs.

The Episcopal Visitation was established by Bishop Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool in the wake of reports of difficulties at St Faiths. The Bishop instigated a six month visitation period for Bishop Stephen to thoroughly investigate concerns at the parish and produce a report.

Bishop Stephen report was presented to the PCC at a special meeting on Monday 20th January.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said “This has been a disturbing and distressing experience in the life of St Faith’s. I have found clear weaknesses in the governance structures at the church. Weaknesses that existed before Father Simon’s arrival. Weaknesses that have allowed a culture of bullying towards Father Simon from some elements of the PCC. The Diocese of Liverpool will need to consider its mentoring arrangements for priests in the light of this unhappy episode. However my main recommendation is that the Diocese of Liverpool takes firm action to restore good governance in the parish before considering the long term future of St Faith’s Crosby.”

The diocesan statement also details the “temporary measures to improve governance at St Faith’s Crosby”.

The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, is to act swiftly on the findings of an independent report into the governance at St Faith’s Crosby. The Bishop has announced that he has asked for the visitation process to continue for 18 months to enable stronger governance procedures to be put in place and deal with Bishop Stephen’s recommendations.

Bishop Richard has given licence to Revd Susan Lucas to act as Priest in Charge during this time. She will be strongly supported by Bishop Stephen Lowe. She will be charged to bring in measures that address the weaknesses in governance, reinvigorate the teaching of Christian giving and strengthen the sacred traditions of Anglo-Catholic liturgical worship so they become a meaningful expression of God’s love and mission. Bishop Richard has asked that this process should take no more than 18 months and he will closely monitor progress…

Bishop Stephen’s full report is available for download: Visitation Report.

The report has received extensive coverage in today’s local Liverpool and Crosby papers.

Jamie Bowman Liverpool Echo Priest ‘bullied’ out of his Merseyside church by powerful drinkers’ club among his flock
Jamie Bowman Crosby Herald Damning report reveals culture of bullying at Crosby church

It has also attracted the attention of the national press

The Telegraph Priest ‘bullied’ out of parish for challenging binge drinking culture among worshippers
BBC St Faith’s Church Crosby priest was ‘bullied’ out of parish
Luke Traynor Mirror Vicar ‘bullied out of his job by right-wing drinkers in his flock’
Liz Hull Daily Mail Priest bullied out of his C of E parish after nine months after banning congregation’s ‘un-Christian’ boozy sessions after services

The PCC has issued a press release this afternoon (Saturday) which can be read here:

Press Statement
from the Church Wardens of St. Faith’s Great Crosby
re the Episcopal Visitation report by retired Bishop Stephen Lowe

The report of Stephen Lowe purports to be ‘independent’, but is clearly subjective and opinion based. The overwhelming majority of those present at the Congregational Meeting on January 20th felt that his was a grossly distorted and one-sided view of the situation. His report made sparse reference to the carefully considered answers submitted by the PCC to the Diocese’s Articles of Enquiry. A report detailing the responses of the congregation to Stephen Lowe’s ‘findings’ is being submitted to the Diocese and we shall be requesting that this is also published on their website as a matter of public record.

The “Review of PCC Governance at Crosby, St Faith’s” referred to in Bishop Lowe’s report is now available online here.

Monday update

Patrick Sawer in The Telegraph Merseyside’s ‘Cyber Priest’: ‘Thou shalt not drink wine in church’

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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Archbishop of West Africa dies

The Most Rev Tilewa Johnson, the Primate of The Church of the Province of West Africa, died suddenly yesterday (Tuesday).

Jan Butter and Bellah Zulu report for the Anglican Communion News Service reports with tributes and an obituary: Anglican Communion shocked by West Africa Primate’s sudden death.

Other online tributes and news reports include:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop mourns ‘gifted’ leader of the Church of the Province of West Africa

George Conger Anglican Ink Archbishop of West Africa dead

PK Jarju JollofNews (Gambia and Senegal) Gambians Pay Tribute To Bishop Johnson

World Council of Churches Condolence message on death of Tilewa Johnson

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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Fulcrum was founded ten years ago this month, as we noted here. Graham Kings wrote about the early history here.

Fulcrum has announced today that it has a new chair, the Revd John Watson, and three new leadership team members: the Ven Alastair Cutting, Dr Paula Gooder, and Andy Walton. Details are here: 10th Anniversary of Fulcrum: New Chair and 3 New Team Members.

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Archbishop Kattey set free

We reported a week ago that the Most Revd Ignatius Kattey, the Archbishop of the Niger Delta, had been kidnapped in Nigeria. The Nigerian Press has now reported his release.

Daily Post Nigeria Bishop Kattey regains freedom from kidnappers
Osun Defender Kidnappers release Anglican bishop
P M News Nigeria Kidnapped Archbishop Kattey freed
The Sun news Archbishop Kattey set free
Leadership Bishop Kattey Released In Rivers
This Day Live Kidnapped Anglican Bishop Kattey Regains Freedom


The BBC has also reported the Archbishop’s release: Archbishop Ignatius Kattey freed by Nigerian kidnappers.

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Nigerian Archbishop kidnapped

The Most Revd Ignatius Kattey, the Archbishop of the Niger Delta, has been kidnapped in Nigeria. David Hamid, the suffragan bishop in Europe, has this report: Nigerian Archbishop with links to our Diocese has been kidnapped.

A Nigerian Anglican Archbishop, one of two who visited our diocese earlier this year, has been kidnapped by armed men on Friday 6 September. The Most Revd Ignatius Kattey and his wife Beatrice were kidnapped near their residence at Eleme, Port Harcourt, last Friday 6 September.

Archbishop Ignatius is the Dean of the Nigerian Church, and Archbishop of the Niger Delta Province, and the second most senior Anglican bishop in the country. According to reports, the kidnappers abandoned the Archbishop’s car containing Mrs Kattey after a police chase. The Archbishop is still missing.

Archbishop Ignatius accompanied Archdeacon of Italy and Malta Jonathan Boardman on visits to Turin and Padua last April, and along with his colleague Archbishop Joseph Akinfenwa came to my office afterwards to report on their visit and explore with me how our partnership and cooperation might be deepened.

Apparently, no group has claimed responsibility and no ransom demand has been made.

Please pray for the safe release of the Archbishop.

The Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion has a brief statement on its website.

There are many reports in the Nigerian press including these.

This Day Live Anglican Archbishop Kattey Kidnapped in Rivers
Nigerian Tribune Anglican Arch-Bishop kidnapped in Rivers State •Police begin manhunt
The Guardian Anglican Bishop Kidnapped In Rivers
PM News Archbishop Kattey kidnapped by gunmen

Other reports include:

Anglican Communion News Service Nigeria Archbishop and wife kidnapped
Anglican Ink Anglican Archbishop kidnapped in Nigeria

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

London Church Census

British Religion in Numbers reported back in June on this:

…Church attendance in Greater London grew by 16% between 2005 and 2012, from 620,000 to 720,000, representing 9% of the capital’s population at the latter date, and thereby bucking the downward trend in most national religious indicators. The number of places of worship in London also rose during these seven years, by 17% from 4,100 to 4,800. Growth was especially to be found among black majority and immigrant churches, which together accounted for 27% of all Christian places of worship in London in 2012 and 24% of churchgoers. Black people were far more likely to attend services than whites (19% against 8%), and in Inner London 48% of worshippers were black.

This reliance upon ethnicity and migration also explains other facts revealed by the census, such as that 14% of all churches use a language other than English or that 52% of attenders are in evangelical churches (reflecting the evangelical proclivities of black Christians). By contrast, many traditional, smaller places of worship (with congregations under 200) are still contracting; they represent 50% of churches but just 22% of churchgoers. Overall, Anglicans are declining and Catholics only just growing. Moreover, the net increase of 100,000 worshippers from 2005 to 2012 disproportionately comprised women (82%), although the female majority in congregations as a whole was much lower (56%). The mean age of attenders was 41 years, ranging from 33 in the Pentecostal and New Churches to 56 for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches…

More recently Crossing London reported:

…The first findings from The London Church Census, commissioned by London City Mission and undertaken by the Brierley Consultancy in October 2012, indicate that 720,000 people in London attend church, nearly 100,000 more than the last time churchgoing was counted seven years ago. That’s an increase of 16% between 2005 and 2012.
“We are very encouraged to see from this census that many hundreds of thousands of people still consider ‘churchgoing’ as an important part of their lives,” said Andy Frost, Mission Director of Crossing London…

…A summary of the findings of the 2012 London Church Census can be found at

There are several interesting charts and tables in that last document.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 1 August 2013 at 11:00pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sentamu calls for living wage

The Archbishop of York has published this article in The Observer today: John Sentamu: the scandal of the millions not paid enough to live on. The article is also available on the Archbishop’s website.

Also in The Observer are these two articles by its political editor Toby Helm.
‘The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal,’ says Sentamu
Welcome to York, the city that wants to launch a living wage

Daniel Johnson reports on the Archbishop’s article for The Telegraph: Archbishop of York calls for living wage to tackle ‘national scandal’ of low pay.

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Archbishop meets Pope in Rome

Updated Friday evening and Sunday lunchtime

Now that today’s meeting has taken place, the archbishop’s website reports that Archbishop Justin meets Pope Francis in Rome.

In their first meeting, Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis both spoke this morning of the bonds of “friendship” and “love” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The two leaders agreed that the fruits of this dialogue and relationship have the potential to empower Christians around the world to demonstrate the love of Christ.

The Archbishop and the Pope agreed on the need to build an economic system which promotes “the common good” to help those suffering in poverty.

Archbishop Justin said that Christians must reflect “the self-giving love of Christ” by offering love and hospitality to the poor, and “love above all those tossed aside” by present crises around the world.

The Pope said those with the least in society “must not be abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers”.

They also agreed on the need for Christians to act as peacemakers around the world, which they acknowledged could only be done if Christians “live and and work together in harmony,” the Pope said…

The article includes the texts of the addresses that the two men gave in public after their private conversation.

Ed Thornton of the Church Times writes that Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis speak up for the poor at first meeting

The Telegraph reports that Pope Francis tells Archbishop of Canterbury to stand firm on traditional family values.

Martha Linden writes for The Independent that Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Rome.

BBC News has Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope meet for first time.

The Washington Press carries this piece from Associated Press Pope meets Archbishop of Canterbury, seeks to promote marriage as UK heads to gay marriage.

Catherine Hornby of Reuters writes Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences. The Huffington Post carries the same article under the headline Pope And Archbishop Of Canterbury Meet, Note Differences On Women Ordination, Gay Rights and adds a gallery of photographs.

Lizzie Davies of The Guardian, who is in Rome, writes that Pope and archbishop of Canterbury find common ground at talks in Rome.
Gerard O’Connell of Vatican Insider writes that Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury have very friendly and successful first meeting.

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Pope and Archbishop to meet

The Archbishop of Canterbury will be meeting Pope Francis for the first time tomorrow.

The Guardian has two articles looking forward to this visit.
Sam Jones Justin Welby and Pope Francis meet in hope of finding common ground
Andrew Brown Shift in style as outsiders Justin Welby and Pope Francis get together

The Tablet reports that Welby and Pope meet to review relations between Churches.

Alessandro Speciale of Religion News Service writes Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury to meet for the first time.

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Saturday, 8 June 2013

Enough Food for Everyone

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign held a rally in Hyde park, London this afternoon. The Archbishop of Canterbury sent this video message to the rally.

Earlier in the day the Archbishop addressed an ecumenical church service at Methodist Central Hall via this video to mark the commitment of the faith communities to ending hunger.

Liz Ford reports on the Hyde Park rally in The Guardian: G8 urged to act on hunger after 45,000 gather in London’s Hyde Park.

Huffington Post UK has this report: Enough Food For Everyone If: Danny Boyle, David Beckham, Bill Gates, Speak At Anti-Hunger Rally.

Here are transcripts of the Archbishop’s two messages.

Hyde Park Rally

“It’s amazing that you’re here today. It’s absolutely wonderful that you’ve come together. We’ve come to celebrate the opportunity we have to end hunger in our lifetimes. The only way that’s going to happen is by mass movements of people, like yourselves, getting together, encouraging governments to go on doing what they’re doing well. And a lot of things are being done very well. We’ve seen that in our own country. One of the great things we can celebrate is giving away 0.7% of our national income to help those run the world who need it. I encourage you, keep the pressure on. We can change the world in our own lives.”

Ecumenical Service

“I’m very pleased to be able to welcome you, most warmly, to this service today - to the celebration of the generosity that Jesus Christ has shown us, which we’re called to share with others round the world.

The G8 is the centre of financial resource and power in all kinds of ways. Many members of the G8 are increasingly deeply committed to using that power for the global good. Our own Government is one that has very courageously, at a time of austerity, increased its giving in aid. But it’s important that we put before them the needs of the global community in which we live and with which we are inter dependent.

One of the biggest issues we face is around how aid is used. The issues of tax transparency are increasingly at the top of the agenda and are really, really important.

One of the things that most excites me as a church leader is the role that the church has in ending global hunger and poverty. In many parts of the world, the churches are the most effective networks, through which generosity from other people can be used most effectively and without actually displacing or diminishing the work of the people on the ground locally - local people developing their own countries.

My prayer would be that in this country and across the world, that we are deeply committed to enabling people to be self-sustaining, so that global hunger can be ended in our lifetimes.”

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Friday, 7 June 2013

Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

Press release from Methodist Church House

07 June 2013

Bishops and Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

  • 1 Churches, 4 nations, 1 message

An alliance of Churches representing Christians from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland has written to the Prime Minister asking for an apology on behalf of the Government for misrepresenting the poor.

Church leaders, including the Right Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and the Right Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, pointed out that in recent weeks senior members of the Government have given out misleading and inaccurate information about people on benefits. Outlining the inaccuracies, they asked for them to be corrected and for an apology to be offered to those who were misrepresented.

“We are concerned that these inaccuracies paint some of the most vulnerable in our society in an unfavourable light, stigmatising those who need the support of the benefits system,” the letter states. “No political or financial imperative can be given to make this acceptable.”

April saw some of the most controversial and wide ranging changes to the benefit system in a generation. In their letter, Church leaders, including the leaders of the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church, said that while they hold no common view on welfare reform, they all share the belief that that those in receipt of benefits are loved and valuable.

“What unites us is the belief that the debate around these reforms should be based on truthful information,” they write. “We ask you, as Prime Minister and as leader of the Conservative Party, to ensure that the record is put straight, and that statistics are no longer manipulated in a way which stigmatises the poorest in our society.”



The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix one to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix two to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 10:41pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Friday, 31 May 2013

Archbishop of York has surgery for prostate cancer

The Archbishop of York announced yesterday that he had undergone surgery for prostate surgery.

Statement From The Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
Thursday 30th May 2013

Following an operation today, the Archbishop has released the following statement…

I am thankful and grateful for Mr Bill Cross, and his surgical team at St James’ Hospital Leeds, who today operated on me for a locally advanced cancer of the prostate. I am also grateful to the nursing staff who are caring for me.

I am thankful, too, for all of you who regularly pray for me and support me, especially my staff at Bishopthorpe Palace.

I will be out of action for some time, and will continue to value your prayers. I look forward to resuming my ministry as soon as possible.

As I have often said, during the most trying times, I have derived great comfort from the words of the Taizé chant, ‘Aber du weißt den Weg für mich’, adapted from a passage in Letters and Papers from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (a German Pastor and Theologian executed by the Nazis in 1945):

“God, gather and turn my thoughts to you. With you there is light, you do not forget me. With you there is hope and patience. I don’t understand your ways, but you know the way for me.”

I wish you all joy in the Lord.

+Sentamu Eboracensis
on the Feast of Corpus Christi

The many press reports include these:

Ed Thornton in the Church Times Dr Sentamu treated for prostate cancer

Press Association (in The Guardian) John Sentamu, archbishop of York, has surgery for prostate cancer

Tim Ross in The Telegraph Archbishop of York has prostate cancer surgery

BBC News Archbishop of York treated for prostate cancer

Kevin Rawlinson in The Independent Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, treated for prostate cancer

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 31 May 2013 at 12:01pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 9 May 2013

First female Dean of Llandaff Cathedral quits after two months

Wales Online reports tonight that First female Dean of Llandaff Cathedral quits after two months.

The first woman Dean of Llandaff Cathedral has resigned just two months after she was installed in the post.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he had accepted Janet Henderson’s resignation “with enormous sadness”.

Church in Wales sources have told WalesOnline that Dean Henderson had had “a “difficult time” since her appointment, with some clergy resenting the appointment of a woman…

The press release from the Church in Wales has nothing to say about the reasons for the Dean’s resignation, and neither does this report from the BBC.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 9 May 2013 at 9:58pm BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI to resign

It was announced from the Vatican this morning that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign with effect from 28 February.

Press reaction has been swift. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a press release, has responded:

In his visit to the UK, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice — a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question.

In his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice – a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question. In his teaching and writing he has brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day. We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s ministry.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, writes

… the Christian world will miss a great theologian with great spiritual depth.

We should remember Pope Benedict communicated the revelation of God in a characteristic way as a true successor of St Peter. He was unafraid to proclaim the Gospel and challenge a culture that is so self-referential, managing to lift our eyes to God’s glory.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 12:11pm GMT | Comments (63) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

IF campaign

I reported on the launch of the Enough Food For Everyone If campaign last week. Here are a few reports on and reactions to the launch.

Liz Ford in The Guardian Anti-hunger campaign ‘If’ launches with call for G8 to act

Ed Thornton in the Church Times There is one direction: ending world hunger

Luke Harman for Christian Aid IF campaign launches

Zahid Torres-Rahman in The Guardian Business should be part of solution in enough food for everyone campaign

Leni Wild and Sarah Mulley in the New Statesman Is the new IF campaign trying to ‘Make Poverty History’, again?

Maria Caspani for AlertNet IF campaign to end hunger seems a bit iffy

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 10:15am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chichester sexual abuse: two arrests

Updated again on Friday

A retired bishop and a 67 year old retired priest were arrested by Sussex Police today in relation to allegations of sexual abuse. The Church of England issued this statement this morning.

Statement from the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee
13 November 2012

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said:

“We can confirm that police today arrested a retired Bishop and a 67 year old retired priest in relation to allegations of sexual abuse. The church has been working closely with Sussex police throughout this investigation and the full statement can be read here.

The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

We have also put support systems in place for all those involved with today’s arrests. Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344. Although we cannot comment on this case any further at the moment, lessons must be learnt and it is our mission that all our churches are places of safety and joy, of righteousness and justice.”

Although neither the Church nor the police gave the names of those arrested, the media have not been so reticent.

Guardian Robert Booth Retired bishop Peter Ball arrested on suspicion of child sex offences

Independent Tom Pugh Retired bishop Peter Ball held in child sex abuse investigation

Telegraph John Bingham Former Church of England bishop held over sex abuse claims

BBC Former bishop and retired priest arrested over abuse claims

Mail Online Steve Nolan Retired Church of England bishop, 80, arrested by police over historic child sex abuse allegations at scandal-hit Diocese

Update Sussex Police have issued this update.

Guardian Robert Booth Bishop’s arrest part of broad inquiry into Chichester diocese child abuse

Friday update Guardian Robert Booth Police receive further abuse complaints against retired bishop

Comments are closed for this article.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 at 5:51pm GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 21 April 2012

more on tax relief cap

I wrote earlier about the cap on tax relief on charitable giving included in the Budget.

Madeleine Davies writes about this in the Church Times: One-size tax-relief cap won’t fit all, warns C of E adviser. This article copies a letter to the Telegraph which can be more easily read here: Proposed cap to charity tax relief will damage philanthropy.

Robert Watts writes in today’s Telegraph that George Osborne calls for talks on charity row.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 4:21pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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more on VAT changes

I wrote earlier about the changes made in the Budget to VAT on alterations to listed buildings.

Madeleine Davies writes about this in the Church Times: VAT change throws spanner into works at listed churches. The Church Times has also published an editorial: Another raid on church finances.

Other press reports during the last week include these.

Philip Johnston in the Telegraph George Osborne puts the fabric of Britain at risk with the ‘heritage tax’

Nicholas Cecil and Joe Murphy in the London Evening Standard Bishops revolt over Osborne’s VAT on church improvements

Richard Waite in The Architects’ Journal Angry Bishops battle government over VAT on listed buildings

James Chapman in This is Money Ministers to make U-turn on churches compensation and VAT on caravans amid turmoil over Osborne’s Budget

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 12:30pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 April 2012

tax relief on charitable giving

Updated Monday afternoon

In addition to the extension of to VAT to alterations to listed buildings in the budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also put a limit on the tax relief that higher-rate tax payers can claim on donations to charities.

James Kirkup and Tim Ross reported in The Telegraph this weekend that George Osborne’s charity tax plan is unfair, says Church of England. This article quotes remarks from “the chief finance officer of the Church [Commissioners]” which were made as a comment to an article by Tania Mason for Civil Society Media: Osborne provides evidence of aggressive tax avoidance to justify tax relief cap.

The weekend papers have published a number of other articles about this limit.

The Guardian
Dalya Alberge and Daniel Boffey Nick Clegg to go on charm offensive amid fury over charity tax cap
Press Association Charity tax relief cap: Tory treasurer adds voice to criticism
Marina McIntyre Charity tax relief plans attacked by philanthropists
Patrick Wintour and Hélène Mulholland Ministers look at measures to protect charities from tax changes

The Telegraph
Roya Nikkhah, Julie Henry and Robert Watts Charity tax relief cap under fire as philanthropists warn of funding crisis
Patrick Hennessy, Robert Watts and Roya Nikkhah Ministers sound retreat in charity tax row
Charity tax row: Government will ‘find solution’, says William Hague

Mail Online
Rob Cooper Tory treasurer turns on George Osborne in revolt over plans to cut tax relief on charitable donations

Explanatory note: In the UK those who pay income tax can gift-aid their donations to charity, and the charity can claim back the income tax that has been paid at the standard rate (which is 20%). So for every 80p of donation, the charity can claim 20p (ie 25% of the donation) from the taxman. For those who pay income tax at a higher rate, the charity can still claim 25% of the donation, and the taxpayer can claim the difference between this and the actual tax paid. It is this last amount the budget will cap.

There is an e-petition to HM Government opposing the Chancellor’s proposal.
Patrick Wintour reports in The Guardian that Charity tax plans to be reviewed.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 April 2012 at 10:15am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Updated Tuesday morning

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his budget on 21 March that value added tax (VAT) (at the standard rate of 20%) will be extended to alterations to listed buildings. This will particularly affect the Church of England, which issued this press release.

Statement on Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Unexpectedly the Chancellor announced in the Budget that approved alterations to listed buildings - which, unlike repairs and maintenance are currently zero-rated - will be charged at the standard rate of 20 percent. This will cost Church of England congregations up to £20 million per annum on works to its 12,500 listed church buildings, assuming of course parishes and cathedrals can now afford to go ahead and undertake the works required.

This is a real blow to communities who are seeking to maintain and develop their churches (including improved lavatory, kitchen, disability and energy saving facilities) to enable churches to be more widely used by the community. The 20 percent VAT charge will also negatively impact bell hanging and organ building, both traditional craft industries, where some schemes currently enjoy zero rating.

The day after the Budget the Bishop of London and Second Church Estates Commissioner wrote to the Chancellor asking him to keep alterations to listed churches zero-rated.

The accompanying Treasury Document also stated that the Government was ‘extending’ the scope of the Grant Scheme administered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to include alterations. It did not; however specify any increase in funding of the scheme. Without a cash increase to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which is already inadequate to cover all repair claims, the current scheme will simply be divided into even smaller amounts among a larger group of claimants. So, far from being additional help for churches, the effect of the extension will be to reduce the proportion of the VAT costs refunded for repairs and maintenance…

Subsequently there have been these two further CofE press releases.

Sign the e-petition to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed churches
Going for a song: CofE YouTube recording calls on Government to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed buildings

There was not a lot of press reaction to this initially, but recently the media have been taking more interest in this tax change.

Mark Hughes in The Telegraph Budget 2012: VAT increase on listed buildings will ‘discourage improvements’
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church of England faces £20m annual tax bill following Budget
Madeleine Davies in the Church Times Outcry as Church faces £20-million extra VAT bill
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church petition against VAT on alterations surpasses 10,000 signatures
The Telegraph Labour urges rethink on VAT for work on listed churches
Daily Mail Cameron faces revolt from his local church pulpit over £20m Budget tax raid
Jason Beattie in The Mirror Tories face the wrath of God after slapping VAT on church alterations
Luke Heighton in The Sun Fury at Tory ‘stealth tax’ on churches
Chris Mason for the BBC VAT rise ‘could jeopardise Church renovation projects’ and Fears VAT ‘may halt church repairs’
ITV News VAT changes for listed buildings


From the Church in Wales Archbishop petitions against “heritage tax”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 April 2012 at 3:34pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Prime Minister and the King James Bible

Updated Saturday night and Sunday night to add more responses

The Prime Minister gave a speech about the King James Bible in Christ Church Cathedral Oxford yesterday (Friday).

The Oxford diocesan website has this brief report: Prime Minister speaks to Oxford clergy.

Speaking to an audience of largely parish clergy at Christ Church Cathedral, David Cameron spoke strongly in defence of faith and the role of the Church in society.

Mr Cameron said that he was a committed but “vaguely practising” Church of England Christian who was “full of doubts” about big theological issues. But he stressed the importance of the Bible, and in particular the King James Bible, in shaping British culture, values and politics.

“We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so,” he said.

“Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith - or no faith - is somehow wrong.

“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.

“Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

“The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option.

“You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”

You can listen to the address in full here or read it here.

Here are some of the many press reports.

Riazat Butt in The Guardian: Cameron calls for return to Christian values as King James Bible turns 400

The Telegraph: David Cameron: the Church must shape our values

BBC: David Cameron says the UK is a Christian country

The Huffington Post: David Cameron Urges Britons To Stand Up And Defend Christian Values

Oliver Wright in The Independent: Cameron shows off his faith with a swipe at Archbishop

Kelvin Holdsworth has written this Response to the Prime Minister.

More responses

Nick Baines Words about Word

Laura Sykes Is David Cameron Representative of Many Members of the Church of England?

Will Cookson David Cameron and The failure of Christian vision

BBC David Cameron on Christianity - views

Melanie McDonagh in The Spectator Cameron’s missing the point: Christian values require Christianity

Jonathan Bartley at Ekklesia David Cameron’s Beatitudes

David Edgar in The Guardian We can’t allow the Bible to be hijacked for narrow and partisan politics

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 17 December 2011 at 10:12am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Nigerian senate passes anti-gay bill

Christian Purefoy and Faith Karimi of CNN reports this as Nigerian senate passes anti-gay bill, defying British aid threat.

The Nigerian senate has passed a bill banning same-sex marriages, defying a threat from Britain to withhold aid from nations violating gay rights.

The bill by Africa’s most populous nation calls for a 14-year sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Anyone who aids or “abets” same-sex unions faces 10 years in prison, a provision that could target rights groups.

It goes to the nation’s House of Representatives for a vote before President Goodluck Jonathan can sign it into law.

Monica Mark writes for The Guardian: Nigeria ready to punish same-sex marriages with 14-year jail terms. “Bill passed by senate in defiance of western pressure against legislation curbing gay rights.”

A bill banning same sex marriages was passed by the Nigerian senate on Tuesday. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, and one of the few that hasn’t bowed to western pressure to drop legislation that curbs gay rights.

The bill, which makes same-sex marriage punishable by a 14-year jail term, still has to be ratified by the country’s lower house before being signed off by the president, Goodluck Jonathan. It also seeks to tighten existing legislation, which already outlaws gay sex, by criminalising anyone who witnesses or assists such marriages and making same-sex public displays of affection a jailable offence. Under the new law, groups that support gay rights would also be banned.

Savi Hensman has written about this for Ekklesia: How Nigeria’s anti-gay bill is unjust and victimizing.

The Washington Post has published this article from Associated Press: Nigeria Senate approves bill banning gay marriage, groups in Africa’s most populous nation.

The Moment (which describes itself as “Nigeria’s most independent Newspaper”) reports this story as 14 year jail awaits same sex marriage offenders.

Changing Attitude has published this: Nigerian Senate votes for draconian anti-gay law to ban same-sex marriage.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 3 December 2011 at 11:46am GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Friday, 25 November 2011

Green Pilgrimage Network launched

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation has announced the launch of the Green Pilgrimage Network.

See press release: Green Pilgrimage Network launches with joy, hope, faith and practical plans.

Founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network include:

Amritsar, India (for Sikhs);
Assisi, Italy (Roman Catholic);
Etchmiadzin, Armenia (Armenian Orthodox);
Haifa, Israel (Bahà’ì);
Jerusalem (for Jews, Christians and Muslims);
Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto shrines in Japan;
Kano, Nigeria (Islam’s Qadiriyyah Sufi tradition);
Louguan in the People’s Republic of China (Daoists);
St Albans, England (Church of England);
Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland (Church of Scotland);
St Pishoy Monastery, Wadi El Natroun, Egypt (the Coptic Orthodox Church);
Trondheim, Norway (Lutheran Church of Norway).

The involvement of St Albans was announced here: St Albans Cathedral and City become founder members of international Green Pilgrimage Network and also here: Green Pilgrimage Network launched in Assisi, Italy.

There are some interesting figures on the scale of religious pilgrimages here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 November 2011 at 8:46am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Court rules on RC priest/bishop relationship

Updated again Monday evening

A High Court judge has ruled that a Roman Catholic bishop may be held vicariously liable for the acts of one of his priests, even though the priest is an office holder rather than an employee. There are reports that the ruling will be appealed.*

The full text of the judgment is available here (PDF).

A good explanation of the case by Adam Wagner at UK HumanRights Blog Bishop can be vicariously liable for priest’s sex abuse, rules High Court

Press reports:

Guardian Riazat Butt Catholic church can be held responsible for wrongdoing by priests

BBC High Court rules Catholic Church liable over priests

Independent Jerome Taylor Catholic church liable over priests

Channel 4 News Catholic church liable for priests charged with abuse

Neil Addison has written about this case at Religion Law Blog under the headline Catholic Bishops and Vicarious Liability for Priests.

The RC Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis, issued a statement, available here as a PDF, or over here, which inter alia made clear that no decision had yet been taken about whether or not to appeal this decision.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 November 2011 at 9:02am GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Williams to quit?

Updated again on Sunday evening

Tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph will publish this article by Jonathan Wynne-Jones: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William set to quit next year.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury is planning to resign next year, nearly a decade before he is due to step down, it can be revealed.”


It seems only fair to point out that some of this information appeared in the Guardian diary column written by Stephen Bates a few weeks ago, scroll down to second paragraph.

…Word is that John Sentamu, the archbishop of York – who has been severely ill with appendicitis this summer – would be ambitious for the job, a thought to make many bishops blanch, since they rate his abilities rather lower than he does himself. And it is said that Richard Chartres, bishop of London and third in line of seniority, might back Sentamu if only to make sure he is not appointed, and Chartres himself would then gain the primacy. Positively Trollopean and surely wrong-headed, except that it is being circulated by some senior clergy…

And Riazat Butt now reports that Bishop of London denies suggesting Rowan Williams should retire early.

The bishop of London has denied suggesting it would be beneficial if the archbishop of Canterbury were to retire early, after it was claimed he was briefing against the most senior cleric in the Church of England…

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 10 September 2011 at 10:22pm BST | Comments (47) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Daily Monitor in Uganda reported earlier this week that Cabinet drops Bahati’s gay Bill.

Cabinet has finally thrown out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 on the advice of Mr Adolf Mwesige, the ruling party lawyer. However, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, insists the proposed legislation is now property of Parliament and that the Executive should stop “playing hide- and- seek games” on the matter.

See also
Daily Monitor Blocking gays Bill is moral corruption -MPs
Reuters Uganda strikes down bid to revive anti-gay bill
Behind the Mask Uganda Parliament meets September 7 to decide on ‘Kill the gays bill’
Radio Netherlands Gay community cautious after Ugandan bill thrown out
The New Civil Rights Movement Uganda: The Stealth Campaign To Quietly Pass The Kill The Gays Bill
Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the Changing Attitude website.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 at 11:42am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ireland and the Vatican

There have been many reports of the row between the Irish Government and the Vatican, which has been so severe that yesterday the Catholic Herald published an article titled Debate: Is there any hope for Catholic Ireland?

Here is the full text of what Enda Kenny originally said.

The Church Times has carried two reports by Gregg Ryan. Last week there was Ireland: abuse report leads to Church-State rift. This week there is Irish PM excoriates Vatican as Nuncio is flown home.

This weekend, the Guardian, in its Face to Faith column, has George Pitcher The Vatican response to the child abuse row in Ireland looks like repentance-lite.

And on Cif belief Massimo Franco writes about Sex abuse scandals and the secularisation of sin.

The Tablet has an editorial Ireland needs a healing touch.

Earlier, Ferdinand von Prondsynski wrote The RC Church in Ireland, coming out fighting: a wise strategy?

Even the Financial Times had an editorial: Arrogant Vatican.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 9:00am BST | Comments (36) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Church links to the Murdoch business empire

The Church Times has a news article by Ed Beavan headed C of E in ‘ticklish’ position over its Murdoch shares.

During Church Commissioners’ questions, however, the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, admitted that premature sale of the shares would be “very bad”. It was “a ticklish area”.

The EIAG had been quick to consult James and Rupert Murdoch, he said, but the situation “won’t be easy, and I won’t volunteer to be part of the team”. Mr Whittam Smith was founding editor of The Independent.

The statement issued earlier by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group is available here.

Other churches also have embarrassments. The Tablet has two items about the links between James Murdoch and the recent papal visit, but neither is available online. However, Riazat Butt reported some of it in her article for the Guardian James Murdoch’s six-figure gift to UK papal visit.

A shorter version of the comments by Catherine Pepinster who is Editor of The Tablet is available here.

At Ekklesia Simon Barrow has some reflections on all this, see Church investments in the spotlight again.

This tidbit from the Church Times article:

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s spokeswoman said that it was unlikely that Dr Williams was a victim of phone-hacking. Dr Williams does not own a mobile phone.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 16 July 2011 at 4:48pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Updated Wednesday and Thursday

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has released the following statement regarding recent violence in South Kordofan, Sudan:

Along with the Christian leaders represented in the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and Council of Churches and many more throughout the world, we deplore the mounting level of aggression and bloodshed in South Kordofan State and the indiscriminate violence on the part of government troops against civilians. Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down. UN personnel in the capital, Kadugli, are confined to their compound and are unable to protect civilians; the city has been overrun by the army, and heavy force is being used by government troops to subdue militias in the area, with dire results for local people. Many brutal killings are being reported.

This violence is a major threat to the stability of Sudan just as the new state of South Sudan is coming into being. The humanitarian challenge is already great, and the risk of another Darfur situation, with civilian populations at the mercy of government-supported terror, is a real one.

International awareness of this situation is essential. The UN Security Council, the EU, the Arab League and the African Union need to co-operate in guaranteeing humanitarian access and safety for citizens, and we hope that our own government, which has declared its commitment to a peaceful future for Sudan, will play an important part in this.

The Diocese of Bradford is linked to the Diocese of Kadugli in Northern Sudan. There is an appeal from the Bishop of Bradford on the diocesan website. This has links to information about what is going on in Sudan.

Wednesday update

The Diocese of Salisbury also has a link with the Episcopal Church of Sudan. It has published a response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement. There is more information on the diocese’s link at Sudan Link.

From the Anglican Communion News Service: Anglican agencies to work together on humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

ENI News has Christian leaders condemn terror in Sudan’s Kordofan.

Thursday update

William Haigh, the British Foreign Secretary issued this statement on Sudan to the House of Commons yesterday. The Minister of State answered an oral question in the House of Lords.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 at 12:03pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 May 2011

NT Wright and American Exceptionalism

The former Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, has written about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Versions of his writings have appeared in at least three places so far.

This article is in the Church Times The US plays with myths of heroism.

Another version is on Ruth Gledhill’s blog (scroll down for it).

And at Cif belief there is America’s exceptionalist justice.

Americans appear to be fairly united in their disagreement with his views: see comments at The Lead and also at TitusOneNine.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 8:39am BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Sham marriages


The English House of Bishops has issued new Guidance on the marriage of persons from outside the European Economic Area which can be downloaded from here.

This page links to two documents:

In addition, reference is made in the first document to:

Here is the official press release: Bishops act to tackle sham marriages

And some press reports:
Alan Travis in The Guardian: Sham marriages targeted in Church of England crackdown
Tom Whitehead in The Telegraph: New rules for migrant church weddings
BBC: Church of England in ‘sham marriage’ crackdown

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 12 April 2011 at 10:55am BST | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Martin Rees wins the Templeton Prize

updated Friday morning to add Church Times article and Guardian editorial, and again to add Times interview, and in the afternoon another Guardian article.

It was announced yesterday that the astrophysicist Martin Rees had been awarded the 2011 Templeton Prize.

The Guardian covered this story extensively.
Ian Sample: Martin Rees wins controversial £1m Templeton prize
Templeton Prize 2011: Full transcript of Martin Rees’s acceptance speech
Ian Sample interviewed Martin Rees on Tuesday before the announcement that he had won the Templeton Prize. This is a full transcript of the interview: Martin Rees: I’ve got no religious beliefs at all – interview.

The Guardian also has these comment articles
Mark Vernon: Martin Rees’s Templeton prize may mark a turning point in the ‘God wars’
Jerry Coyne: Martin Rees and the Templeton travesty
Michael White: Martin Rees and the Templeton prize: why are the atheists so cross?
Dan Jones: The Templeton Foundation is not an enemy of science
and this editorial: Martin Rees: Prize war.

But there was other coverage.
Michael Banks at Martin Rees wins £1m Templeton Prize
Daniel Cressey in Nature: Martin Rees takes Templeton Prize
Steve Connor in The Independent: For the love of God… scientists in uproar at £1m religion prize
Chris Herlinger in The Huffington Post: Martin Rees, British Astrophysicist, Wins Templeton Prize
Ed Thornton in the Church Times: Non-believing churchgoer is winner of Templeton Prize
Hannah Devlin and Ruth Gledhill of The Times interview on YouTube: Martin Rees, winner of The Templeton Prize, on God, life, the universe (21 minutes)

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 4:56pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 24 March 2011

creationism in English schools

The government recently made a statement about this. Riazat Butt reported for the Guardian that Free schools will not teach creationism, says Department for Education.

The Department for Education has said Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” after a warning that the government’s new free schools could be exploited by fundamentalist churches looking to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The remarks follow a letter to the education secretary from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) suggesting that creationists planned to use government legislation on free schools to mount a “concerted attack” on science education…

Here is the full text not only of the letter, but also the attached memorandum that they sent.

But the government response is not as simple as the unknown headline writer suggests. As the Guardian article makes clear:

“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences,” said its leader Gareth Morgan. “Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”

The DfE spokesman said groups setting up new free schools in the UK will be vetted to ensure that they have “strong education aims” and “high curriculum standards”. He said: “The education secretary is crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact. Ministers have said they will not accept any proposal where there are concerns about the people behind the project.”

See this website for more information about the proposed new school.

A question was recently asked in Parliament by Julian Huppert MP. Emphasis added.

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on (a) ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum and (b) requiring evolution to be taught as a science in such schools.

Nick Gibb (Minister of State (Schools), Education; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative)

Academies and free schools will benefit from having freedom over the curriculum they deliver. However, we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. Under the Government’s planned reforms to school inspection, there will be stronger focus on teaching. Teachers will be expected to demonstrate that their subject knowledge is secure. If creationism is being taught as a scientific fact in science or any other areas of the curriculum outside denominational RE and collective worship, this would be noted in the Ofsted report.

Why is it that the only people who are expressing public concern about this issue are Humanists?

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

New Zealand earthquake

updated Friday

I am sure that readers of this blog having been following the story of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in New Zealand on Tuesday this week.

The websites of Christchurch Diocese and Cathedral have photographs and news.

And here are a few media stories with a particular Anglican slant.

Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal (Canada) Former Edmonton bishop safe

The New Zealand Herald No survivors in cathedral after earthquake - police

Marites N Sison in the Anglican Journal (Canada) ‘Pray for confidence that God will see us through’

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans begin to pick up the pieces

BBC World Service Dean of Christchurch Cathedral on New Zealand quake and New Zealand: Fears after Christchurch cathedral tower collapse

Nine News (Australia) NZ quake destroyed ‘symbol of hope’

Marc Greenhill in The Age (Australia) Pianist survives collapse

Friday Update

Dan Parker at 3 News (New Zealand) Cathedral a symbol of Christchurch survival

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans assess damage, reach out to others

Ed Beavan, Muriel Porter, Australia Correspondent and Helen Saxbee in the Church Times ‘Sense of despair’ as buildings collapse in NZ earthquake

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, which is an almost exact twin of the cathedral which has been damaged in Christchurch, is holding a benefit concert on Monday evening, 28 February.

The Diocese of Christchurch has this Respite Accommodation & Quake Appeal.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 11:40am GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 January 2011

Ordinariate roundup

The Bishop of Rochester has issued a pastoral letter on The Ordinariate and related issues.

Update, now available as a PDF from the Rochester site.

The Bishop of Chelmsford and the RC Bishop of Brentwood have jointly issued a letter. See press release, Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops pledge to continue to work together, and the letter itself is in a PDF file.

The Church Times has a leader: In God’s deep counsels, some better thing. There is a news report at Ordinary time begins for ex-Anglicans at Westminster Cathedral.

The transcript of the press conference given last Monday by Fr Keith Newton can be read here.

Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech last Friday. The full text of it is available at His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper’s address to the Archbishop.

So I know well, that the day of tomorrow is not an easy one for you. It is not a day of victory for one side, it should be for both a day of penance, that though all good will on both sides till today we were not able to fulfill the will of our Lord as we should. But I want to assure you, the Holy Father, my successor in the Pontifical Council and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole are willing and decided to continue the way of sincere dialogue we started after the Second Vatican Council now more than almost fifty years ago.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 January 2011 at 12:02pm GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Press comment on the Ordinariate

The Observer newspaper has a leader column, The faithful lose in this victory for misogyny.

There is also a news report by Peter Stanford under the headline
History overturned as Anglican bishops are ordained as Catholic priests.

Other news reports can be found here, and other comment articles are linked here (but not the Observer leader).

See also Photographs.

The Ordinariate was discussed on the BBC radio programme Sunday available from here. The coverage starts about 31 minutes in.

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Saturday, 15 January 2011

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Kenneth Stevenson

The Diocese of Portsmouth website reports the sad news that Kenneth Stevenson, the former Bishop of Portsmouth, yesterday lost his battle with leukaemia, dying peacefully in hospital aged 61.

Bishop Kenneth died in hospital early this morning (January 12) after a short illness. His successful earlier treatment for leukaemia had led to a deterioration in his overall health and physical resilience to infection.

May he rest in peace!

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 13 January 2011 at 7:53pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 7 January 2011

Violence in Alexandria

Gerald Butt reports in the Church Times that Christians fear more violence after fatal bomb attack in Alexandria.

Bishop David Hamid reports on his blog the invitation from the Coptic community in the UK to join them on Sunday: Pray for Christians in Egypt this Sunday.

The Church Times has a leading article: Signs of hope after Christmas attacks.

So also does the Tablet: Martyrdom in the proper sense.

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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Colin Slee

Southwark Cathedral reports this morning

The Very Revd Colin Slee, The Dean of Southwark, died peacefully at his home surrounded by his family at 1am on Thursday 25 November.

Dean Colin had been diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks ago and the spread of his illness was very rapid.

May he rest in peace!

Updated Thursday afternoon (twice)

In The Guardian (CiF), Stephen Bates writes: Liberal Anglicans will mourn the death of Colin Slee

Damian Thompson blogs in the Daily Telegraph: The Church of England won’t be as much fun without Colin Slee

The news is also covered by local community site London-SE1 where it is noted that he had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

There are now obituaries in The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Vatican astronomer and aliens

Guy Consolmagno, SJ, who is an astronomer at the Vatican Onservatory, is visiting Britain to speak at the British Science Festival today (Saturday). He spoke to the press beforehand.

Alok Jha in The Guardian: Pope’s astronomer says he would baptise an alien if it asked him.

Richard Alleyne in the Telegraph: Pope Benedict XVI’s astronomer: the Catholic Church welcomes aliens.

James Dacey on the Institute of Physics blog: Pope’s astronomer hits the bar.

Vicky Davidson in The Big issue in Scotland: God’s Astronomer.

Clive Cookson in the Financial Times: Pope’s astronomer would welcome alien life.

John von Radowitz in The Sydney Morning Herald Smart aliens ‘would be God’s children’.

David Derbyshire in the Mail Online: I’d love to baptise ET, says Vatican’s stargazer.

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Monday, 6 September 2010

opinion surveys on the Pope's UK visit

Two separate surveys have been published recently.

Theos has published one conducted by ComRes, see Who’s a fan of papal teaching? and Theos Papal Visit Poll September 2010. Detailed results are available at Theos Papal Visit Tables 4 September 2010.pdf.

The Tablet has published another, conducted by Ipsos MORI see The Pope, the Church and the visit – what Britons really think. Detailed results are available here. Some of the findings:

Perhaps the most surprising finding is the number of people who recognise Pope Benedict from a photograph bearing no clues to his identity. He was correctly named by a sizeable majority of all those polled (65 per cent) who recognised him more readily than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, identified by only half of the respondents. Curiously, Dr Williams is more readily recognised by Catholics (54 per cent) than by the general public (50 per cent), although surprisingly nearly a quarter of the Catholics polled failed to recognise the Pope…

Awareness of the Pope’s role as head of the Catholic Church is well understood by the vast majority of the general public (93 per cent) – in fact, more people are aware of this than that the Queen is the head of the Church of England…

Overall the public’s view of religion generally is fairly benign. More than half (52 per cent) say that on balance it is a force for good. The figure rises to 60 per cent among those aged over 65. However, when asked the question with specific reference to the Catholic Church, respondents are not so sure, with only 41 per cent of all those questioned either strongly agreeing or tending to agree that the Church is a force for good. Even fewer Anglicans – 39 per cent – believe this. Among all Christians the figure is 47 per cent. However, a big majority of Catholics (78 per cent) hold that the Catholic Church is a force for good…

There is keen awareness of one of the main matters that divides the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Fewer than two-thirds (63 per cent) of those polled understand that women cannot be ordained priests in the Catholic Church while among Catholics the figure is considerably higher (74 per cent). Perhaps this demonstrates interest and possibly concern about the issue.

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Friday, 14 May 2010

Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition

Updated Saturday morning

Lambeth Palace Library is one of the earliest public libraries in England, founded in 1610 under the will of Archbishop Richard Bancroft. In celebration of its 400th anniversary in 2010, the Library is opening a fascinating exhibition to the public in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace.

The exhibition will run from 17 May - 23 July 2010. Find out more and buy tickets at Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition: Summer 2010

There are several press previews, some with pictures.
Stephen Bates in The Guardian Lambeth Palace to exhibit 400 years of religious and royal treasures
Chris Smyth in the Times Palace unveils historic hoard of a sticky-fingered prelate
Paul Harris in the Mail Palace of treasures: Archbishop of Canterbury’s exhibition tells Britain’s story
London SE1 community website See Lambeth Palace Library treasures at 400th anniversary show
Press Association Royal and religious documents shown

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph A tortoise and the hair of the prophet

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Sunday, 2 May 2010

more on religion and the election

Updated again Wednesday afternoon

May day opinion has links to several articles about this.

The Observer today has three articles on related topics:

First, on the front page, it has Rising Tory star Philippa Stroud ran prayer sessions to ‘cure’ gay people.

Then on page 7, there is Secret Christian donors bankroll Tories.

And on page 38, Henry Porter writes that A little bit of religious bigotry is tolerable in a healthy society.


Andrew Brown writes at Cif belief on Bigotry and homelessness

The New Frontiers church to which Philippa Stroud belongs and where her husband is a major star is the fruit standard of fruit loopiness among English evangelical Christians. It was at a New Frontiers church in Brighton that I once went to hear the New Zealand evangelist Bill Surbritzky, a man who believes that not merely homosexuality but smoking and swearing are caused by demonic infestation. But it is very successful and it is not in the least bit American…

Cif at the polls covered this further, see No anger over Philippa Stroud?

And Cif belief has Feedback on Philippa Stroud

The Twitter aspect was dealt with comprehensively by Benjamin Cohen for Channel 4 News.

Ekklesia has more background on her husband.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brown also wrote about the Citizens UK meeting, see Faith trumps party politics.

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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Archbishop and persecution claims

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders: Christians need to “witness boldly and clearly”. The press release says:

In his ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury urges those living in politically secure environments to offer practical support as well as prayers for suffering Christians around the world, particularly in Zimbabwe, Mosul, Egypt and Nigeria.

“We need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy to become consumed with anxiety about the future of the Church and society. We need to need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger or fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem.”

The full text of the letter is below the fold.

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph reports this as Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes claims of ‘persecuted’ Christians in UK.

Riazat Butt in The Guardian has Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes clergy over ‘persecuted’ Christians.

Ekklesia has Archbishop of Canterbury issues challenge over ‘persecution’ claims.

Full text of the letter:

When St John tells us that the disciples met behind locked doors on the first Easter Day (John 20.19), he reminds us that being associated with Jesus Christ has never been easy or safe. Today this is evident in a wide variety of situations – whether in the terrible communal violence afflicting parts of Nigeria, in the butchery and intimidation of Christians in Mosul in recent weeks, in the attacks on the Coptic faithful in Egypt, or in the continuing harassment of Anglican congregations in Zimbabwe. As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, we acknowledge that Christians will never be safe in a world of injustice and mindless fear, because Christians will always stand, as did Archbishop Romero, for the hope of a different world, in which the powerful have to let go of privilege and rediscover themselves as servants, and the poor are lifted up into joy and liberty.

This hope is rooted in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. His rising from the dead shows the world that death does not have the last word – whether the death of love, the death of security, even physical death itself. On the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation, God walks once again in the garden and begins to re-shape the whole world of our experience and our possibilities; the Second Adam wakes under the tree of the cross and promises fresh life, freedom and forgiveness, to the entire human world.

Wherever fear prevails, this promise will be seen as dangerous. But people still have the courage to identify themselves as Christians because they know that the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is beyond all human power and violence, that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ is given to him (Matthew 28.18). The Christian may suffer and die witnessing to this truth, but death itself cannot extinguish the abiding power of Christ to transform and renew; the martyr knows this and fixes his or her eyes on that joyful vision.

We who live in more comfortable environments need to bear two things in mind. One is that fellow-Christians under pressure, living daily with threats and murders, need our prayers and tangible support – by personal contact, by continually reminding our governments and media of these things. To a Christian experiencing these threats, it matters more than most of us could imagine simply to know that they are not alone and not forgotten. But the second point to remember is that we need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy, even in comfortable and relatively peaceful societies, for us to become consumed with anxiety about the future of Church and society. We need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger and fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem.

The world will not be saved by fear, but by hope and joy. The miracle of the joy shown by martyrs and confessors of the faith is one of the most compelling testimonies to the gospel of Jesus. In whatever way we can, we must seek to communicate this joy, however dark or uncertain the sky seems. All authority belongs to Jesus, and into his wounded hands is placed the future of all things in heaven and earth. To him be glory for ever.

Rowan Cantuar: +

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 at 9:49pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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new Anglican Primate of Nigeria

updated Maundy Thursday

Archbishop Peter Akinola has retired as Primate of All Nigeria. His successor as primate, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, was installed on 25 March and gave this sermon.

Riazat Butt has written in The Guardian about the new primate’s views as expressed in his sermon: The new archbishop’s old prejudice. Archbishop Okoh of Nigeria has been trotting out the same anti-gay rhetoric his predecessor, Peter Akinola, was famous for.

Ruth Gledhill has blogged about this in the Times: Nigerian Anglican primate speaks out on fear of women.

Ademola Oni has written in The Punch (described in its masthead as “Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper”) that Anglican Primate advises politicians on selfless service.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi at AllAfrica writes that Anglican Primate Vows to Fight Homosexuality.

Archbishop Okoh referred in his sermon to the the bishop of Liverpool’s address to his diocesan synod that we linked to here and here.


Pat Ashworth reports this in the Church Times as New Primate glad to be anti-gay.

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

religious rights of Christians

Updated Maundy Thursday

This weekend’s Sunday Telegraph carried a letter from Lord Carey and five other bishops which the paper headlined The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reported this in the Telegraph as Senior bishops call for end to persecution of Christians in Britain.

Maev Kennedy reported this in The Guardian as Bishops claim lack of respect for Christians.

The BBC has Christians discriminated against, bishops warn.

Jonathan Bartley at Ekklesia writes that Bishops should substantiate or desist over ‘persecution’.

George Pitcher in the Telegraph argues that British Christians aren’t persecuted, but they are held in contempt.

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude writes Bishops who complain about crucifix ban maintain prejudice against LGBT people.

Mary Kenny in the Irish Independent writes that Christians are at their best when persecuted, marginalised, disrespected and denied their rights.


Ed Beavan reports this in the Church Times as Christians are discriminated against in UK, say bishops.

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Friday, 12 March 2010

Churches and the General Election

The Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England has updated its guidance note on “Countering far right political parties, extremist groups and racist politics”. You can read the January 2010 version here: Countering Racist Politics. (PDF also available)

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has very comprehensive information at general election churches getting ready including two resource documents:

  • Faith in Politics: Preparing Churches for the General Election 2010
    Document covering a range of the most important policy issues, such as children and young people, criminal justice, the economy, education, environment, health, migration, poverty, and others.
  • Planning a Hustings Meeting
    Guidelines for local churches, Churches Together groups or Christian organisations thinking of organising a hustings meeting. This is also available in Welsh.

These can both be downloaded from here.

And there is a Find a Hustings page.

CCFON has announced that the former Bishop of Rochester, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is to host a series of General Election Hustings across England in order to help local Christians question candidates for Westminster seats.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 March 2010 at 8:17am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 28 February 2010

faith and politics

Updated Sunday evening

As the General Election nears, more and more reports are appearing on this topic.

The Archbishop of York gave an interview to Articles of Faith titled ‘Faith in Politics – Why Vote’. Archbishop of York: ‘Don’t let BNP win at Westminster’ (scroll down).

This week, the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales will issue a document, to be titled Choosing the Common Good.
There have been two articles in The Times about it, see Roman Catholic bishops enter pre-election fray and also Catholic Church voting guide will be claimed by the Tories. And one article in the Telegraph see Catholic Church election advice seen as endorsement for Tories.

Meanwhile, politicians have also been giving advice to churches. See for example, Church should accept equal rights for gays, says David Cameron and Cameron tells Rowan: Make your Church pro-gay.

In an interview with the gay magazine Attitude, Cameron tells award-winning journalist Johann Hari that ‘our Lord Jesus’ would back equality and gay rights if he were around today. He says he doesn’t want to get into a row with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. ‘But I think the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through – sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom line full essential.’

More from the original interview is here. Cranmer had a lot of comment on this.

(Related interview with Gordon Brown here, and report of interview with Nick Clegg here.)

Sunday evening

Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, delivered this lecture: Faith, family and fairness: Labour’s ‘values voters’.
This provoked a strong response from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, from the Church of Scotland, and from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. See:

Cardinal Keith O’Brien hits out at Labour for ‘ignoring’ religious views

Church of Scotland hits out at Labour ‘party of faith’ claim

Scottish Episcopal Church attacks Labour ‘party of faith’ claims and the full text from Bishop David Chillingworth is available via here.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

UK government appoints new faith advisers

Updated Saturday morning

John Denham announced yesterday the names of 13 new faith advisers who “will act as a ‘sounding board’ to advise on effective engagement with faith communities, and the impact of Communities and Local Government policy on faith communities.”

Read the full press release here.

The members of the panel are:

  • Canon Dr Alan Billings - Formerly Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at the University of Lancaster.
  • Dr Harriet Crabtree - Director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK.
  • Marcia Dixon - Editor of Keep the Faith, a publication distributed to black majority churches.
  • Dr Doreen Finneron - Founder and director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network.
  • Jenny Kartupelis - Director of the East of England Faiths Council and Fellow of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths College.
  • Wakkas Khan - Director of the Exploring Islam Foundation and a founding member of the Radical Middle Way.
  • Alveena Malik - A Principal Associate at the Institute of Community Cohesion and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute.
  • Mehri Niknam - Founder and director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.
  • Rosalind Preston - President of the Jewish Volunteer Network and Chair of Nightingale House.
  • Dr Jasdev Singh Rai - General Secretary of the British Sikh Consultative Forum and Director of the Sikh Human Rights Group.
  • Bishop Tim Stevens - Anglican Bishop of Leicester and Founder and Chair of the Faith Leaders Forum of Leicester.
  • Arjan Vekaria - President of Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK) and the Hindu Forum of Britain.
  • Prof Paul Weller - Head of Research and Commercial Development, Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences and Professor of Inter-Religious Relations, University of Derby.

So far, there appear to be no newspaper reports of this.


Heresy Corner has collected biographical information about the panel members, see The God Squad.

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Monday, 23 November 2009

Church Leaders in Liverpool condemn homophobia

Updated Friday 27 November

Church Leaders in Liverpool have issued a joint statement condemning homophobia. The statement has come from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed and Baptist Churches and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

So far the statement has only been reported by Pink News, having apparently been overlooked or ignored by the local and national press.

Church leaders in Liverpool release ‘groundbreaking’ condemnation of homophobia

Here is the statement as quoted by Pink News.

The church leaders condemn this latest homophobic attack and extend their sympathy to James Parkes’ family.

We are concerned by the number of homophobic incidents on Merseyside.

The leaders of the churches in Liverpool believe it is wrong for anyone in the community of which we are all part to be victimised, or threatened with victimisation, on account of their race, creed, colour or sexual orientation.

We affirm our commitment to work with others to build a community where all can have their place of belonging, feel welcome and live in safety.

As church leaders, we represent a rich variety of Christian traditions, with different perspectives on some issues, but we stand together in condemning the use of violence and other forms of intimidation against minority groups who are especially vulnerable.

The city of Liverpool has a long tradition of welcoming people of difference. In the past we have discovered, sometimes painfully, the importance of learning to live peacefully together. This lesson we must never forget.

The Liverpool church leaders include the Rt Revd James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool, Anglican), the Most Revd Patrick Kelly (Archbishop of Liverpool, Roman Catholic), the Revd Jim Booth (Methodist), the Revd Howard Sharp (URC) and the Revd Phil Jump (Baptist).

Update The statement is now online at the Diocese of Liverpool’s website: Statement from the Church Leaders in Liverpool. This makes it clear that the statement came from the Presidents of Churches Together in the Merseyside Region, ie the five church leaders listed above plus the local Salvation Commander, Major Michael Highton.

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Friday, 6 November 2009

UK government statement on Ugandan bill

In a statement given to, a spokeswoman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:

“We are concerned by the introduction of a private member’s bill on anti homosexuality in Uganda.

“Adoption of the bill could do serious damage to efforts to tackle HIV and its criminalisation of organisations that support homosexuality could, in theory, encompass most donor agencies and international NGOs.

“The UK, alongside our EU partners, has raised our concerns about the draft bill and LGBT rights more broadly with the government of Uganda, including with the prime minister and several other ministers, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, and senior officials from the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We will continue to track the passage of the bill and to lobby against its introduction.”

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Friday, 30 October 2009

Sweden approves same-sex marriages

The Church Times carries a report on this, written by me, and headlined Same-sex marriage approved.

THE Kyrkomötet (General Synod) of the Church of Sweden approved a recommend­ation that the Swedish Church should conduct weddings in church for both heterosexual and same-sex couples last week. The marriage liturgy will be amended slightly to reflect this.

The changes will take effect from Sunday 1 November. No individual cleric will be obliged to perform such a service, but every parish will be required to make provision for the liturgy, and to use visiting priests if necessary. The voting was 176 in favour with 62 against, and 11 abstentions…

The Church of Sweden has published a PDF file in English, containing several documents explaining the background leading up to this decision. You can find it here: Information on a possible decision regarding same-sex marriages.

The Church Times Question of the Week is related to this topic.

Earlier reports are here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 October 2009 at 7:30am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Sweden votes on church weddings

Updated again Monday

From The Local the English language news website in Sweden, comes this report:

The Synod of the Lutheran Church of Sweden has come down in favour of church weddings for homosexuals in a vote held on Thursday morning.

The decision, which is based on a proposal from the church’s governing board, means that the Church of Sweden will conduct wedding ceremonies for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

The proposal was approved by 176 of 249 voting members…

Our own correspondent reports the vote was 176 Ayes, 62 Noes, 11 Abstentions.


Swedish Radio has a more detailed report at Church Says Yes to Gay Weddings.

Independent Swedish church agrees to conduct gay weddings by Ilze Filks of Reuters

BBC Sweden church allows gay weddings

AFP Sweden’s Lutheran church to celebrate gay weddings

Religious Intelligence George Conger Sweden church allows gay weddings

Monday updates

Bishop David Hamid has written about this on his blog, Church of Sweden Approves Marriage of Same Sex Couples.

Andrew Brown has written at Cif belief Swedish church not so gay-friendly.

ENS has publised a report from ENI by Trevor Grundy and Fredrick Nzwili Lutheran decision on same-sex marriage draws flak from Africa, England.

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Fulcrum analyses the APA report

Fulcrum has published this article:
Changing Sexual Orientation and Identity? The APA Report by Andrew Goddard and Glynn Harrison.

This is a discussion of this report:
Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.

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Thought for the Day

There has been some public debate recently about the BBC Radio 4 morning slot Though for the Day. The BBC Trust will soon respond to various charges made against it by supporters of secularism and humanism.

Nick Baines reported on an event he took part in, at Free thinking, a couple of weeks ago.

This weekend Jonathan Wynne-Jones wrote a detailed review of the arguments in the Telegraph, see Rethinking Thought for the Day. His earlier blog entry is here.

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Friday, 21 August 2009

SPCK bookshops latest

Staff sacked from the SPCK chain of bookshops have won a “substantial payout” to quote their union USDAW.
Sacked bookshop staff win payout

Pat Ashcroft reports on this in today’s Church Times Sacked staff see cash at last.
The BBC has Victory for workers sacked by e-mail.
The Church Times blog has Former SPCK workers win tribunal case.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

G20 and the churches

Updated again Friday evening

Dave Walker is providing comprehensive coverage of G20 events, and you can follow his reports at the Church Times blog and on Twitter.

For more details see his post here.

Some transcripts:

Archbishop of Canterbury Interview with Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme ahead of G20 summit

Gordon Brown PM’s speech at St Paul’s Cathedral

Friday updates

Bill Bowder in the Church Times has Agencies question G20 ‘triumph’

THE TRIUMPHAL end of the G20 leaders’ meeting in London, and its pledge of $1.1 trillion of fiscal support, was questioned by aid agencies yesterday (Thursday).

The leaders agreed that, besides fresh plans to stimulate the global economy and action to close tax havens, at total of $750 billion would be made available to the International Monetary Fund to support struggling economies. A key element of the plan was to increase the funding available to developing countries hit by the global downturn.

Who will benefit from the new plan, and how, will not be clear for some time, campaigners were saying yesterday. The Put People First Coalition, a group of 160 organisations, including the TUC, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Tearfund, ActionAid, World Vision, and Friends of the Earth, asked whether the package was enough of a break from the “failed policies that brough about the global crisis”.

Dave Walker wrote earlier: Thoughts on the final communique and has now added G20 Blog: Christian development agencies disappointed by G20 communique.

The full text of the communiqué can be found here (scroll down for links to the two annexes).

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Monday, 30 March 2009

G20: report on PPF and today's communiqué

Dave Walker has published a comprehensive report on Saturday’s events, at the Church Times blog. He concludes his report with this:

…Overall, a worthwhile event. I personally was disappointed by the turnout at the service, but it didn’t really surprise me given the lack of interest there seemed to be from Christians on blogs and social networking sites in the week leading up to it (feel free to disagree or twll me why that is in the comments below). However, the ‘Put People First’ event as a whole seemed to be well reported in the Sunday papers and appears to have done well in terms of getting its message out. Let’s hope that the G20 leaders, meeting this week, heed that message. I will be blogging from the G20 meeting - more about that in another post.

See Report from the ‘Put People First’ service and rally.

Lambeth Palace has published a communiqué from a wide range of religious leaders in Britain. See G20 leaders must not forget promises to the poor - Religious Leaders Communiqué:

We write as religious leaders who share a belief in God and the dignity of human life. We wish to acknowledge with realism and humility the severity of the current economic crisis and the sheer complexity of the global and local challenge faced by political leaders. We pray for the leaders of the G20 as they prepare to meet in London this week. They, and we, have a crucial role to play in recovering that lost sense of balance between the requirements of market mechanisms that help deliver increased prosperity, and the moral requirement to safeguard human dignity, regardless of economic or social category…

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

faith schools under pressure

For background to this, see TA articles from last September, here, here and here.

Last week, just prior to a conference of the Liberal Democrats, the Guardian published a letter, defending faith schools and in particular their selection policies, which had again been criticised earlier in the week in a new research report from Research and Information on State Education. (Full report as a PDF here.)

Banning selection of pupils by faith in religious schools would be “perverse and unjust”, a group of religious organisations which run faith state schools in Britain argue today.

In an exclusive letter published in the Guardian today, a cross-denominational group of religious leaders, led by the Church of England Board of Education, defends selection of some students and staff on the basis of commitment to their faith.

The letter comes ahead of a policy debate on 5-19 education in England at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference tomorrow, which calls for a ban on selection by faith in religious schools, and follows a critical report by academics at the London School of Economics…

That critical report was attacked by the same leaders, see for example Religious Intelligence Church hits back at school admission policy claims by Matt Cresswell.

Janina Ainsworth, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, said that a damning report commissioned by the Research and Information on State Education trust (RISE) was based on “out-of-date information that takes no account of the recent changes to the Admissions Code”…

…Commenting on the report Ms Ainsworth said that those with an agenda against popular church schools were using the research as “an opportunity to try and wrestle power from local people and further centralise admissions decisions.”

She continued: “The findings of this report do not support the recommendations made: nowhere does it present evidence that schools are breaking their own admissions policies to select certain types of students.

“It is unclear on what basis this report can obliquely claim that those local people who give their time freely as school governors are in some way acting unfairly.”

She added: “Church attendance is the only measure our schools use when allocating places on the basis of faith, and you can’t get a much simpler way of assessing whether someone has a faith commitment or not.”

As it turned out, the Lib Dem conference didn’t approve the original motion calling for a ban on selection, but did approve the following:

ii) Requiring all existing state-funded faith schools to come forward within five years with plans to demonstrate the inclusiveness of their intakes, with local authorities empowered to oversee and approve the delivery of these plans, and to withdraw state-funded status where inclusiveness cannot be demonstrated.

They also voted for:

iii) Ending the opt-out from employment and equalities legislation for staff in faith schools, except those responsible for religious instruction.

An attempt to extend iii) to also exempt ‘the senior management team’ was defeated.

The BBC therefore reported this as Lib Dems back state faith schools.

On the other hand Ekklesia which is a founder member of Accord reported it differently:
Liberal Democrats vote to demand fairness from faith schools
Lib Dem policy on faith schools is inclusion ‘breakthrough’
People of faith speak out for inclusive schools policy
Why church schools can be less than Christian by Jeremy Chadd

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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

creationism in Britain

Theos has announced Biggest evolution and God survey ever launched today.

Among its key findings, the report reveals that:

  • Only 54% of people know that Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species (3% believe he wrote The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and 1% think he wrote The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver).
  • Only 15% of people know that Charles Darwin was a self-described agnostic towards the end of his life (20% think he was an atheist).
  • 42% of people believe that evolution presents some challenges to Christianity but that it is possible to believe in both.

The research also canvassed people across the UK about the origins of human life and found that:

  • The East has the largest proportion of people in the UK who believe that the theory of evolution removes any need for God (44%)
  • Wales has the largest proportion of theistic evolutionists (the belief that evolution is part of God’s plan - 38%).
  • Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people who believe in Intelligent Design (16%) and Creationism (25%).

Read the full report as a PDF here (1.1.Mb).

The Guardian has published a snazzy interactive map which shows more details of the regional breakdown of answers. This accompanies a news report headlined Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism.

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

opposition to discrimination?

Updated again Wednesday afternoon

A recent news item concerned the UK government’s banning members of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church from entering the country. Less widely reported was the joint statement issued by six Christian organisations, the day after government action, including the Evangelical Alliance, which said:

“We are dismayed that members of Westboro Baptist Church (based in Kansas, USA and not associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain) might picket the performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday.

“We do not share their hatred of lesbian and gay people. We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we unreservedly stand against their message of hate toward those communities.

“Neither the style nor substance of their preaching expresses the historic, orthodox Christian faith. And we ask that the members of Westboro Baptist Church refrain from stirring up any more homophobic hatred in the UK or elsewhere.”

This prompted Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia to issue the following response:

“It is welcome that a number of churches and evangelical groups have made a public statement and joined the many others who are opposing Westboro’ Baptist church-style hate speech. But it is relatively easy to issue statements against extremists, distance oneself, and condemn them. It is more challenging, and uncomfortable, to acknowledge what one might have in common with those we find abhorrent. But that is what the message at the heart of the Christian faith requires.

“This is the real challenge that Westboro Baptist church presents. And among those who have condemned Westboro are some who preach rejection of faithful gay relationships, who deny their baptism and Christian ministry, and who refuse their wisdom. Some have attempted to negotiate opt-outs from equalities legislation so they can themselves discriminate against lesbian and gay people in employment and in the provision of goods and services. The Evangelical Alliance in particular removed the Courage Trust from its membership when the Trust made a Christian commitment to affirming lesbian and gay people.

“The six churches and groups have said with one voice: ‘We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation’ We invite them to reflect these words in their actions.”

Ekklesia also issued a background report, Churches condemn Westboro hate speech, but challenge remains.

The other five organisations were: The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance UK, Faithworks, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Bible Society-funded thinktank Theos.

Update Monday

A further statement has now been issued by another group of Christian organisations:

…Accepting Evangelicals, Courage, the Network of Baptists Affirming Lesbian and Gay Christians, the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian & Gay Christians, and the Christian think-tank Ekklesia have issued a joint statement saying that opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church USA’s hate-stance towards gay people does not go far enough.

“The real challenge to evangelicals is to face the need for change themselves,” they say. “This means: engaging more fully and openly with lesbian and gay Christians and accepting them as equal under God; examining the way prejudice against gay people has distorted biblical understanding; prayerfully re-thinking church policies of exclusion and acknowledging the harm they cause; and recognising the growing number of evangelicals who have had a heart-change and now affirm faithful gay relationships.”

Ekklesia has the full statement at Evangelicals call for change of attitude on gays.

Update Wednesday

Simon Barrow has written about this at Comment is free Evangelicals who love their gay neighbours.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 February 2009 at 6:16pm GMT | Comments (90) | TrackBack
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Friday, 6 February 2009

What the British think about Darwin and Evolution

It’s not only Americans who don’t believe in evolution. Pat Ashworth writes in the Church Times about recent research on this. Rescue Darwin rows from extremes, says theology think tank.

ONLY 37 per cent of people in the UK believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “beyond reasonable doubt”, research by Theos, a public- theology think tank, suggests.

Of those questioned, 32 per cent think that Young Earth Creationism (YEC — “the belief that God created the world some time in the past 10,000 years”) is either “definitely or probably true”, and 51 per cent say the same of Intelligent Design (which Theos defines as “The idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages”). The report describes the term Intelligent Design (ID) as “slippery”.

The fact that these figures do not add up shows how confused and often contradictory the population is in its opinions, say the authors of the report Rescuing Darwin, Nick Spencer, director of studies at Theos, and Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. They describe it as “a sorry state of affairs”, in an age when the theory is now incontestable in scientific circles and when advances in genetics have strengthened it.

Theos has published a press release, Half of Britons sceptical about evolution, and the report Rescuing Darwin is available as a PDF, and the research tables are available as another PDF here. From the press release:

Only half of the UK population consistently choose evolution over creationism or Intelligent Design, according to a major report published today by Theos.

The report, entitled Rescuing Darwin, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (February 12), draws on extensive new research conducted by the polling agency, ComRes (see tables below).

It reveals that only 25% of British adults think that evolution is “definitely true”, with another quarter thinking it is “probably true”.

The remaining 50% are either strongly opposed or simply confused about the issue. Around 10% of people consistently choose (Young Earth) Creationism (the belief that God created the world some time in the last 10,000 years) over evolution, and about 12% consistently prefer Intelligent Design or “ID” (the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things). The remainder of the population, over 25%, are unsure and often mix evolution, ID and creationism together…

Whatever the exact numbers are, it seems pretty clear that most of the people in the UK who are “sceptical about evolution” are not active religious believers.

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Monday, 2 February 2009

news from Nigeria

Long-term TA readers will remember the saga in 2006/07 concerning proposed legislation in Nigeria, see for example, Nigerian legislation and the Church of Nigeria and Nigeria: legislation imminent.

The story was covered exhaustively on Political Spaghetti.

That issue has returned, see this from Amnesty International last week, Nigeria: ‘Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill’ violates Constitution, and also Nigeria: ‘Same gender marriage (Prohibition) Bill’ threatens imprisonment of members of the LGBT community.

This development makes even more timely the publication by Ekklesia of a research report by Savi Hensman Contrasting church attitudes on human rights for all.

Simon Barrow writes:

Savi Hensman has produced another very useful research essay for Ekklesia on different church attititudes and stances towards human rights for all. Since 1948 Christians have played a significant role in extending personal and societal respect for human dignity, including promotion of the UN Declaration. At the same time, church leaders have also questioned and denied rights-based precepts and practices in a number of instances. In this paper, Savi traces these discontinuities while pointing to the substantial traditional theological and spiritual resources that can be deployed in producing and developing shared commitments to freedom and justice.

The publication of this document coincides with the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Egypt from 1-4 February 2009, the upcoming Church of England General Synod discussion on the Human Rights Act, the Convention on Modern Liberty in the UK, and recent comments on human rights from the Vatican, from Evangelicals and from the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

a woman bishop in England

Martin Beckford reports on Britain’s first woman bishop to take office this weekend.

History will be made this weekend as the first female bishop to serve in a British church takes office.

However the Church of England continues to argue about how and when women should be introduced to the episcopate, while the Roman Catholic Church maintains that only men can serve as priests.

So it has been left to the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, which has just a few thousand worshippers, to become the first to take the radical step.

The Rev Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, whose parents were Latvian refugees but who was born in England, will be consecrated as the church’s first female bishop on Saturday at a ceremony in the City of London…

…A spokesman for the Lutherans said in a statement: “The Lutheran Church in Great Britain will consecrate its first woman bishop, the Rt Rev Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, on Saturday 17th January 2009, in the historic Wren church of St Anne & St Agnes on Gresham Street, in the City of London.

“Her predecessor, the Rt Rev Walter Jagucki, will preside at the service, and bishops and other clergy from Nordic and European Lutheran churches will participate in the consecration.”

More information about the Lutheran Church of Great Britain is here.

More information about UK-based Lutherans generally is here.

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Monday, 22 December 2008

ABC writes in the Telegraph

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a comment article in today’s Daily Telegraph. The article is then the subject of the front-page lead story, which puts a rather different slant on it. Read the Archbishop’s article first. Here’s a taster:

Christmas is supremely the story of a God who is not interested in telling us about principles. First comes the action — God beginning to live a human life. Then comes the appeal: do you love and trust what you see in this human life, the life of Jesus? Then the implication: everyone is capable of saying yes to this appeal, so no one is dispensable. You don’t and can’t know where the boundary will lie between people who belong and people who don’t belong.

The front page lead, on the other hand, is headlined ‘Archbishop of Canterbury warns recession Britain must learn lessons from Nazi Germany’:

Dr Rowan Williams risks causing a new controversy by inviting a comparison between Gordon Brown’s response to the economic downturn and the Third Reich.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he claims Germany in the 1930s pursued a “principle” that worked consistently but only on the basis that “quite a lot of people that you might have thought mattered as human beings actually didn’t”.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 22 December 2008 at 10:44am GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 21 December 2008

sacked for insulting the Bishop of Rochester

Updated late Sunday night

The BBC reports that

A member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff has been sacked for insulting the Bishop of Rochester in an official document.

The worker wrote the obscenity next to the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali’s comments on a vicar’s job inquiry.

More details in the story Sacking over senior bishop insult.


The Independent has a more detailed article: What did the aide say about the Bishop …?

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 21 December 2008 at 7:28pm GMT | Comments (34) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

more about God's Own Country

Not the book again, but a few follow-up items on the country itself, and its religious attitudes.

Bishop Alan Wilson drew attention to Sarah Palin — total nutshell.

Jonathan Raban wrote a fascinating column for the London Review of Books titled Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill.

Ruth Gledhill has set up a poll for readers of her blog, on the topic of Is Sarah Palin a good Christian?

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Creationism in science lessons? - Tuesday update

Updated Tuesday evening to add Guardian and Telegraph articles.

Following his remarks about creationism and science lessons the Revd Professor Michael Reiss has resigned his position as the director of education at the Royal Society.

The Royal Society issued this statement today.

Royal Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss

16 Sep 2008

Some of Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society’s Director of Education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the Society’s reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as Director of Education a part time post he held on secondment. He is to return, full time, to his position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education.

The Royal Society’s position is that creationism has no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum. However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific.

The Royal Society greatly appreciates Professor Reiss’s efforts in furthering the Society’s work in the important field of science education over the past two years. The Society wishes him well for the future.

BBC ‘Creationism’ biologist quits job
New Scientist Royal Society prof resigns over comments
Lewis Smith and Mark Henderson in The Times Royal Society’s Michael Reiss resigns over creationism row
Ian Sample, science correspondent, in The Guardian Michael Reiss resigns over call for creationism in science lessons
Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent, in the Telegraph Royal Society scientist loses post in row over creationism in schools

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Sunday, 14 September 2008

Creationism in science lessons?

The British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) held its annual Festival of Science in Liverpool last week. At the meeting the Revd Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society and a priest in the Church of England, is reported to have said that creationism and intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

James Randerson, science correspondent, in The Guardian Teachers should tackle creationism, says science education expert
Aislinn Simpson and Richard Gray in the Telegraph Creationism should be taught in science classes, says expert
Lewis Smith, Science Reporter, and Alexandra Frean, Education Editor, in The Times Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools
Steve Connor, Science Editor, in The Independent One in 10 pupils believes in creationism
BBC Call for creationism in science
Wendy Barnaby at the BA Creationism has a place in school science lessons
Robin McKie in The Observer Creationism call divides Royal Society
Reiss himself writes in The Guardian Science lessons should tackle creationism and intelligent design

The Guardian published a profile of Prof Reiss in November 2006 Michael Reiss: How to convert a generation

Some comment articles
Melanie McDonagh in The Times Creationism in class is nothing to fear
Ruth Gledhill in The Times You need to understand your opponents’ arguments
Archie Bland in The Independent The Big Question: Why is creationism on the rise, and does it have a place in education?
Adam Rutherford in The Guardian Teenagers are not stupid, even if creationism is
Damian Thompson in the Telegraph Creationism and the advance of counterknowledge
Rod Liddle in The Times Don’t get creative with facts when it comes to evolution
Robin McKie in The Observer Our scientists must nail the creationists

The Royal Society published this statement No change in Society position on creationism on 12 September.

The Royal Society is opposed to creationism being taught as science. Some media reports have misrepresented the views of Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Society expressed in a speech yesterday.

Professor Reiss has issued the following clarification. “Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis. I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview’; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility.”

The society remains committed to the teaching of evolution as the best explanation for the history of life on earth. This position was highlighted in the Interacademy Panel statement on the teaching of evolution issued in June 2006.

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Friday, 22 August 2008

origins of homosexuality

Updated 29 August

Back in late July, the Church Times published an article by Professor Michael King, titled How much is known about the origins of homosexuality?

The full text of the earlier report from the Special Interest Group mentioned in this article can be found here.

This week’s Church Times contains several letters responding to the article. (These are not yet available online, except to subscribers.)

As promised, here is a link to last week’s Church Times letters, Sexual orientation and the Church: navigating between the competing claims of the extremes and the middle.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 August 2008 at 2:29pm BST | Comments (73) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 7 August 2008

SPCK bookshops saga update

The last update on here was CartoonChurch and the owner of the former SPCK bookshops.

Matt Wardman now reports: Dave Walker/SPCK Bookshops Campaign Moving Soon.

The place to which this move is taking place is: SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 August 2008 at 3:33pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

CartoonChurch and the owner of the former SPCK bookshops

Dave Walker of CartoonChurch fame has on several occasions reported on the saga of the former SPCK bookshops, subsequently owned by SSG.

Today he has removed all his blog entries on the subject after receiving a ‘cease and desist’ notice from the owner Mark Brewer. He writes:

I have therefore removed all of the SPCK/SSG posts on this blog, as, although I believe I have not done anything wrong I do not have the money to face a legal battle. The removal of these posts is in no way an admission of guilt.

Read all about it at Cartoon Church. [This post has also now been removed from Dave’s blog.]


Matt Wardman has posted an article about this, see Lambeth Conference Cartoonist in Residence threatened with Legal Action over blog

Wednesday morning update

Bishop Alan Wilson has posted this: SPCK Bookshops — Gags & Gimcrack.

Wednesday midday update

Matt Wardman again with a roundup of other links: My Name is Dave Walker: People posting about Mark Brewer’s Cease and Desist Notice.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 22 July 2008 at 5:43pm BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Monday, 26 May 2008

In God's Name

Updated Thursday evening

There was a television current affairs programme on Channel 4 last week, in the Dispatches series, entitled In God’s Name. Here’s the Channel 4 blurb about the programme.

If you didn’t see it and want to do so, you can find it on this website.

The film-maker, David Modell wrote a major article for the Sunday Telegraph before the programme aired, which was headlined Christian fundamentalists fighting spiritual battle in Parliament. This Sunday, there were several letters to the editor.

The article and the programme devote considerable space to the activities of the public policy director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

No less a person than Joel Edwards wrote an open letter to Channel 4 about it.

Stephen Green who was also featured, and whom Joel Edwards describes as an extremist, has responded to the programme here. (h/t Louise Ashworth)

Craig Nelson commented about the programme here and also here.

Updates Thursday evening

Simon Barrow has written a detailed analysis of the issues raised by the TV programme for Wardman Wire which you can read at A fundamental problem? Thinking Aloud by Simon Barrow.

In that article he also links to an earlier interview with Andrea Minichiello Williams done by Rachel Harden in the Church Times which I inexplicably forgot to include here earlier.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 26 May 2008 at 6:28pm BST | Comments (66) | TrackBack
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Friday, 18 April 2008


The Church Times has a cover story on Darfur.

The complexities of Darfur are no excuse for the West’s refusal to act, says Giles Fraser in an article, The people cry out for action now which also has some illustrations that should not be missed.

More on these pictures can be found here on the Waging Peace website.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 18 April 2008 at 12:07pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Holy Week images

The Church Times portfolio of Holy Week images includes this photo by Julia Low of a medieval wall painting in St Albans Abbey.

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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Common Cause Partnership

Updated again Monday morning

This organisation has launched a new website here. Its homepage features a rotating comment from one of its leaders, but to save you time, the full set of quotes and photos is here.

They held a meeting on 18 December and issued a Communiqué. The text of it is here.

ENS has a report on this, Common Cause Leadership Council outlines plans for an ‘Anglican union’.

Anglican Communion Institute has “We Know What Hour It Is”: A Comment on the Advent Pastoral and Common Cause (h/t Fulcrum)

Update Monday
The comments thread to the ACI article shown above is especially interesting. For example, Dan Martins writes:

This makes my blood run cold. In January 2004 I was present at a meeting that was apparently a direct result of the one referenced by Dr Radner. It took place at Christ Church, Plano, and I was there as an official representative (appointed by Bishop Schofield, along with another cleric and two lay persons) of the Diocese of San Joaquin. It was at this meeting that the Network charter was “perfected” in debate, and adopted–so far as I can recall, unanimously–by those present. It was also at this meeting that Geoff Chapman, who was there, was rebuked formally–and he apologized formally–for circulating the now infamous memo outlining a “replacement” strategy. The assembly disavowed the Chapman Memo, and I recall that such a disavowal was a condition laid down by Bishop Howe for his continued participation in the meeting. The ACN charter that was adopted, of course, pledged to operate within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. There were some others present as well–non-Episcopalians –who were seated at a special table in the back of the room and referred to as “common cause partners.”

Many Reappraisers have spoken of a Grand Conspiracy to effect a coup d’eglise within American Anglicanism. I have always resisted such talk because I believed myself to be enough of an insider to know that it was unfounded. After all, I raised my hand in assent when the motion to disavow the Chapman Memo was made. I am now beginning to wonder whether I have been duped and played…

And William R MacKaye writes:

…As a journalistically trained observer of the present Episcopal unpleasantness (though scarcely a disinterested observer), it has been obvious to me for some years that a portion of those in the conservative camp were not debating in good faith. To the contrary, they were colluding to create a separate North American jurisdiction that would displace the Episcopal Church as the recognized Anglican presence on this continent. And even more important, they had secured financial resources that would generously support their activities despite the modest number of their supporters.

As soon as it became clear that the archbishop of Canterbury could not support such a strategy, sharing communion with the see of Canterbury ceased to be a sine qua non for being Anglican, so far as these advocates were concerned….

Read them all and others too.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Kasper pours cold water

Cardinal pours cold water on union with rebel Anglican group is the headline in the Catholic Herald.

One of the Vatican’s most senior cardinals has dismissed the idea that a breakaway group of Anglicans might be received into the Catholic Church en masse – despite Benedict XVI’s personal support for such a move.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, told The Catholic Herald: “It’s not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome.”
The cardinal’s comments refer to the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a rebel group which claims to represent 400,000 people. Its bishops sent a letter to Rome last month requesting “full, corporate and sacramental union”.
But the bishops did not send their letter to Cardinal Kasper. Instead they addressed it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where, it is understood, they expected a warmer reception…

Read the whole article here.

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

SPCK bookshop saga

Dave Walker of CartoonChurch fame is reporting fully on this story over at SPCK reports (latest), so just read it all there.

Update on Durham Cathedral SPCK, see this.

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Thursday, 11 October 2007

Barna on American Teenagers

Although quite general in scope, this American research from The Barna Group is of interest.


A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity

What Teenagers Look for in a Church

A sample:

The Set of Perceptions

While Christianity has typically generated an uneven reputation, the research shows that many of the most common critiques are becoming more concentrated. The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

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Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Sentamu on Mugabe

The Archbishop of York wrote about Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe last Sunday in the Observer newspaper.

John Sentamu Saving Zimbabwe is not colonialism, it’s Britain’s duty

Nicholas Watt Archbishop hits out at policy on Zimbabwe

See also:
BBC Tackle Zimbabwe, archbishop urges
Press Association Archbishop discusses Mugabe with PM

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Monday, 13 August 2007

Nigeria: 2014 Commonwealth Games

Updated Thursday

Changing Attitude Nigeria has published this press release: Nigeria “unfit” to host 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The press release includes a link to the full text of the report presented to the Commonwealth Games Federation, which is titled Abuja’s Bid – Sins of Omission and is available here as a PDF file.

News reports on this matter:
Church Times Delegation lobbies against Nigerian venue for games
Ekklesia Campaigners say Nigeria is unfit for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Glasgow Evening Times Call for Games rivals to be axed from 2014 bid

Glasgow is the city which is competing against Abuja for the 2014 Games.

Reaction against it: Why the Bishop of Chelmsford should now step down from Changing Attitude.

Subsequent development:
BBC Gay Nigerians face Sharia death
Voice of America Nigerian Gays Charged With Sodomy, Could Face Death Penalty

Subsequent Changing Attitude press release: Eighteen gay men arrested and remanded for alleged sodomy.

Update Thursday
Yet another Changing Attitude press release: Members of Changing Attitude Nigeria Jos group among the 18 arrested in Bauchi:

…The Jos leader reports that 5 of the 18 gay men arrested at the party in Bauchi last week are members of the CAN group in Jos. The leader and members of the group had been invited to the party…

Tunde Popoola has commented below:

…If someone knows any Anglican been charged before an Islamic Sharia court for ANY offence, PLEASE let me have such a person’s details and I can assure the church’s legal officer in the concerned diocese will be mandated to ensure such an injustice is prevented.

If my friend Davis is just trying to exploit the unfortunate situation to remain relevant, he should be reminded that he claims CA to be made up of Anglicans which means they are Christians naturally exempted from being charged before Islamic courts.

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Sunday, 15 July 2007

WSJ on Religion in Europe

The Wall Street Journal has an article titled In Europe, God Is (Not) Dead by Andrew Higgins. Christian groups are growing, faith is more public. Is supply-side economics the explanation?

The Church of Sweden and its finances are described in detail.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Church of Scotland admits to 'historic intolerance'

A working group of the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland is to present the General Assembly with an in-depth report on ‘same-sex partnerships as an issue in theology and human sexuality’.

Read the official press release here:

…The report, which is entitled A challenge to unity, takes as its starting point an acknowledgement of the strength of feeling that has already been expressed on the issue of same-sex relationships. However, the considerable body of work that is to go before May’s Assembly does not seek only to study the two sides of the debate – indeed, the idea that the debate has only two primary viewpoints is specifically rejected. A challenge to unity seeks to give a flavour of the wide range of views held within the church, and to identify areas of common ground around which the church might unite…

Read the full text of the report here (RTF).

Read the Ekklesia news article: Church of Scotland admits institutional homophobia:

An influential group of ministers in Scotland’s largest Protestant church has said that its clergy and congregations have been “sinfully” intolerant of gays and lesbians in its ranks.

In a report on homosexuality, a working party has concluded that the Church of Scotland has been institutionally homophobic for much of its history…

Other news reports:
Scotsman Ten years, hundreds of hours of debate and the Kirk finally decides on homosexuality: ‘It’s up to you!’
Guardian ‘Sinful’ Church of Scotland told it must accept gays in its ranks

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Wednesday, 14 March 2007

European Parliament to debate Nigeria


The European Parliament, meeting this week in Strasbourg, is scheduled on Thursday afternoon to debate the situation in Nigeria, with specific reference to the proposed ‘Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act’.

This forms part of a session concerned with: cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Guatemala, Cambodia and Nigeria.

Numerous motions have been filed: you can find links to them from this page (scroll down).

There is a news report here.

Jim N has pulled out the links to each of the motions here.

Update Friday

For what was agreed, see this EU press release: Human rights: killings in Guatemala and Cambodia, abuses in Nigeria.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Swedish rite in English

The Church of Sweden last December approved a Service of blessing for registered partnership.

You can read the English translation of this text, by going to Kelvin Holdsworth’s blog. (It’s a small PDF file.)

Here’s the news report from last December: Church of Sweden gives gay couples church blessing.

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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Faith Leaders condemn Nigerian legislation

No, not those faith leaders.

Matt Thompson reports here on this letter, Faith Leaders Condemn Repressive Nigerian Legislation and this HRW press release, Christian Leaders in US Condemn Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Bill.

Andrew Sullivan writes The Anglicans Out-Sharia Muslims.

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from LGCM about this is here.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Homophobia in Nigeria continued

Updated and republished Tuesday evening

While the General Synod meets, Political Spaghetti continues to report on the progress of the legislation that is officially supported by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

daily episcopalian reports the latest development affecting gay Anglicans in Nigeria here:
Pray for Davis, and write to Lambeth.

In a later report, Matt Thompson tells us that:

The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) just announced their public support of Peter Akinola in a press conference in Abuja, condemning any group that might wish to make same-sex marriage lawful in Nigeria.

And in an even more recent posting, he reports that

The Nigerian Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this Thursday (less than 48 hours from now). The Nigerian House is ready to vote as well.

and provides a long list of contacts in Nigeria, the USA, and the UK (including Lambeth Palace) for those who wish to express their concern.

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Saturday, 24 February 2007

Homophobia in Nigeria


Matt Thompson has comprehensive coverage of the pending Nigerian legislation at Political Spaghetti.

See his four five (so far) recent posts, One, Two, Three and Four; and now Five.

Passage Imminent III contains a detailed analysis of the Nigerian church’s position on all this, and notes that more than one Muslim legislator is reluctant to proceed.

According to the BBC:

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body for Nigerian Christians, called for speedy passage of the law, describing same sex unions as “barbaric and shameful”.

And I saw no mention at all of this matter in the recent Communiqué from the Primates, or in any of the ensuing primatial statements so far.

Here is the most recent United Nations report:UN independent experts oppose proposed Nigerian ban on same-sex relationships.

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Faith, Homophobia & Human Rights

A conference with this title was held last Saturday.

My own report of the conference appears in this week’s Church Times. The text of that report, on the CT website next week, is meanwhile reproduced here (with permission), below the fold.

A press release giving more details of the event is here. See also these pictures and audio files, the draft programme, and the full text of the statement made.

Conference hears of Iraqi gay persecution

by Simon Sarmiento

AN Iraqi gay-rights campaigner, Ali Hilli, received a standing ovation at a conference on faith, homophobia, and human rights in London on Saturday.

Mr Hilli, the founder of Iraqi LGBT, described how multiple fatwas issued by leading Shia clerics, with the collusion of the Iraqi government, were giving divine authority for the murder of gays and lesbians by Badr and Sadr militias. This had recently been confirmed by a UN Human Rights Office report, which also quoted a religious court judge as saying: “Most [gays] have been killed, and others have fled.”

The Iraqi government had condemned the UN report, saying that rights for homosexuals “are not suitable for Iraqi society”.

The 200 people attending the conference, organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), included representatives from a wide range of organisations, and all the main faiths. They ratified a statement that “deplored” what it regarded as “internalised homophobia within religious institutions”.

Christian leaders in the UK were criticised, particularly in relation to the recent attempt to exclude Roman Catholic adoption agencies from the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations in England, Wales, and Scotland.

A former Labour Cabinet minister, Lord Smith of Finsbury, was critical of the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd George Cassidy. In a recent House of Lords debate on the new Northern Ireland anti-discrimination regulations (News, 12 January), Bishop Cassidy had said that “the regulations clearly demonstrate the need to strike a fair balance between the rights of homosexual people to be treated with dignity and respect, and the rights of Christians and other people of faith to manifest their religious beliefs.”

Arguing that “there was not an absolute right to manifest a belief in action if that action caused harm to others,” Lord Smith said that Bishop Cassidy had merely put more elegantly some of the justifications of discrimination used by others outside the House of Lords.

Lord Smith also expressed sadness that Dr Williams, in his attempts to hold the Anglican Communion together, had appeared to “give house-room to arrogant and homophobic views from some parts of the Anglican Communion”.

The conference’s statement said: “We reject the activities of certain religious leaders’ seeking exemptions from equality legislation, and attempts to base this on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, such a right being for all, not just for some. . .

“We believe that full civil rights for LGBT individuals are not only consistent with the right to religious freedom, but are rooted in the best and fundamental teachings of all major faiths: love, justice, compassion, and mercy, such values being shared by all who seek the common good.”

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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

adoptions rumble on

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor writes in today’s Telegraph that Regulation must not trump conscience.

This is presumably the first step in the campaign reported by Jonathan Petre Church to fight to defend role in public life.

As Ekklesia reports in Church accused of getting its facts wrong on faith-based welfare the National Secular Society is ready to respond.

The leader column in the Independent Leading article: New morality? If only… is unequivocal in its summary of the position:

… The affair has also shown how social attitudes have changed in most of Britain. A few decades ago, the prospect of officially sanctioned gay adoption would have caused outrage. But few people today take the view that gay couples should not be allowed to adopt. The debate has focused instead on whether Catholic[s] agencies have a right to exempt themselves from the law of the land.

But perhaps most significantly, the affair has shown the limits of organised religions to influence political power. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the head of Catholics in England and Wales, wrote to every Cabinet minister to demand an exception for Catholic agencies. He was supported by the Church of England and the Muslim Council of Britain. It was a formidable coalition. But it failed.

Now the Cardinal accuses ministers of trying to impose a “new morality” in Britain. If this new morality means it will henceforth be impossible for religious groups to discriminate against people simply because they happen to be homosexual, we fail to see the problem with that.

Two links to the past that may be helpful to put all this in context:

First, this solution to the RC adoption agency problem is not original: see this report dated August 2006 from the San Francisco Chronicle SAN FRANCISCO Catholic agency finds way out of adoption ban Alliance with other groups gets around same-sex parent issue.

Second, this July 2006 Ekklesia report: Redeeming Religion in the Public Square.

Addition: Jonathan Bartley had this Thought for the Day on the radio this morning.

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Monday, 29 January 2007

adoption agency row: Blair decides

Updated Tuesday morning

The Prime Minister has announced his decision.
BBC No exemption from gay rights law.
There appear to be potential difficulties about this in Scotland, BBC No exemption for church adoption.
Other reports in the Telegraph, Times and Guardian, and from Reuters.

Ruth Gledhill has a lot more on this, including exclusive, extensive comments from the Bishop of Durham: Durham damns Blair as ‘deeply unwise’.

Ekklesia has Blair confirms that Catholic adoption agencies will not be able to discriminate.

Later reports:
Guardian Catholic agencies given deadline to comply on same-sex adoptions
Independent Blair announces deal on adoption
Telegraph Church loses opt-out fight over gay adoptions
The Times Gay adoption laws will have no exemptions, Blair tells Catholics and Bishop scorns ‘arrogance’
Scotsman Church accuses Blair of ‘thought crime’ in row over gay adoption

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Thursday, 25 January 2007

adoption agency row: latest development

Updated Thursday daytime

Following the initial report by Gary Gibbon on Channel 4 News that:

After meeting Labour backbenchers, the programme understands that Mr Blair won’t now be pushing for Catholic adoption agencies to be allowed an exemption from the law which will require them to place children with gay couples.

Downing St said Mr Blair would be seeking a “pragmatic solution” to the matter.

He would look to find agreement on how long they would have to wind up their operations after new gay rights regulations came into force.

The proposals, which result from last year’s Equality Act, are reported have caused a split in the Cabinet.

Mr Blair and Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly - a prominent Catholic - favouring an exemption, and colleagues including the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, insisting that the rules should apply equally to everyone.

The regulations, being drafted by Ms Kelly’s Communities and Local Government department, must be approved by a vote of both Houses of Parliament before coming into effect.

other news sources have now confirmed this story:
Daily Mail Blair caves in over adoption laws

The Times Catholics get time to adjust to gay rights. Also this leader: Adopt a Compromise and this cartoon.

Guardian Cabinet rejects exemption on gay adoptions and this leader: Principle under pressure. And this comment by Madeleine Bunting Retreat on adoption and the Equality Act will crumble.
Stephen Bates has also written on this topic, both in the paper, The loving gay family and the archbishop next door and on Comment is free in Adopting the wrong attitude. Also, Two churches, one view and a question of conscience.

Telegraph Blair retreats over opt-out for gay adoption
Faith or career – the choice facing Kelly by Graeme Wilson and Jonathan Petre

BBC ‘No opt-out’ for Church adoption (has link to video report from last night’s TV news). There is also an audio clip from the Today programme here.

Independent Blair backs down over gay adoption law.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2007

more on the adoption agency row

See previous entry for the letter from Rowan Williams and John Sentamu and earlier press reports, including The Times today.

Dr Sentamu was interviewed on the BBC Today radio programme: listen here, about 6 minutes long.

Should Catholic adoption agencies be able to refuse to place children with gay couples? We speak to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

Further press coverage:
Telegraph Churches unite against gay laws by Jonathan Petre and George Jones
Telegraph leader Sexual disorientation.
Guardian Archbishops back Catholic stance on adoption rights for gay couples by Will Woodward and Stephen Bates (another version of this story here).
Independent Cherie Blair ‘split Cabinet in Catholic adoption row
Independent Leading article: When the interests of child and church collide
and a report from last Sunday, Faith & Reason: Ruth Kelly, her hard-line church and a devout PM wrestling with his conscience.
Magnus Linklater in The Times Kelly must face her tragic end - to resign on principle.
Ekklesia Call for Kelly’s head as Blair ponders and C of E backs Catholics and Sentamu seeks to defend church against charges of discrimination.

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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

SOR debate wrap-up

Updated Wednesday evening

The Hansard record of debate starts here.

You can read what Lord Eames said here.
You can read what the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham said here.

The following bishops voted in favour of the motion: Chester, Rochester, Southwell and Nottingham, Winchester. Also the cleric Lord Pilkington.
The following bishops or former bishops voted against the motion: Harries of Pentregarth, Worcester.
The Division list is here

Update Wednesday evening
Newspaper leader columns:
Minority Report in The Times
In praise of… the sexual orientation regulations in the Guardian

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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

news coverage of SORs debate

Updated Tuesday afternoon

The BBC and the Telegraph have extensive coverage this morning.

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Religions united in opposition to gay rights law
and James Mackay Should religious beliefs bow to gay rights?

BBC Faith rally over gay rights bill. Also the Today radio programme interviewed Lord Morrow, and Lord Mackay with Angela Eagle.

Press Association Protest over gay discrimination law

More significant politically perhaps than any of the above, the Trades Union Congress has published a press release and a detailed briefing paper.

Update In the Guardian, opinion columnist Polly Toynbee has Homophobia, not injustice, is what really fires the faiths.

The Evangelical Alliance has issued this curiously softly worded press release.

Update Tuesday afternoon

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has issued this statement:

On 4 January, the Daily Mail carried a story under the headline of “Muslims and Jews to join gay-laws protest”. The article referred to a statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the inference, given the headline, was that the Board of Deputies had been working in concert with groups opposed to the proposed regulations.

The headline – together with the article – unfortunately misrepresented what was a very clear and balanced statement. The Board of Deputies would like to confirm that we have not campaigned with any other groups in relation to this matter and the statement that was given to the Daily Mail (reproduced below) was made solely in response to their request for a comment.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations will provide a further platform to combat discrimination in this country. It must be possible for people to live their lives in the manner in which they choose as long as it does not impinge upon the rights of others. We hope that to this effect the regulations will be framed in such a way that allows for both the effective combating of discrimination in the provision of goods and services whilst respecting freedom of conscience and conviction. These regulations are currently being debated and will be afforded due scrutiny before passing into law.

The Board of Deputies opposes discrimination on any grounds and recognises that the rights of those within our community and in wider society should not be infringed on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion conviction or for any other similar reason.

Another report now on the Telegraph website: Gay rights law protesters branded ‘hypocrites’.
And on The Times website: Gay rights laws draw religious protest.
At the Guardian the Press Association report is Church groups to march against sexuality law.
The latest Reuters report is Faith groups protest against gay rights bill.
The BBC has added Discrimination law controversy and Head-to-head: Gay rights law.
Ruth Gledhill has posted on her blog, Christians ‘torch’ SORs.
Ekklesia has published Faith groups are misrepresenting sexual equality rules, say critics. Also Evangelical leader attacks ‘aggressive’ opposition to SORs, and Northern Irish church heads unite in call to end bigotry.

The BBC story linked at the start of the day has been rewritten and headlined Gay rights laws challenge fails:

New rules outlawing businesses from discriminating against homosexuals have been upheld in the House of Lords.

A challenge led by Lord Morrow of the Democratic Unionist Party failed by a majority of three to one.

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Faithworks on the SORs

Statement from Rev Malcolm Duncan, leader of the Faithworks Movement
8th January 2007

The Sexual Orientation Regulations: an alternative Christian perspective

For all those Christians and churches who are planning to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), to be discussed in the House of Lords tomorrow, we want to voice concerns about this kind of virulent and aggressive approach:

1. There is misunderstanding of the SORs and their application
We are concerned that there is widespread misunderstanding of the SORs. They apply to the delivery of goods, facilities and services, but some Christians have misinterpreted the word ‘services’ to include religious ceremonies and rites such as baptism and blessing of same-sex unions, when this is clearly not the case. Churches will not be forced to ‘marry’ gay people. Likewise, youth groups and schools will not be prosecuted for not promoting a homosexual lifestyle.

We welcome the SORS as an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways. It is right that any organisation receiving public funding should deliver services to genuine public benefit.

The delivery of goods and services can relate to situations such as hiring out of rooms, something many churches have voiced their concerns over. A commitment to diversity through doing this does not mean losing your faith identity: it actually presents an opportunity to develop a dialogue and put the Gospel into action through demonstrating love and service.

Government ministers have publicly answered questions of concern over the scope of the proposed legislation, and this information is freely available on Hansard, the record of proceedings in Parliament. The Government also made it clear in the consultation period that it would listen to the voices of religious groups. The Northern Ireland regulations already contain exceptions for religious organisations.

It is also important to remember that the measures contained in the SORs will not replace existing legislation on discrimination. Thus the protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief that Christians currently enjoy will continue.

2. Double standards
Many Christians are very clear in their stance on the SORs as they relate to homosexuals. However, they have not articulated themselves so clearly when it comes to heterosexual relationships outside of marriage, which is something on which the Bible also contains clear teaching. Many opponents of the SORs have stated concerns that a Christian hotel owner would be forced to let out rooms to gay couples, but would they be as vociferous about letting out a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple? Why this inconsistency? It brings the Church into grave danger of sounding homophobic.

3. The SORs work both ways
The SORs do not refer exclusively to discrimination against homosexuals but to discrimination against people on the grounds of any sexuality. Just as a heterosexual could not discriminate against a gay person, neither could a gay person discriminate against a heterosexual person on grounds of their sexuality.

4. This legislation is an opportunity to demonstrate grace, inclusiveness and love
Christians are called to follow Jesus’ example, and he says remarkably little about sexuality in scripture. Rather, he treats all people he comes across with love and acceptance, and does not refuse his service to anyone, even if he does not agree with their lifestyle. Would it really be ‘Christian’ to refuse bereavement counselling to a gay man, or to exclude a gay person and their child from a parent-and-toddler group? We believe that Christian community organisations, and those of other faiths, can maintain their distinctive faith identities while still serving the needs of their whole communities. We do not interpret the new Sexual Orientation Regulations as a threat to that.

The Faithworks Movement is committed to inclusion and transformation. Thousands of members up and down the UK are working to build a better world by delivering services to their communities on this inclusive and non-discriminatory basis. The reality is that on a daily basis millions of Christians across the UK engage holistically, compassionately and inclusively with people in their communities.

The proposed SORs are an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. However, vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic and is doing little to give itself a credible voice.

Rev Malcolm Duncan
Leader of the Faithworks Movement
115 Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0AX

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SOR debate tonight in House of Lords

Tonight there will be an hour long debate in the House of Lords to consider Democratic Unionist Party peer Lord Morrow’s motion to annul The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, which came into force on 1 January, and which will also be the subject of a High Court case in March.

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006
Lord Morrow to move that a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Regulations, laid before the House on 24 November, be annulled. 3rd Report from the Merits Committee (Dinner break business, 1 hour)

Written Answers in the House of Lords on this topic on 13 December were as follows:

Equality: Sexual Orientation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 would require all schools actively to promote homosexual civil partnerships to children from primary school age to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage. [HL447]
Lord Rooker: No. The regulations are not concerned with what is taught in schools. That is rightly a matter for the Department of Education, Northern Ireland.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 would require a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex.[HL448]
Lord Rooker: No. It would be entirely within the spirit of the regulations for a printing shop run by a Christian to refuse to print fliers promoting gay sex, so long as that printer also refused to print fliers promoting heterosexual sex outside the realm of marriage.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 would require a family-run bed and breakfast to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even if the family consider it to be in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their own home.[HL449]
Lord Rooker: No.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 would make it illegal for a heterosexual police officer, fire fighter or member of the Armed Forces to refuse to join a Gay Pride event promoting the homosexual way of life.[HL450]
Lord Rooker: No.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether they have received representations from Coherent and Cohesive Voice, a network of Christian leaders about the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 (SI 2006/439); and, if so, when; how many representations have been received; and in what form.[HL451]
Lord Rooker: We have received no representations from this group.

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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Getting Equal: Northern Ireland goes ahead

An attempt by religious groups to delay the introduction of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 on 1 January was rebuffed in the High Court. See this BBC report, Gay rights objectors lose action, and this earlier: Go ahead for gay rights challenge.

Last week, an attempt in the Northern Ireland Transitional Assembly to pass a motion calling on the government to withdraw the regulations was defeated by the narrowest of margins. See the earlier BBC report, Assembly clashes over gay rights.

For more background, read William Crawley’s blog, Will and Testament, in particular these articles:
21 Dec New Gay rights law gets the go-ahead
20 Dec Church leaders meet the minister over new gay rights law
18 Dec Christian groups challenge equality legislation
13 Dec The Equality Act

There is also this rather odd press release from the Church of Ireland.

The government’s analysis of the many responses to its consultation can be found in html format here.
Further links to government material here.

My earlier analysis of the religious exemption provided in the regulations is here.

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Friday, 8 December 2006

Getting Equal: progress report

According to the Independent this morning, in Kelly rejects call to extend Ulster gay rights to the rest of Britain:

A row has broken out in the Cabinet over how far the Government should go in outlawing discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has pushed through regulations in the province that will be tougher than the Government plans for England, Wales and Scotland. He has defied a call by Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality, to hold fire until a common approach has been agreed…

Meanwhile, the Tablet has a news report (only available to subscribers) about what the RC bishops in Northern Ireland said, and a leader column which you can read in full here: When tone matters.

According to Anglican Mainstream government telephones are besieged with phone calls from people concerning these proposals.

The Lawyers Christian Fellowship has published a press release concerning a survey of public opinion which it commissioned, and another press release summarising their view of progress: Opinion Poll Results Show Widespread Opposition To Sors; Annulment Of Sors Sought In Commons And Lords

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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

more on the equality regulations

The Sun newspaper came to the support of the Bishop of Rochester: Gay law is bashed by bishop.

Two columns on Comment is free do not support the bishop’s point of view:
Andrew Brown The view from the inside (the URL is more descriptive than the title) and the strap is:

When religions discriminate against a minority group, they are also fighting for something fundamental about the freedom of religion.

and Theo Hobson Divine judgment on religion

The church is meant to signify unity between Christians, but the gay crisis has completely undermined this concept.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Alliance has issued a Call for consultation, Andrew Marr interviewed Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on BBC TV on Sunday, and the Christian Institute issued this briefing on the Northern Ireland regulations (PDF file).

The latest statement from the Lawyers Christian Fellowship is here and also here. This Word document here is slightly older but is the source of some material attacking the regulations seen elsewhere, such as the Christian bookshop and Christian printshop examples of alleged difficulty.

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Wednesday, 29 November 2006

church leaders attack equality regulations

Despite the extensive scope of the “religious exemption” provided in the Northern Ireland regulations, attacks on this legislation, and on the presumed extension of it into the mainland UK, continue from the Daily Mail, from the usual conservative Christian lobby groups, but also from various Christian leaders.

The paid advertisement in The Times yesterday can be seen in full here (PDF file). The group that sponsored this is Coherent and Cohesive Voice. This is an alliance of Black church leaders (“a network of hundreds of Christian leaders in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of voters”) including many names which can be found here.

Complaints about this advertisement can be made to the Advertising Standards Authority.

This group also issued a Briefing Paper last July which can be read here. Both documents contain statements about the effect of these regulations which are just not true.

Tomorrow’s Times carries several letters to the Editor about this matter. One of them is from the Minister for Equality, Meg Munn:

Sir, The Government is seeking to strike a balance between protecting the rights of religious groups and preventing discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

This is a Government, and country, that has a proud record of tackling discrimination wherever it exists. But it is also a country that has a proud record of respecting people from all faiths and none.

No one is proposing that schools will have to promote homosexuality or that a priest will have to bless same-sex couples. But at the same time, it is wrong for gay teenagers to be refused emergency accommodation after being thrown out of their family home on the ground that they had chosen to tell their parents about their sexuality, or for lesbian and bisexual people to be denied access to essential healthcare.

Deputy Minister for
Women and Equalities

And in an interview, Meg Munn said:

“It is right that there should be a public debate on these complex and difficult issues, but that debate should be conducted in a calm and measured way rather than through inaccurate and wild speculation.”

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Getting Equal: RC reaction

There is an Anglican angle too: Daily Mail Steve Doughty Anglican bishop threatens to close youth clubs in protest at gay rights. And sidebar Seven out of 10 say beliefs should not be abandoned over gay rights
The bishop is Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester.

There are several reports of what RC archbishop Vincent Nichols has been saying about what he perceives as the government’s intentions in bringing in the proposed new regulations discussed here previously.

Daily Mail Steve Doughty Don’t impose your morality: Catholic Archbishop attacks gay rights bill and editorial comment Blair and the moral backlash
Telegraph Jonathan Petre Archbishop warns of gay rights backlash
Universe Church Fires Broadside Over Government’s Moral Neutrality
Catholic Herald Gay rights law threatens Catholic adoption agencies

It’s rather difficult to see what justification exists for most of these concerns. The Northern Ireland regulations are clear in providing religious bodies with an exemption from almost all the requirements placed on everybody else. The effect is that discimination by a religious organisation, in respect of sexual orientation. is permitted:

(a) if it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation; or

(b) so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religions followers.

which should be easy for the Roman Catholic church to meet. Charitable bodies, whether or not religious, are also exempted, provided their actions are taken by reason of or in pursuance of their charitable instrument.

The two principles from which there is no exemption provided in Northern Ireland are:

  • The requirement to refrain from harassment (see here for what this means)
  • The requirement that nobody providing education or social services at public expense will be allowed to discriminate in the provision of those services.

Postscript: there was a full page advertisement in The Times today placed by a group called Coherent and Cohesive Voice, self-described as “a network of hundreds of Christian leaders in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of voters”. Follow this link to read the text of the advertisement. Several claims made in the advertisement are quite false.

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Monday, 27 November 2006

animal ethics

Another item from the BBC Sunday radio programme:

New think tank for animal rights opens
What rights, if any, do animals have? What’s described as the world’s first academy, to enhance the ethical status of animals, opens in Britain tomorrow. The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics will act as an international think tank with its own online course, research initiatives and publications. It’s focusing in particular on the relationship between animal abuse and human violence. More than 100 academics from ten countries have agreed to become advisers in an attempt to put animals on the intellectual agenda. But, with many conflicting views on such issues as experimentation and organic farming, how effective will the centre be? Mike Ford reports from Oxfordshire.
Listen (6m 9s)

BBC Religion & Ethics - Animal ethics

The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

Evening Standard Think tank aims to spark animal ethics debate
There is also a Church Times report about this which I will link when it becomes public.

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Saturday, 25 November 2006

Getting Equal: more from Northern Ireland

The government consultation on this legislation in Northern Ireland was based on this document (PDF - warning very large document, 2.6 Mb), and this questionnaire. It generated 373 responses, some of which can be found here, and this analysis of the responses (PDF - very small). The analysis is well worth reading.

The Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, issued this press release on 23 November:

Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland (EANI) today responded to new equality legislation designed to outlaw discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, services and facilities.

Responding to the new regulations Stephen Cave, General Secretary, said, ‘During this ‘Anti-homophobia Week’ Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland recognises that unfortunately homophobia can and does occur within faith based communities. We renounce any homophobia which manifests itself in terms of victimisation and abusive, demeaning or other violent attitudes and behaviour.’

Commenting on the details of the legislation he went on to say, ‘There are serious questions which must be addressed about the rushed nature of the consultation process and quick implementation of the regulations. However EANI acknowledges the work done by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in listening to the concerns of religious organisations and subsequently providing exemptions to ensure that core doctrinal beliefs are not undermined.

We also note the introduction to the legislation of a harassment clause offering those of different sexual orientation protection against violation of dignity or the creation of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In keeping with the spirit of laws against discrimination we would caution against any potential use of this legislation which would curb freedom of speech or curtail religious liberty in Northern Ireland. We would also hope that it will not be long until the same protection against harassment is afforded to people of faith across the community.’

The harassment clause mentioned, which as the analysis explains was requested by many who responded, reads as follows:

(3) A person (“A”) subjects another person (“B”) to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in these Regulations where, on the ground of sexual orientation, A engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of —

(a) violating B’s dignity; or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B

This needs to be read in conjunction with:

(4) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) or paragraph (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including, in particular, the perception of B, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.

Religious Exemption: for a comparison between the wording of these NI regulations and the text of the Equality Act part 2 relating to Religion and Belief, see this page.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Getting Equal: Northern Ireland goes ahead

Articles from 10 June and from 30 June and 20 August reported on the Getting Equal consultation conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry.

More recently, I reported on 15 October, that action had been delayed until next April.

My earlier Church Times article is unfortunately not available at present from the CT archive, so is reproduced below the fold.

This week, the government has taken action earlier than that, but in Northern Ireland. See this report in the Telegraph Gay rights law ‘being forced through’.

Today, there is a further report in the Daily Mail Vicars could be sued for refusing to bless gay weddings, fears Church which claim may well be unjustified.

Anglican Mainstream and The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship have become even more hysterical than usual about this, and the latter’s public policy website, Christian Concern for our Nation contains yet another plea for its supporters to deluge politicians to stop all this action.

The proposed regulations for Northern Ireland, which have been published by the Northern Ireland Office, can be read here: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006. The document is described as follows:

Made 8th November 2006
To be laid before Parliament under paragraph 7(3) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland Act 2000
Coming into operation 1st January 2007

The wording of these regulations contains some material that is specific to Northern Ireland, but is presumably broadly consistent with the government’s intentions for the whole UK. Watch out for further analysis of this soon.

Equally, a matter of orientation
Originally published in the 23 June 2006 edition of the Church Times

THE Archbishops’ Council recently responded to Getting Equal, the latest DTI consultation on outlawing discrimination. The Church does not agree with the Government over the extent to which it should be allowed to discriminate against people on grounds of sexual orientation.

A White Paper in May 2004 eventually led to Parliament approving the Equality Act 2006 in February. Media coverage focused on the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, which will replace three existing agencies from October 2007. It will be responsible for preventing discrimination in six areas of concern: race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and religion or belief. But the Act covers much more.

Discrimination in the provision of “goods, facilities and services” is already illegal in respect of gender, race, and disability. Part two of the Act contains detailed provisions to outlaw such discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. They take effect in October.

They state that it is immaterial whether or not a charge is made for goods, facilities or services. There are, however, exemptions allowing a religious organisation (unless its main purpose is commercial) to limit its membership, participation in its activities, provision of goods, facilities, and services in the course of such activities, and use of its premises. Any religious body may thus lawfully discriminate in all these areas against members of another religion, or of another Christian denomination.

Part three of the Act enables the Government to make corresponding regulations in relation to sexual orientation, hence the consultation, which opened in March and closed on 5 June. The Government will respond within 12 weeks, and then lay regulations before Parliament for approval, to take effect in October.

THE main issue is that the Government clearly wishes the sexual orientation exemptions for religious bodies to be significantly more restrictive than those for religion or belief. The DTI said in its consultation document:

“We are interested to hear views on the impact that the regulations may have in these areas [“the doctrines of some faiths concerning sexual orientation”], particularly where the regulations may impede religious observance or practices that arise from the basic doctrines of a faith. Any exceptions . . . for religious organisations would need to be clearly defined and our starting point is that these should be limited to activities closely linked to religious observance or practices that arise from the basic doctrines of a faith.

“Religious organisations also have a role in providing wider services to the community with a social or welfare aspect . . . We do not see a case for exempting such services.”

The Archbishops’ Council argues that this approach would require the courts to determine doctrinal matters, which they have consistently declined to do; that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects much wider religious rights than this implies; and that the Government also fails to take account of Section 13 (1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Council was also concerned that including church schools in the proposed regulations might extend beyond such matters as admissions and discipline (to which it had no objection) to the curriculum, and even worship. These areas, it says, are already adequately covered under the Education Act 1996.

The Council seeks all the same exemptions as are in the religion or belief provisions. These would give churches, mosques, and others carte blanche to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Council also repeats the claim that behaviour, not orientation, is the sole locus of concern (though this might not convince many who observed the “Reading affair”).

Specific exemptions for church schools relating to curriculum and worship are also sought, along with another for the use of school premises. This last was justified on the perhaps odd grounds that “Faith schools might be required to make their premises equally available to groups [that] . . . could give considerable offence to the conscientiously held beliefs of staff and parents.”

THE DIFFICULTY is that English law does not recognise the distinction between orientation and behaviour.
As Mr Justice Richards said in 2004, concerning the religious exemptions that were being argued over in the 2003 Employment Equality regulations (his italics):

“One of the matters that will need to be considered in examining the challenge to that provision, is a distinction drawn between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. As regards the protection conferred by the [European] Convention [on Human Rights], however, I do not consider there to be any material difference between them. Sexual orientation and its manifestation in sexual behaviour are both inextricably connected with a person’s private life and identity.”

Nevertheless, the Church persists in arguing that “It is crucial to ensure that churches and other faith communities and their members are able to manifest their own doctrines and convictions in this area without fear of legal sanction.”

So it might be hard to convince the DTI that such sweeping exemptions are a proportionate response to the Church’s views on sexuality. Its case is surely weakened when the Council admits that “a range of views is held on that moral issue within the Church.”

Yet the Council chose not to deploy the argument used by Anglican Mainstream: that religion and orientation are both entirely a matter of personal choice. It is hard to see how the differences might be resolved, when the Council is asking for a wholesale exemption, and the Government is seeking to limit the Church’s protection from the law.

Simon Sarmiento is a former personnel director of a large software company.

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Monday, 13 November 2006

Religious Festivals and Celebrations

Jonathan Petre has a report in the Telegraph Leave Christmas alone, say Muslims.

The statement reported comes from the Christian Muslim Forum whose website, which is in English, Arabic, and Urdu, carries the full text of the statement only as a PDF; it is reproduced below the fold here.

Religious Festivals and Celebrations

We have faced various calls over the past few years for the secularisation or de-Christianisation of certain religious festivals. In particular, certain local authorities have decided that Christmas shall be called by another (non-religious) name. The reason usually given is that to use a specifically Christian name for this festival offends members of other religious traditions.

As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the retention of specific religious recognition for Christian festivals. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is in itself offensive to both of our communities. We believe that the only beneficiaries of eroding the residual Christian presence in public life are those committed to a totally non-religious standpoint. We value the presence of clear institutional markers within society which embody the reality and mystery of God in public life rather than evacuating the public space of any such reminder.

We believe that our open and democratic society should promote freedom of religion in the public space rather than negatively restrict its observance. We welcome, for instance the public recognition of Eid al Fitr, as Muslims celebrate together at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan. We value the partnership evident in some local communities which gives opportunity for others to share with Muslims at this time of celebration. This is a positive way of affirming the public contribution that people of different religious traditions bring to our society. We believe that any attempt to privatise and hide the celebration of religious festivals promotes frustration, alienation and even anger within religious communities. Such negative approaches devalue religion and undermine the positive contributions that faith communities bring to society.

We also rejoice in the contribution and value of all religious communities in our country – Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others. It is important for the integrity of all religious traditions that we recognise the centrality of major festivals within each community. In our increasingly diverse society we need to foster a mature and healthy approach to religious diversity which both recognizes the specific Christian heritage of this country and welcomes the important part that other religious traditions increasingly play within our culture. This demands a greater religious understanding on the part of government and local authorities than has been evident or necessary in the past.

We are thankful for those policies and actions which are responding helpfully to our changing religious environment. On the other hand we are concerned that those approaches which are based on anti-religious philosophies or a fear of religion are in danger of causing alienation in a wide variety of communities and fanning the growth of extremism. Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianise British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda which they do not hold.

Human beings require occasions for festival and celebration and, for many in our society, these opportunities are fundamentally religious and spiritual in nature as we mark the high points in our different traditions. We call on all with responsibility in national and local government to give space and encouragement to an open and welcoming space for religious festivals as part of a positive contribution to community cohesion.

Released by Bishop David Gillett, Chair of the national Christian Muslim Forum and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, Vice Chair of the Forum.

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Sunday, 12 November 2006

Theos the think tank

Updated Tuesday

A new religious British think tank was launched this week, named Theos. Its website is here. Its first published report is titled “Doing God”: A Future For Faith in the Public Square and it can be downloaded as a PDF file here (warning: over 1 Mbyte).

Press reports of this launch event:

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Majority views religion as force for good

Guardian See the leader listed here yesterday. And on Comment is free see Madeleine Bunting, Martin Newland, and AC Grayling.

BBC Leaders back faith in public life

The Times Ruth Gledhill Archbishops back campaign to promote religion and Wise men of the churches set out to keep Christ in Christmas

Ekklesia Theos think tank ‘gives hope to humanists’. Here is the BHS press release mentioned.

Theos has also published this article by Alister McGrath The Dawkins Delusion

The BBC radio programme Sunday covered this launch too, listen to Christopher Landau here (Real Audio, 5 minutes 46 seconds).

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Thursday, 7 September 2006

The Fundamentalists

A Channel Four television programme with this title, lasting two hours, airs in the UK on Saturday at 7.15 pm. The presenter is Mark Dowd. The official publicity blurb reads:

Former Dominican friar Mark Dowd travels the world to explore the origins of and reasons for religious fundamentalism. Examining five different faiths and a century of history, Dowd strives to discover who fundamentalists are, what their common attributes might be, and why a literalist approach to the religious text is so important to them.

Mark Vernon who has seen the programme, has written this preview:

The Fundamentalists - Channel 4, Saturday 9th Sept

Would you know a fundamentalist if you met one? A black hood and Kalashnikov might rouse your suspicion. But what of the peaceful sort, in regular clothes. What would give them away?

Four individuals featured in Mark Dowd’s film, ‘The Fundamentalists’, shatter preconceptions. For one thing they are women - a Hindi nationalist in India, a settler wife in Israel, an evangelical grandma in the US, and a Palestinian mum in Gaza. These four are also of four different religions - Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Fundamentalists are as likely to be Buddhist too, particularly if you live in Sri Lanka where they wear saffron robes. You needn’t go abroad for fundamentalism either. I recently spent the day with a fundamentalist from the home counties. He is white, middle class and a minister in the Church of England. We drank tea as he told me homosexuals are at risk of burning for all eternity.

From its origins in America, modern media have given the word fundamentalist global recognition in a few short decades, as Dowd shows when it is instantly recognised by people across four continents. Inspired by American fundamentalists, all sorts of people who feel politically embattled and/or personally unsure now turn to it for security. What fundamentalists have in common is breaking with the past: they do religion without tradition; something written or spoken two or three thousand years ago can be directly and unproblematically applied to today.

How should liberals respond to fundamentalism? Dowd shows how it is partly a political problem but it is also a spiritual problem. This leads him to make some pertinent suggestions. First, recognising that fundamentalism is here to stay, it is important to be savvy about their sense of the sacred to ensure that peaceable fundamentalists stay peaceable. Second, and more aggressively, it is important to challenge them religiously, particularly on the break with tradition: for example, as Jonathan Sacks puts it, God’s word without interpretation is like nuclear fuel without insulation. Third, we must strive for more spirituality enlightened times: the spiritual crudity of fundamentalism is a reflection of the spiritual crudity of materialism. As Dowd concludes, ultimately, only towering spiritual figures can lead fundamentalists away from their fears.

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Sunday, 20 August 2006

more about Getting Equal

In June, I linked here to the article for the Church Times that I wrote about the latest DTI consultation Getting Equal on outlawing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation throughout the UK in the provision of goods and services.

Since then, the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales also published their response to the DTI consultation. You can read it here (PDF ) and also the covering letter (another PDF). It is far more restrained in its language than the response from Anglican Mainstream or the even more extreme response of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship.

One specific RC concern is to do with child adoption services. This week, The Tablet has an interesting article which discusses how this issue has been handled by Roman Catholics in the USA: Dilemma of gay adoption by Terry Philpot. (Access to this PDF article is free, but requires registration.)

There is a related news report (only available on the web by subscription) concerning opposition to the anticipated regulations from the Scottish RC bishops on this score. But there is no mention there of the English RC objections which are contained in the document linked above. A Scottish RC press release is here.

The DTI response to the consultation is expected 12 weeks after the closure date of 5 June. That could be next week. This response will then be followed by the publication of draft regulations for parliamentary approval in October.

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Friday, 31 March 2006

Rowan Williams on climate change

On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme last Tuesday 28 March, the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his concerns over the issue of climate change.
A full transcript of the interview is available on the CofE website. (Also on Lambeth Palace and ENS sites.)
You can also listen to the interview (Real Audio required) on the BBC website - 17 minutes total, but the archbishop comes first in sequence, and this lasts about 9 minutes. The other person interviewed is Margaret Beckett who is the UK Secretary of State for the Environment.

Church Times Dr Williams: Billions could die from climate change by Pat Ashworth

BBC Archbishop urges emissions cuts

A few nuggets on what the Church of England is doing about this itself can be found here.

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Thursday, 9 March 2006

Nigerian legislation and the Church of Nigeria

Updated Friday 10 March
First, the text of the draft Nigerian legislation that has been under discussion here and elsewhere is reproduced below the fold.

Second, this legislation was endorsed explicitly by the following statement:

The Bill against Homosexuality:

The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.

This occurs in the MESSAGE TO THE NATION / COMMUNIQUE from the meeting of the Standing Committee held in Ibadan on 22-25 February, signed by the Primate, and posted on the official provincial website. That meeting was several days before the recent claims that he had made no public statement on this matter. Amended Wednesday 15 March

The PASTORAL LETTER TO THE CHURCH from the same source, dated 25 February, does not mention this topic.
Hat Tip: Mark Harris.

Addition Friday 10 March
The US Department of State issued this Press Statement back on 1 February: Nigerian Legislation Threatens to Limit Rights of Sexual Minorities.


1. Short Title

This Act may be cited as Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006.

2. Interpretation

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

“Marriage” means a legally binding union between a man and a woman be it performed under the authority of the State, Islamic Law or Customary Law; “Minister” means the Minister responsible for Internal Affairs; “Same Sex Marriage” means the coming together of two persons of the same gender or sex in a civil union, marriage, domestic partnership or other form of same sex relationship for the purposes of cohabitation as husband and wife.

3.Validity and Recognition of Marriage.

For the avoidance of doubt only marriage entered into between a man and a woman under the marriage Act or under the Islamic and Customary Laws are valid and recognized in Nigeria.

4. Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage, etc.

(1) Marriage between persons of the same sex and adoption of children by them in or out of a same sex marriage or relationship is prohibited in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) Any marriage entered into by persons of same sex pursuant to a license issued by another state, country, foreign jurisdiction or otherwise shall be void in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(3) Marriages between persons of the same sex are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.

(4) Any contractual or other rights granted to persons involved in same sex marriage or accruing to such persons by virtue of a license shall be unenforceable in any Court of law in Nigeria.

(5) The Courts in Nigeria shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce, separation and maintenance orders with regard to such same sex marriage, consider or rule on any of their rights arising from or in connection with such marriage.

5. Non-Recognition of Same Sex Marriage

(1) Marriage between persons of same sex entered into in any jurisdiction whether within or outside Nigeria, any other state or country or otherwise or any other location or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriage in any jurisdiction, whether within or out side Nigeria are not recognized in Nigeria.

(2) All arms of government and agencies in the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding within or outside Nigeria, with regard to same sex marriage or relationship or a claim arising from such marriage or relationship.

6. Prohibition of celebration of same sex marriage in a place of worship

(1) Same sex marriage shall not be celebrated in any place of worship by any recognized cleric of a Mosque, Church, denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs.

(2) No marriage license shall be issued to parties of the same sex in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

7. Prohibition of Registration of Gay Clubs and Societies and Publicity of same sex sexual relationship.

(1) Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited.

(2) Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria.

(3) Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

8. Offences and Penalties.

(1) Any person goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

(2) Any person performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

9. Jurisdiction

The High Court in the States and the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain all matters, causes and proceedings arising from same sex marriages and relationships.


This Act shall prohibit in the Federal Republic of Nigeria the relationship between persons of the same sex, celebration of marriage by them and other matters connected therewith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 2:55pm GMT | Comments (27)
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Saturday, 25 February 2006

map of Nigerian violence

Christianity Today’s weblog has comprehensive reporting of the Nigerian disturbances, and that includes a link to this annotated map showing where each reported event has occurred.
Hat Tip to GetReligion for this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 9:45am GMT | Comments (0)
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Friday, 17 February 2006

Tutu speaks out on Guantánamo

Update Saturday
‘The Americans are breaking international law… it is a society heading towards Animal Farm’ - Archbishop Sentamu on Guantanamo

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined in the growing chorus of condemnation of America’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Read the BBC News report Tutu calls for Guantanamo closure and listen (Real Audio - 8+ minutes) to the Radio 4 Today interview:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been very critical of Britain’s way of dealing with the threat from terrorism and he too, along with Kofi Annan and many others, supports the mounting pressure to close Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 1:07pm GMT | Comments (6)
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Sunday, 5 February 2006

Sunday radio

The BBC radio programme Sunday has several items of Anglican interest today. Real Player required.

Rowan Williams is interviewed about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It’s easy to understand why Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian, is a hero, even a saint, to German Christians. Unlike so many of their religious leaders, Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the Nazis was unremitting and he paid for it with his life. He was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was executed in the last weeks of the war.
But what relevance does he have for non-Germans in the 21st century?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has no doubt of the theologian’s importance. He has travelled to Germany and Poland to attend celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s birth.

Listen (5m 22s)

And two items previewing General Synod debates this week.

Rural churches

Perhaps next Tuesday afternoon’s debate at the General Synod should be held not in the chamber of Church House in Westminster but in a draughty parish hall in a remote country village. They’ll be talking about rural churches - something we might take for granted, but which in many places are facing crisis - just like every other kind of rural service. The synod debate follows an internal report on rural churches which often lose out on grants from government and other funding agencies.

Listen (6m 32s)

Slave trade

Next year will see the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Colonies and next week’s General Synod will debate a motion calling on the Church to help mark the anniversary and use it as an opportunity to campaign for an end to human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery. But an amendment to the motion will also be tabled. It will call on the Church of England to recognise the damage done by its own involvement in the Slave Trade. It will also urge the Church to address the legacy of the slave trade and offer an apology to the heirs of those who were enslaved.

Listen (4m 11s)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 February 2006 at 11:50am GMT | Comments (0)
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Wednesday, 30 November 2005

British press views of Roman Catholic statement

The Guardian today carried three items:
A news report by Stephen Bates Vatican rules firmly against gay priests
A magazine article by Emily Wilson How gay is too gay?
A leader: Distinctly without prejudice
Update see also Thursday’s letters to the editor

The Independent had a report: Pope restates ban on gay priests and says homosexuality is ‘disordered’

The Times had this: Pope’s gay priest ruling is hailed by moderates by Ruth Gledhill and Richard Owen

And in the Telegraph Jonathan Petre reported under the headline Vatican call to weed out practising gays

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 November 2005 at 11:08pm GMT | Comments (7)
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Saturday, 26 November 2005

Roman Catholic statement

Earlier this week, the Roman Catholic Church issued somebody in Rome leaked a long-expected document about homosexuality and the RC clergy, or to give it its official title:

Instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of their Admission to Seminaries and Orders

Original PDF in Italian released by the Italian news agency Adista
full web page copy of text in Italian

Unofficial translation from Italian into English by Robert Mickens of The Tablet

Update Official translation into English in PDF file as released by UCCB (hat tip to the Loggia again)

Article about it in The Tablet by Timothy Radcliffe Can gays be priests?

Article about it by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter Vatican document bans most gays from priesthood and also this here.

Ruth Gledhill comments, Vatican bans gays from seminaries.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 26 November 2005 at 10:46pm GMT | Comments (34)
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Friday, 14 October 2005

James Jones and Human Sexuality

Hidden away on the Liverpool Diocesan website is the Bishop of Liverpool’s presidential address to his diocesan synod last month. He writes about his current position on the issue of human sexuality. His conciliatory views may surprise some.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 2:53pm BST | Comments (21)
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Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Islam and violence

An item from the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:

0832 What is it that motivates a suicide bomber? Jane Little explores what Islam has to say about violence.

Listen here with Real Audio 4.5 minutes

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 July 2005 at 3:42pm BST | Comments (11)
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Thursday, 19 May 2005

Mary: Hope and Grace in Christ

The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, a group originally set up by Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI, and re-established by Archbishop Robert Runcie and Pope John Paul II has published its latest report Mary: Hope and Grace in Christ.

The publication was celebrated on Monday in Seattle by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Seattle, Alexander Brunett, and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Peter Carnley.

ACNS has placed a summary introduction to the report by the Revd Canon Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic Co-Secretary of ARCIC on its website.

Update 20 May
The Church Times has published a lengthy article by Rachel Boulding summarising the document: Anglicans and Roman Catholics reach agreement about the Virgin Mary

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 19 May 2005 at 9:23pm BST | Comments (6)
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Wednesday, 27 April 2005

more Roman reports

Two other sources of information about recent Anglican visitors to Rome:

The RC Diocese of Westminster has published excerpts from the press conference that Archbishop Rowan Williams and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor held on 25 April.

Anglicans Online has published Pierre Whalon’s Dispatch from Rome which also discusses the papal audience of that morning. Pierre Whalon’s earlier report was on the Sunday inauguration: Dispatch from St Peter’s Basilica.

Additional Item
Reuters has a video clip of the papal audience in which RW’s interaction with the Pope is clearly shown. This may not work correctly in some browsers: it worked for me in Internet Explorer 6 on WinXP. The Reuters video page has a strip marked Vatican Channel and the clip is labelled Pope Meets Religious Leaders.

ENS catches up
Anglican leaders meet with Pope Benedict XVI

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 April 2005 at 11:15am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Roman diary, part 2

Bishop John Flack, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See wrote earlier about his time in Rome during the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II. Now he writes again, this time about the election and inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, the comings and goings of Anglican dignitaries, and shaking hands with the new pope.

Read on…


Tuesday 19th April

The second day of the Conclave and most of Rome waits with bated breath. We’ve been told to expect smoke at St Peters at 12 noon, so at 11.35am I rush out to catch a number 64 bus up to the Vatican, hanging on to my wallet for dear life (number 64 is known as the “Pickpockets Express”).

Everyone seems to be going the same way –- walking, running, driving –—there are thousands of “motorinos” — the ubiquitous Roman scooter. So the number 64 is slow, and I arrive at St Peters just in time to see black smoke curl into the sky. No surprises there –- no-one expects a result in under 24 hours.

The next smoke, we’re told, will be at 7.00pm. Later in the afternoon – soon after 5.30pm – Jonathan Boardman (Rome’s Anglican Chaplain) phones me to say “there’s white smoke on TV” so I put down everything and rush. A number 916 orange bus comes and 120 people get on it, all heading in the same direction. We have to get off the bus at the Ponte Sisto and walk across the Tiber to St Peters, part of a teeming mass of humanity, just like Old Trafford on match day. There is the white smoke on the giant TV screens (it really is like Old Trafford) and the Piazza San Pietro is filling up. A large banner says “John XXIV for Pope” –- from We wait the regulation 40 minutes after the white smoke for the announcement. There is a slight movement of velvet curtains on the central balcony above the doors of St Peters and then comes the cry “Habemus Papam” – we have a new Pope and his name is Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, who will be known as Benedict XVI. Applause ripples through the crowd of 100,00 people and the new Pope comes out to bless us, speaking clearly and precisely in Italian, French, English and German. One thing is clear – the new Pope is a linguist.

Wednesday 20th April

I spend the morning dealing with reactions to Cardinal Ratzinger’s appointment, on the net and on the telephone. There are extreme reactions, both of approval and disapproval. Approval centres round his reputation as a scholar and a linguist, disapproval because he is not from the developing world. The choice of the name “Benedict” gives out strong European signals.

I decide to be cautious in my public statements. Just as well, because soon I am being pressed to comment by “The Times”, Radio Belfast and the Hertfordshire Mercury, to name but three. By the afternoon the telephone lines to Lambeth are buzzing with arrangements for the Inauguration of Benedict XVI, which we learn will take place this Sunday, just four days away. The Roman Church certainly doesn’t hang about! I spend some time “gently bartering” over the size of the Anglican delegation to the Inauguration, which this time will include Bishops and other representatives from the wider Anglican Communion as well as home. Later I walk out into the Largo Argentina (the large square where it is said that the assassination of Julius Caesar took place) to buy today’s English newspapers – they usually hit the streets here around 4.00pm. I eat my supper with the “Times” the “Telegraph” and the “Guardian”. I’m shocked that two of these quality newspapers cannot spell “Papam” properly. Where are today’s Latinists among the sub-editors? O tempora, O mores!

Thursday 21st April

Thursday begins with a very pleasant breakfast in a hotel facing Santa Maria Maggiore. Over a cappuchino and a cornetti crema I marvel on Ferdinando Fuga’s wonderful facade, designed for another Pope Benedict (XIV) in 1750. My host is a well-known Italian journalist, whose work I admire. He wants to meet our Archbishop, of course, at the Inauguration. On these occasions my cricket technique is useful – “play a straight bat and don’t get caught out”. Walking back past the Angelicum (University of St Thomas Aquinas) I marvel at a perfect early Summer’s day in Rome – warm sunshine, a delicate breeze, sumptuous architecture, pre-Christian archaeology, friendly greetings from the carabinieri. Back in the Anglican Centre my whimsical musings are shattered by 41 e-mail messages, 11 answerphone queries, plumbers installing a new shower and decorators in the Chapel. And I’ve got 6 guests staying over the weekend, and 21 to lunch on Sunday.

Friday 22nd April

By 8.00am there’s a journalist in the Anglican Centre from Canadian TV, soon followed by a German television crew. I remember that the new Pope is German and so I do a respectful piece, conscious that I am being watched live by schoolchildren and students in places like Frankfurt and Hamburg. Bishop David Beetge arrives from the Church of the Province of South Africa — the first of our guests. He’s an important Anglican member of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). And he’s bigger than me, which I find very re-assuring. The Centre is being cleaned from top to bottom, with cleaners trailing plumbers in something resembling a domestic Gay Gordons. The rest of the day is a flurry of telephonic activity, last minute arrangements with the Vatican and Lambeth, discussions about flight times and the colour of Bishops’ chimeres. The English papers today are full of the British General Election Campaign, which reminds me that my agendas are not everybody’s. I wonder who will be coming to represent the Government on Sunday?

Saturday 23rd April

The alarm rings at 5.30am and an hour later I’m on the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino — Rome’s International Airport. Any resemblance between the Leonardo Express and the Heathrow Express disappears when I tell you that the Leonardo takes 35 minutes to cover 11 miles. So I am late to greet Bishop Chris Epting, who has just arrived from New York, where he works in “815 Second Avenue” — ECUSA’s headquarters. He’s one of two Bishops representing ECUSA at the Inauguration. A taxi covers the 11 miles back into Rome in just 15 minutes, which includes stops at 4 sets of traffic lights. Julia arrives from England and the kitchen is a hive of activity. By mid-afternoon I am back at Fiumicino hoping to meet Bishops Geoffrey Rowell, David Hamid and Michael Nazir-Ali, but only one of them has been put on the VIP list and so we get split into two groups. All is well when we are re-united in the Vatican’s chosen rendezvous, the Domus Mariae on the Via Aurelia. From there it is back to Fiumicino and this time all is well, I am soon greeting Archbishop Rowan and Mrs Jane Williams and heading back into Rome, this time at 85 mph behind 6 police outriders. We are soon in the Venerable English College with a welcome drink to hand.

Sunday 24th April

The day of the Inauguration arrives. By 6.00am I am looking up anxiously at a doubtful Roman sky. At 7.00am the “Anglican Centre” gang are in taxis trying to reach the rendezvous point at the Domus Mariae. At junction after junction we come face-to-face with road blocs. But Bishop Martyn Jarrett and I are wearing purple cassocks and these impress the traffic police, who salute us and move the barriers for us. By 8.30am we are in our seats in the Piazza San Pietro, with a warm breeze blowing in our faces and a clear sky. We watch the “Heads of State” delegations arriving. The British one consists of the Duke of Edinburgh (a cheery wave), Lord Falconer and Dame Shirley Williams. At 10.00am the Litany of the Saints begins (Tu illum adiuva) and 115 cardinals enter in matching gold chasubles. The Mass is in normal order, with the Giving of the Pallium and the Ring following the Gospel. It is very solemn, and there is a hush from the 400,000 congregation. Then Benedict XVI preaches, quoting his predecessor, John Paul II — “non abbiate paura” — “do not fear, for Christ leads his church from darkness to light. Follow Me.” He explores the Gospel reading, John 21 and explains the meaning of the Pallium and the Ring. Later in the Mass I share the Peace with Roman Catholic Bishops I know through the Focolare movement, with Salvation Army representatives, with a leader from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organisation and with Armenian and Syrian Orthodox Bishops. Thus the long arm of Rome stretches round the globe, ignoring the chasms of history. At the end of Mass Benedict XVI steps unaided into the popemobile and is driven off through the crowds, who chant in football-fashion “Benedetto, Benedetto!”

At 6.00pm Archbishop Rowan goes to All Saints English Church in the Via del Babuino and presides at Anglican Sung Eucharist. There is “standing room only” and it is humbling to see a good number of our Roman Catholic friends there, drawn by the ecumenical nature of this very special day. The Archbishops draws our attention to today’s Gospel reading “I am the way, the truth and the life” and reminds us what a profound statement this is, as part of the re-calling of the whole Church to its common root. After the Eucharist there is a frantic search for taxis and a dash through back alleyways reminiscent of “The Italian Job” until we reach the glittering church of Santa Maria in Trastevere with the fabulous coffered ceiling of Domenichino. Here Archbishop Rowan preaches to a congregation of 500+, many of them young people, at Vespers for the Community of Sant’Egidio. By 9.30pm it is spotting with rain as I walk back from Trastevere past Monte Savello. The Tiber sends back a glassy stare in the darkness. It has seen many such days in the past.

Monday 25th April

Laying in bed till 8.00am has become an unaccustomed luxury, as are the bacon and eggs which appear at 8.30am. By 9.00am we are back on the way to the Domus Mariae, our rendezvous point for the trip to the Audience for Ecumenical Guests. Coaches take us into the Vatican State with much saluting by the Swiss Guards. Soon we find ourselves in the Sala Clementina waiting for His Holiness to arrive. There is endless fascination to be gained by interpreting the frescos in this Sala, built at the behest of Pope Clement VIII in 1595. Suddenly we are asked to stand and in walks Benedict XVI at a brisk pace in smart white cassock and stunning bright red shoes. He sits on a throne-like chair and reads a welcoming speech in Italian, French and English. Then he gets up from the chair and makes his way round the room greeting every single person individually. It is all very informal, with a normal handshake. We are invited to introduce ourselves, and we can choose to converse with the Pope in English, Italian, French or German. We note that the papal tiara is not in evidence and has been removed from the coat of arms. This is clearly to be a different style of papacy with much of the old formality gone. He greets Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed leaders, Orthodox Bishops and leaders of the inter-faith communities -– Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and others. Benedict XVI is clearly going to speak to the world at large, and not only to the Roman Catholic Church. With a wave of the hands and a final Italian greeting he is gone. Later at a Press Conference in the Venerable English College, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster jointly weave their way through a minefield of questions and emerge together as the close friends they have become. A reminder that friendship -– the beatings of the heart -– is as much the lifeblood of ecumenism as the musings of the mind. As Cardinal J H Newman put it “cor ad cor loquitur” — heart speaks to heart. May the inauguration of Benedict XVI encourage Anglicans and Roman Catholics to do just that.

The Right Reverend John Flack
Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 27 April 2005 at 10:52am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Monday, 25 April 2005

Anglicans meet the Pope

Various reports concerning the inauguration of the new pope yesterday and his meeting today with ecumenical leaders including an Anglican delegation that included two ECUSA bishops as well as several prominent Anglican conservatives.

Anglican leaders greet new Pope

Catholic News Service
Anglican leader says pope to give energy to united Christian witness includes extensive quotes from RW

Andrew Brown Opus Dei will be in the ascendancy in Pope Benedict XVI’s church
John Hooper in Rome and Stephen Bates Williams to meet new pope today

The Times
Richard Owen New Pope seeks a spiritual revival as he takes the throne
Ruth Gledhill Words of inspiration not lost in translation
Richard Owen Pope prayed: ‘God, don’t do this to me’

Jonathan Petre Williams looks to build bridges with Catholicism
Bruce Johnson Humanity has lost its way, says new Pope

Sunday Telegraph
Damian Thompson Then came the name ‘Josephum’ and gloom set in

Sunday Times
Christopher Morgan and John Follain Pope in talks with rebel Anglicans

And for a different perspective, Appointment of Pope Benedict sits uneasily with Arabs on

An earlier column that I missed: Andrew Brown on Cardinal Chernenko?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 25 April 2005 at 9:58pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 21 April 2005

Critical reaction to election of Pope Benedict

Hans Küng

“The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope comes as an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral Pope.

“But we must wait and see, for experience shows that the role of the Papacy in the Catholic Church today is so challenging that it can change anyone. Someone who enters the conclave a progressive cardinal can emerge as a conservative (such as Montini – Pope Paul VI), and someone who enters the conclave a conservative cardinal can, indeed, emerge as a progressive (Roncalli – Pope John XXIII).”

Küng goes on to discuss which first signals from the new pope will be important, and the problems which were not tackled by his predecessor.

There are others who are not happy with the outcome of the election.

Reuters “South Africa’s Tutu Disappointed at Pope Choice”

The Scotsman “Bishop [of Oxford] Denounces New Pope’s Election”

The Telegraph, in “Pope Benedict offers olive branch to critics” carries all three criticisms.

The Times reports that the pope’s elder brother is not happy either.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 21 April 2005 at 4:30pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Pope Benedict to work for Christian unity

In his first sermon as pope, Benedict XVI has said that he intends to work tirelessly for Christian unity, suggesting that ‘concrete gestures’ are needed. He also sent greetings to the representatives of other ‘Churches and ecclesial communities’

He said that he…

assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that ‘purification of memory,’ which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.

The full sermon (in English translation from the spoken Latin) is available ‘below the fold’…

Following is the complete text of the first message of Pope Benedict XVI which he delivered in Latin at the end of this morning’s Mass with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 264th successor to St. Peter in early evening yesterday.

Grace and peace in abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in these hours. On the one hand, a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the Successor of the Apostle Peter in this See of Rome, with regard to the Universal Church. On the other hand I sense within me profound gratitude to God Who - as the liturgy makes us sing - does not abandon His flock, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom He has chosen as vicars of His Son, and made pastors.

Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: ‘Do not be afraid’

The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed, were for the Church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace. The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were tempered by the action of the Risen Christ, which showed itself during long days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating in his solemn funeral.

We can say it: the funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God Who, through His Church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the unifying force of Truth and Love. In the hour of death, conformed to his Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate, confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and making the entire human family feel more united.

How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the encouragement that comes from this event of grace?

Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Phillippi two thousand years ago: I seem to hear the words of Peter: ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.

You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church’. Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the ‘rock’ upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit. “I undertake this special ministry, the ‘Petrine’ ministry at the service of the Universal Church, with humble abandon to the hands of the Providence of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: ‘In Te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!’

To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the ‘Servus servorum Dei’ (Servant of the servants of God). As Peter and the other Apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles - and the Council forcefully repeated this — must be closely united among themselves. This collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the Church and the unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow, concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.

Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He leaves us a Church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A Church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future. With the Great Jubilee the Church was introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the world through the authoritative re-reading of Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II justly indicated the Council as a ‘compass’ with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: ’ I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us’.

I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.

In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the Church is living the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot but be the permanent center and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.

The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present, Christ Who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.

In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christ must be celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme “The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.’ I ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.

I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. ‘The priestly life must have in a special way a ‘Eucharistic form’, he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.

Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter’s Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.

Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that ‘purification of memory,’ which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.

In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the Pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.

The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ.

With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.

From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.

I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.

I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever young, Christ.

‘Mane nobiscum, Domine!’ Stay with us Lord! This invocation, which forms the dominant theme of John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.

In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.

With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals, to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following to us by television and radio, a special and affectionate blessing.

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Benedict XVI - Anglican Reaction

Official Anglican reaction to the election of Pope Benedict XVI

England: Archbishop of Canterbury
We wish Pope Benedict XVI every blessing in the immense responsibilities he is about to assume on behalf of Roman Catholics round the world.

His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere. I look forward to meeting him and working together to build on the legacy of his predecessor, as we seek to promote shared understanding between our churches in the service of the Gospel and the goal of Christian unity.

He is a theologian of great stature, who has written some profound reflections on the nature of God and the church. His choice of the name Benedict suggests that he wants to connect his vision of the Church to the monastic spirit of service and contemplation.

He will be in much in our prayers in the days and weeks ahead.

USA: Presiding Bishop (Most Revd Frank Griswold)
Along with many others, both within and beyond the Roman Catholic Church, I offer my prayers for Pope Benedict XVI as he takes up the august responsibility of his office. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide him in his words and his actions and that he may become a focus of unity and a minister of reconciliation in a church and a world in which faithfulness and truth wear many faces.

Scotland: senior bishop (Rt Rev Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway)

On behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church, I offer the warmest of welcomes to the new Pope - Pope Benedict XVI. We send the assurance of our prayers for him as he leads his Church forward. Our hope will be that under his leadership the church will continue to work for the poor and underprivileged in the world, and that the cause of unity among all Christians will be encouraged, as well as co-operation with those of other faiths.

Ireland: Archbishop of Armagh (Rt Revd Robin Eames)
As Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland I extend to Archbishop Sean Brady, the clergy and people of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, the prayerful good wishes of the Church of Ireland on the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

I pray that God will bless and guide him as he takes up his new privileges and heavy responsibilities at this time.

Other reaction from the Church of Ireland
Archbishop of Dublin
Chair of the Christian Unity Committee of the Church of Ireland

Canada: Primate
(Most Revd Andrew Hutchinson)
I welcome the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as new Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Our two churches have a long history of ecumenical co-operation for the proclamation of the Gospel and the development of humanity. I look forward to continuing our work together and for opportunities to conduct dialogue at every level of the church.

The new Pope has chosen the name Benedict, which derives from the Latin word for “blessed”. We offer our prayers and best wishes to our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. I invite all Anglicans to join me in celebrating this election. May all of us be truly blessed by his pontificate.

Australia: Primate (Most Revd Peter Carnley, Archbishop of Perth and Anglican co-chair of ARCIC)
The presence of such a distinguished theologian will help sharpen the dialogue between Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church. We certainly hope that the ecumenical progress achieved over the last quarter century may be further developed and brought to fruition with the help of the new Pope’s incisive mind.

Meanwhile, we all rejoice with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters that the conclave came to such a speedy decision and we pray earnestly for Cardinal Ratzinger as he prepares for his important new work.

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Monday, 18 April 2005

Conclave stories

Today’s news is all about the preparations for the Conclave which begins at 4.30pm Italian time today (2.30pm GMT). If the cardinals decide to hold a vote this evening then it is possible that white smoke will be seen over the Sistine Chapel later today. News stories include

Fulcrum has published an article by Oliver O’Donovan on Pope John-Paul II

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Roman election

The election process to fill the vacancy in Rome begins today. The Conclave will meet for mass and the doors will be locked and they will be left alone to their deliberations.

Geza Vermes writes in the Telegraph, Let’s hope Vatican politics do not hinder the Holy Spirit in which he hopes for a more liberal, thoughtful Roman Catholic Church, less wedded to dogma and closer to Vermes’s view of Jesus of Nazareth:

To judge both the legacy of John Paul II and the problems facing the new papacy, there should be one sure criterion - the teaching of Jesus. Is conservative Catholicism based on the gospel?

It would be presumptuous for an outsider to offer advice to the conclave, but may he be allowed a dream? In this dream, the new Pope is urged by God to revitalise Catholicism from within by concentrating on the authentic gospel of Jesus, on the message conveyed by him to his disciples, and not on the doctrine about Jesus developed by St Paul and two millennia of Christianity. This is a simple and moving message, which Jesus formulated in his own language for his simple Galilean audience, about God, the heavenly Father, the dignity of all human beings as children of God, a life turned into worship by total trust, an overwhelming sense of urgency to do one’s duty without delaying tactics, a sanctification of the here and now, and, yes, the love of God through the love of one’s neighbour.

If made prominent, and not concealed under verbiage about sex, rituals, mass canonisation of saints and Mary worship, the authentic gospel would concentrate on the true essence of religion, an existential relationship between man and man, and man and God.

Reconstructed with the tools of 21st-century historical and biblical scholarship, and perceived by 21st-century minds in 21st-century circumstances, it would appeal to thinking people all over the world, who have left the Church in droves, and feed a genuine ecumenical spirit among religious groups outside Catholicism.

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Sunday, 10 April 2005

Sunday papers

Sunday Times
John Cornwell Fight for the soul of the church
Bryan Appleyard The world bids farewell

Independent on Sunday
Peter Popham Show of devotion sways cardinals’ choice
Lucy Lethbridge Rome clears up after the millions who came to take part in a piece of history

Sunday Telegraph
David Willey (of the BBC) Behind the elaborate protocol, a naked power struggle begins
Kevin Myers Two, four, six, eight: time to transubstantiate

David Aaronovitch A papal morality tale for a moral age
Peter Beaumont Now the search begins

Well, can’t link to it, but GetReligion has this:
Let’s elect a British pope

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Saturday, 9 April 2005

Pope: funeral reports

John Hooper The final farewell
Stephen Bates Close encounters of a diplomatic kind

The Times
Richard Owen Faithful demand instant sainthood
Ruth Gledhill Commentary: the cult of John Paul will ensure his sainthood

Jonathan Petre Make him a saint the people cry as, watched by the world, Pope John Paul II is laid to rest

Peter Popham Sea of mourners bid farewell with tears and cheers

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan WIlliams talked, on the Today Programme yesterday to Edward Stourton of the Pope John Paul II. Real Audio required. Listen here

Bishop John Flack’s diary for the week
other related material

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Friday, 8 April 2005

Pope: Friday

Stephen Bates 2bn to watch service and Pope’s will reveals he thought of resigning

From 5 April, and not linked here previously, Stephen Moss on Keeping the faith

Bruce Johnston and Jonathan Petre Burial will be marked by solemnity and splendour and Pope’s will tells how he considered resigning
Tom Utley Weddings, funerals and elections need ritual to give them dignity

The Times
Ruth Gledhill Now retirement at 80 seems even less likely

Alex Kirby John Paul II and the Anglicans

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Pope: Church Times coverage

Today’s Church Times has the following:

Leader A pontificate in the true line

Bill Bowder The world remembers a ‘lived sermon’

Bill Bowder and Alexander McGregor John Paul II to be buried after a million file past

Jonathan Boardman ‘A family affair without fuss’

There is also a full obituary by Rupert Shortt and a Diary column from Rome by Jonathan Boardman, but these are only available at present to paid subscribers. Links will be added here when they become public.

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Thursday, 7 April 2005

Pope: Thursday

Jonathan Petre and Bruce Johnston British attitudes to Roman Catholics have mellowed
Jonathan Petre and Bruce Johnston Cardinals will shun media ahead of election conclave
Patrick Bishop Safety fears as pilgrims swell population of Rome to three times its normal size

Stephen Bates UK cardinal may hold key to papal election
John Hooper Row over plan to downgrade UK embassy
John Hooper Flood of pilgrims swamps Rome

Peter Popham Presidents kneel and pray before the Pope

The Times
Queue to end all queues
Richard Owen People of Rome urged to open doors for faithful

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Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Pope: Wednesday

It’s getting more difficult for journalists to find something interesting to say as the funeral preparations continue. Read Media descend on Rome for Pope’s funeral from the Guardian to see how reporters are coping. As before, a small selection from the British newspapers and the BBC only:

Jonathan Jones Admire the stage instead
Stephen Bates Expert believes dignity is preserved

Peter Popham As the mourners queue, Cardinals begin secret deliberations to choose a new Pope

The Times
Richard Owen and Ruth Gledhill A subtle campaign of handshakes, hints and huddles

Ferdinand Mount He was a great pope. . . but he deserted the search for truth
Jonathan Petre and Bruce Johnston Cardinals disagree over vow of silence

Saving souls in cyberspace
Head-to-head: Challenges for new Pope
and there is a video clip (Real Player required) featuring Emily Buchanan discussing Choosing Pope John Paul II’s successor

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Tuesday, 5 April 2005

Pope: Tuesday

Photos of Rowan Williams and other Anglicans at yesterday’s Westminster Cathedral service can be found here

Press release from Lambeth Palace: Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Pope’s funeral

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has accepted an official invitation to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome on Friday. He will be the first serving Archbishop of Canterbury to attend a Pope’s funeral.

An invitation was received through the Papal Nuncio; Dr Williams said he was ‘pleased and honoured’ to accept.

Dr Williams has confirmed that he will be wearing the ring presented to his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, by Pope Paul VI.

Dr Williams will travel to Rome on Thursday; he will be accompanied by the Revd Andrew Norman, Archbishop’s Secretary for International and Ecumenical Affairs and by Mr Jeremy Harris, Archbishop’s Secretary for Public Affairs.

The Archbishop will return to the UK on Friday evening.

British Newspapers

Jonathan Petre and Bruce Johnson Rumours sweep Vatican of plot to hide Friday death and Royalty and world’s political elite join river of pilgrims for the final farewell
Christopher Howse Cherie Blair strikes note of formality with lace mantilla

another leader The limits of autocracy
Stephen Bates Vatican grottoes to be final resting place of John Paul II
Mark Almond The strange death of Protestant England
Martin Kettle It’s as if the Reformation had never happened

The Times
Andrew Pierce and Ruth Gledhill Prince chose to postpone the wedding after VIPs pulled out to go to Rome
Mary Ann Sieghart The Pope was not pro-life
another leader Time and place

Peter Popham It was like an antechamber to the afterlife, as if directed by Fellini

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Monday, 4 April 2005

Sunday, 3 April 2005

Pope: additional links

The Archbishop of Canterbury: a further press release has just been issued: Archbishop: Pope’s last days a ‘lived sermon’.

A video clip in which the BBC’s Robert Pigott interviews Rowan Williams can be viewed from this page (scroll down).

The BBC Sunday radio programme for Sunday 3 April was devoted entirely to the Pope, and includes an interview with George Carey.

Other BBC coverage can be found from here.

Official Vatican documents appear here.

The Tablet has a special papal website here.

The National Catholic Reporter has much useful material, start here.

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Saturday, 2 April 2005

tributes to the Pope

Archbishop of Canterbury
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
British Prime Minister

British Newspapers

Guardian Clifford Longley The best and worst of times

Guardian Stephen Bates The pope who showed the church to the world

Observer Christina Odone The man in white who changed the world

Observer editorial The man who loved humanity

Observer Peter Stanford Who will now lead one billion souls?

Independent on Sunday AN Wilson The defenders of the faiths

Independent on Sunday Catherine Pepinster He was simply the world’s most charismatic Christian

Sunday Telegraph Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor ‘John Paul II will leave us all orphans. I shall miss him’

Sunday Telegraph Clifford Longley How does the Catholic Church follow John Paul? It doesn’t

Sunday Telegraph Christopher Howse The visionary who changed history through sheer force of moral will

Sunday Telegraph editorial The meaning of suffering

The Times William Rees-Mogg A truly great holder of this highest of religious offices

The Times editorial Man and mission

Sunday Times Mary Kenny John Paul’s final gift: to share his last hours with the world

Sunday Times Leading article: A hard act to follow

Sunday Times John Cornwell Death of a titan

Sunday Times Christopher Morgan ‘Bishop of Gatwick and the panzer cardinal’ prepare for nine days of mourning – and the horsetrading of votes

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Saturday, 18 December 2004

is the UK religious?

There are some hard facts about this from the 2001 Census, published by the Office of National Statistics here:
Census 2001 - Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales

This was reported on last October by the Guardian under the headline Census shows Muslims’ plight.
Last week, the same data was reported on in the Telegraph including a nice graphical display.

But then The Times tried to follow up. Andrew Brown has the rest of the story here.
The Times also had a clever (?) graphic.

This week two surveys were published which also shed light on how well informed about religion some of us are. One was conducted by YouGov for Sky Box Office in advance of their TV premiere of The Passion of Christ:
Birthplace of Jesus A Mystery to Many Press Association
O Little Town of … where? Guardian
Jesus born in Bethlehem is news for many Telegraph

The second survey was conducted by GfK for the Wall Street Journal Europe and was reported by Ekklesia under the headline People believe more in God than religion suggests survey . For a more detailed report read this GfK page.

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Sunday, 28 November 2004

Advent pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has sent a pastoral letter about the well-being of the Communion and the future of its common discipleship to all Anglican Primates. In connection with the current controversy he wrote “Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”

The Sunday Times saw a copy of the letter before its official publication and, picking up on this last point, published this article this morning:

Williams tells clergy: stop gay bashing

Similar stories have subsequently been carried by the BBC and The Scotsman and many other online newspapers around the world.
Churches warned over ‘gay slurs’ (BBC)
Archbishop’s Bid to Heal Rift over Homosexuality (Scotsman)

Monday morning update

Two articles from this morning’s papers:

Williams’ call for Anglican unity falls on deaf ears (Guardian)
Williams calls for healing in gay rift (Telegraph)

The Archbishop’s letter is also available here and here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 28 November 2004 at 10:00pm GMT | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Rochester Report on women bishops published

Women Bishops in the Church of England? (GS 1557, the Rochester report) is released today. You can download all 785 kB and 302 pages of it here. There’s also a four-page (and 230 kB) Reader’s Guide

Addition the official Church of England press release about this report can be found here.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 2 November 2004 at 11:48am GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 29 October 2004

African bishops comment

ACNS carries a statement from the meeting of Anglican bishops in Africa.

The bishops welcome the Windsor Report, but they explicitly do not express any regret for the actions of some of then in ministering to congregations in other dioceses:

However, we reject the moral equivalence drawn between those who have initiated the crisis and those of us in the Global South who have responded to cries for help from beleaguered friends. To call on us to “express regret” and reassert our commitment to the Communion is offensive in light of our earlier statements. If the Episcopal Church USA had not willfully “torn the fabric of our communion at its deepest level” our actions would not have been necessary.

The statement concludes:

We are committed to the future life of the Anglican Communion, one that is rooted in truth and charity, and faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2004

meeting of African bishops

This week sees a meeting of African Anglican bishops in Nigeria.

The BBC provides a preview of the meeting.

The Scotsman has a PA report under the headline African Anglicans May Breakaway in Gay Row

From Nigeria, Lagos’s Daily Champion also has a preview, Africa’s Anglican Bishops’ Meeting Starts ‘Morrow

Due principally to the threat from homosexual-ism among their Western brethren, Anglican bishops in Africa seeking to eke out a separate identity for themselves, converge on Lagos tomorrow for a continental conference on burning issues in the church.

Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, is quoted as saying:

“We send our men to theological school abroad but we have discovered that there are a lot of unwholesome things that happen,”

Akinola, who was flanked by the church’s primates in Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and some Southern African countries disclosed that the African bishops will fashion out ways by setting up a theological educational centre to help train her clerics.

“We will come up with the road map for the development of African Theological Centres of Excellence that are accessible and affordable with comprehensive and realistic curricula,” he remarked.

The Daily Champion report also says:

Only recently Rev. Akinola demanded an unreserved apology from the 50 bishops in the church who attended Robinson’s ordination.

However, Robinson’s ordination was a fall-out of the 2002 Lamberth conference in the USA which formally approved of gay ordination.

though perhaps this is the sort of inaccuracy which any journalist might fall into.

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Friday, 22 October 2004

the Church press gets in on the act - 2

Today’s paper edition of Church Times has about ten pages devoted to the Windsor Report. Just three of the many articles are on the free part of the paper’s website.

There’s an overview news article Windsor report proposes new Covenant for Anglicans, a report Furious Akinola slams report about one person who is not happy, and More or less our last chance, says Eames, an interview with the chair of the Commission.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 22 October 2004 at 12:01pm BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 21 October 2004

'Fireproofing the House'

N T Wright, Bishop of Durham, was a member of the Eames Commission which wrote the Windsor report. In an interview Anglican Report is ‘Fireproofing the House’ by Douglas LeBlanc in Christianity Today he talks about how the Commission went about its work, what happened behind the scenes, whether the report should have been tougher, and why it’s critical of some conservative bishops. Finally he discusses his ‘best case scenario’ for the Anglican Communion.

[We’re] working out what it means to be the Anglican Communion for the 21st century. We’re looking way ahead of current crises and we’re saying we’d like to set up and see a framework which will enable us to be faithful, wise Anglicans in communion with one another in 20 years’ time, in a way which will mean we don’t have to have this kind of crisis again. It’s hugely expensive getting all the people together and having all the extra meetings.

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the Church press gets in on the act

Friday’s Church of England Newspaper, already available on its website, has plenty of coverage in its news section, with summaries of the report itself, and how it has been received by various groups.

There is comment from Andrew Carey, who gives his opinion on the likely sucess of the Eames Commission.

And don’t miss Ruth Gledhill’s comments starting with her experience of trying to ask ECUSA PB Frank Griswold a question.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 21 October 2004 at 4:48pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 20 October 2004

the next step: please read the report before acting

The Primates Standing Committee has issued a statement in which they explain what they hope will be the next step, following publication of the Windsor Report. The meat of the statement is the creation of a sub-committee of Primates to try and ensure that everyone reads the report:

We welcome this report as a comprehensive presentation of the tradition and practice of the Anglican Communion. There is much in this report which is challenging, but it points us in a sound direction for the resolution of current tensions. It is an invitation to the entire Communion to reflect on our life together. We are conscious of the concerns of those groups whose expectations have not been met, but we are very encouraged by the broad welcome and support that the report has received from many throughout the Communion.


We have established a Reception Reference Group … which will be charged with receiving and co-ordinating initial responses to the Windsor Report in preparation for the Primates’ Meeting [in February 2005] … We hope that all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion … will join in a conversation with this reception group. In particular, the Reception Reference Group will wish to engage as much as possible with the 78 million members of our forty-four churches, and will explore ways of doing this effectively.

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Thumbs down from Nigeria

ACNS has published a statement from the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. You need to read this short statement in full, but here are some brief extracts:

After an initial reading it is clear to me that the report falls far short of the prescription needed for this current crisis. It fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers.


We have been asked to express regret for our actions and “affirm our desire to remain in the Communion”. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.

The Times reports this under the headline Archbishop tells US Anglicans to repent

Meanwhile, the print edition of today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Archbishop Akinola has flown back to Nigeria instead of staying in London to attend a meeting of the Primates Standing Committee in London. He is reported to have told Lambeth Palace that he was too busy preparing for a meeting of African Anglicans to stay in London. This story does not seem to appear in the online editions of today’s papers.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 20 October 2004 at 10:45am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Dean Jensen says comments taken out of context

UPDATE (Thursday 21 October at 11:20pm BST)
The full text of Dean Jensen’s speech to “the forum” (actually Sydney Synod) on 19 October refered to below is available on the Sydney Anglicans website.

A week ago we linked to an article in The Guardian headlined “Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute” which reported on remarks made by Dean Phillip Jensen of Sydney at the annual conference of Reform. Reform was later reported to have apologised for the remarks.

The Sydney Morning Herald, in an article headlined “Sorry, says Jensen, but Anglicans are at war” reports today:

The brother of the Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen used the forum to deny he had damned the Archbishop of Canterbury as an intellectual and theological prostitute last week.

He also denied calling Kings College Chapel in Cambridge a “temple to paganism”.

While admitting loose expressions, confused meanings and the odd slips of the tongue, Mr Jensen apologised for the “great and unnecessary alarm” the headlines had caused.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says “Dean Jensen says comments taken out of context”.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 20 October 2004 at 10:45am BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Tuesday News - Overseas

As well as the UK articles on the Windsor report listed in the article below, there are hundreds more in newspapers around the world. I have linked a small selection of them below.

Do remember, when reading them, that newspapers are much more interested in gay bishops and same-sex blessings than they are in bishops who intervene in other bishops’ dioceses.

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
Unity under pressure as Anglicans digest gay report
Anglicans chart a difficult course
Anglican report slams US over gay bishop
Anglican head welcomes Windsor report
Anglicans move to avoid split

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Sorry, says Jensen, but Anglicans are at war
Anglican report slams US over gay bishop
Anglican head welcomes Windsor report
Anglicans demand apology from US
Anglicans prefer split to false, forced unity

Kerala Next (India)
UK ; Gay supporters respond to ban on clergy
US ; Gay bishop unapologetic on same-sex blessings

The Guardian (Lagos, Nigeria)
Anglican Church demands apology over U.S. gay bishop

The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya)
Anglican Church Demands Apology Over Gay Bishop

The Standard (Nairobi, Kenya)
Anglicans deal major blow to gay priests

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)
Anglican prelates unrepentant

Canada.Com (Toronto, Canada)
Anglican commission’s report criticizes Canadian church over same-sex blessings

CTV (Canada)
Canadian, U.S. Anglicans criticized in report

The Boston Globe (USA)
Anglican panel seeks a halt on gay bishops

The New York Times (USA)
Church Is Rebuked Over Gay Unions and a Gay Bishop

Christian Science Monitor (Boston MA, USA)
Anglican effort to avert schism

The Washington Post (USA)
Anglicans Chide U.S. Church on Gay Bishop

Kansas City Star (USA)
Panel seeks Anglican accord (an Associated Press report)

The Post and Courier (Charleston SC, USA)
Anglican panel warns church over gay bishop

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 19 October 2004 at 5:30pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Morning news

After the rush of yesterday, and now that people have had a chance to read the report we hope to see some slightly more considered comment.

But real understanding will take a little longer. As The Archbishop of Canterbury comments:

I hope that everyone with the well being of our Communion at heart will now take time to study the report — and to pray and reflect upon its proposals which, as the Commission has made clear, offer neither easy nor simple solutions to real and demanding challenges. If we are serious about meeting those challenges, as I know we are, then we have to do all we can to continue to travel this road together.

That is what we intend to do, and as usual we will continue to point to a range of other commentators, as well as adding our thoughts.

Other coverage this morning includes:

The Anglican Communion had a relatively minor crisis as new consciousness about homosexuality struggled to be born in the face of ancient prejudice. This commission has taken this minor crisis and turned it into a major revolution that will move Anglicanism toward the literal-mindedness that now threatens not just Christianity, but religious systems all over the world.

Dr Robin Eames, charged with averting schism in the Anglican Communion, has come up with a new liturgical gesture. The primates and churches who have split the communion are to apologise to one another - but with their fingers crossed.

The prospects that the report would find a compromise for the 78 million-strong worldwide communion looked bleak last night as factions began to digest its findings. One senior primate told the Guardian: “It’s very, very black, very grim. We are hell-bent on division. It’s all down to the grace of Almighty God now.”

Robin Eames may see his commission’s report into the Church’s stance on homosexuality as part of the Anglican Communion’s “pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation”, but it is unlikely that the two opposing sides in this ill-tempered dispute will share that optimism. And it is unlikely that yesterday’s report will prevent hostilities flaring up again, since it fails to address the fundamental issues behind this crisis of Anglicanism.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 19 October 2004 at 10:10am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Monday, 18 October 2004

the Network has 'strong concerns'

The Anglican Communion Network and American Anglican Council, groupings of conservative Episcopalians in the USA, have expressed their ‘strong concerns’ that the report calls ‘only for the Episcopal Church USA to “express regret”’ and that it fails ‘to recommend direct discipline of ECUSA’. They cannot support ‘unity at the expense of truth’.

Read their statement here.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 11:29pm BST | TrackBack
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reaction from New Westminster

The Canadian diocese of New Westminster also featured in the Windsor Report, after its decision to authorize a rite for the blessing of a same-sex couple. Tonight, Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster issued a statement regretting ‘the consequence of our actions’.

Read the statement by following the link below.

I welcome the report and greatly appreciate that the report focuses on reconciliation. Of course we have not had time to digest the entire document, but we will prayerfully study and reflect on it in the forthcoming days. I will be referring the report to our next Diocesan Synod in May, where we will together decide our course of future action.

We in this diocese will continue to respect the dignity of every human being, as our baptismal covenant says. We will continue to affirm the presence and the contributions of gay and lesbian persons in our church, within whom the spirit of God moves. This will not change.

We do regret the consequence of our actions with sadness. We realize that many have not understood what we have been attempting to do in this diocese, or have even received news of our actions with dismay. What we have been trying to do is make the church more welcoming and open to all Christians, whatever their sexual orientation.

We are certainly open to wider consultations, especially with those who have not understood our actions. We went through a lengthy discernment process and produced many resources, all of which are open to everyone on our website. I invite Anglicans everywhere to read what had been produced (, and to contact the diocese or me if they still have questions.

We are glad that the report does leave open the door to further discussion about issues such the ordination of gay or lesbian persons, and the blessing of same sex unions, and we hope the further advancement of the role of women in the church.

We welcome the clear condemnation of the practice of some bishops involving themselves, uninvited, in the affairs of another diocese or province.

In short we appreciate that the tone of the report is reconciliation. We are fully committed to the Anglican Communion which embraces a worldwide diversity of cultures and traditions within common prayer.

Bishop Michael Ingham, Diocese of New Westminster

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 11:12pm BST | TrackBack
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What the Windsor Report said -- an overview

Whilst we encourage everyone to read the Windsor Report in full, for the benefit of readers we provide this short overview of its main features, with thanks to TA reader, the Revd Roger Stokes.

For a fuller summary this page at Beliefnet is worth reading.

We also like Dave Walker’s lighter summary.

Follow the link on the next line to read Roger’s overview.

Was it coincidence that the Feast Day of St Luke, the patron saint of physicians, was chosen for the publication of the Windsor Report? It was, after all, intended as a start to the healing of the Anglican Communion following what happened in North America in 2003 and the reaction to those events. Leaks over recent weeks had suggested that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would be severely disciplined, with the Episcopal Church possibly being kicked out of the Anglican Communion, for going against the clear meaning of Scripture.

What actually happened was a reprimand, not for going against biblical teaching, but for neglecting the mutual responsibility and respect that is the heart of the relationship between the Provinces of the Communion. Those most closely involved are urged to apologize for this lack of respect towards sister Churches and, pending that apology, to withdraw from representing their own Churches in the wider Christian scene until they are prepared to commit themselves to accept the responsibilities of membership of the Communion.

These actions have hurt many sincere and committed Anglicans within the Churches concerned and the Report calls for their pastoral needs to be recognized. However it expresses the belief that these needs can and should be met from within the Provinces concerned, using the sort of model that has been suggested by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. While it is possible that bishops from other Anglican Churches might be involved, this should be with the consent of the incumbent bishop as to do otherwise would violate the territorial integrity of the Province concerned. Those bishops who have been involved in such ‘incursions’ are also called on to abstain from further involvement and commit themselves to the principles of the Communion, including the geographical integrity of the various jurisdictions.

All in all, a balanced call to return to thoroughly Anglican principles of respect and responsibility as being essential if we are to continue to walk together as disciples of Christ and a call to talk and consult before taking actions which would further fragment the Body of Christ.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 10:48pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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More comments on Windsor

Comment from interested parties has begun to arrive. I will continuing adding the latest reports at the end of this article, rather than add new articles. Some news stories are also listed below in the article ‘At the hour’.

ACNS carries an exchange of letters between the report’s chairman, Archbishop Robin Eames, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Dr Williams writes:

You are not offering the Communion any easy solutions now … You have called us to behave in a maturely Christian way so as to become the Church God wants us to be … You have given all of us work to do and you do not suggest any short cuts … That you have been able to offer the communion a unanimous report gives me great encouragement that the process you have been through as a group may help set a pattern for the Communion itself in the demanding journey that lies ahead.

The Revd David Phillips of the Church Society is reported as commenting

I am pretty disappointed with this, I was expecting something much more definite and clear. My impression overall was that it was very ambiguous. It is toothless. It says what matters most of all it to stick together, we just need to stick together – unity is seen as more important than truth.

There is not yet any comment on the Church Society website.

The same report in The Scotsman quotes Martin Reynolds of the Lesbian Gay and Christian Movement:

The tenor of the document is itself conciliatory — this is a document we can work with, this is a Church we want to continue to be a part of.

Again, there is no comment yet on the LGCM website.

InclusiveChurch comments

We are pleased that the Commission has not recommended the suspension or expulsion of the Episcopal Church USA from the Anglican Communion, or called for Bishop Gene Robinson to resign. We note that the report does not ask for repentance from the Episcopal Church, and we welcome the desire for reconciliation contained within it. suggests that the report ‘has failed to appease either liberals or traditionalists’.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, quoted in Johannesburg’s Mail and Guardian described the report as “a rich gift of a deep theological and spiritual reflection on the nature of the common life of God’s people” which offers “a ‘win-win’ opportunity” that must be “grasped with both hands.”

The BBC now has a further story: Anglicans buy time in same sex row which covers some of the reaction to the report publication.

More nuanced stories are now appearing, for example this AP story headlined Episcopal right disappointed by report which includes:

An Anglican panel studying the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church failed to give American conservatives what they sought Monday: punishment for church leaders and quick recognition for the network of dissenting congregations.


“We have strong concerns about the fact that they call only for the Episcopal Church USA to ‘express regret’ and fail to recommend direct discipline,” said the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 3:03pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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ECUSA reaction

The Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold has issued some preliminary reflections on the Windsor Report. He begins:

I write to you from London where I am attending a meeting of the Primates’ Standing Committee. I have had a matter of hours to review the Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, thus I will now offer only some preliminary observations. It will take considerable time to reflect upon the Report, which consists of some 100 pages.

Read the rest of his comments in full by clicking the following link

Over the next months it will be discussed in a number of venues, including the Executive Council meeting in November and the Winter Meeting of the House of Bishops in January. After an opportunity for further study and reflection, I will have more to say about the Commission’s work.

The members of the Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, clearly have worked with care and great diligence, and the fact that they have unanimously put forward the Report, which individually may give them pause, is no small accomplishment.

The Commission was obliged to consider a number of sometimes conflicting concerns, and therefore in these next days the Report will doubtless be read from many points of view and given any number of interpretations. It is extremely important that it be read carefully as a whole and viewed in its entirety rather than being read selectively to buttress any particular perspectives.

As Anglicans we interpret and live the gospel in multiple contexts, and the circumstances of our lives can lead us to widely divergent understandings and points of view. My first reading shows the Report as having in mind the containment of differences in the service of reconciliation. However, unless we go beyond containment and move to some deeper place of acknowledging and making room for the differences that will doubtless continue to be present in our Communion, we will do disservice to our mission. A life of communion is not for the benefit of the church but for the sake of the world. All of us, regardless of our several points of view, must accept the invitation to consider more deeply what it means to live a life of communion, grounded in the knowledge that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”

Given the emphasis of the Report on difficulties presented by our differing understandings of homosexuality, as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry. Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.

The Report will be received and interpreted within the Provinces of the Communion in different ways, depending on our understanding of the nature and appropriate expression of sexuality. It is important to note here that in the Episcopal Church we are seeking to live the gospel in a society where homosexuality is openly discussed and increasingly acknowledged in all areas of our public life.

For at least the last 30 years our church has been listening to the experience and reflecting upon the witness of homosexual persons in our congregations. There are those among us who perceive the fruit of the Spirit deeply present in the lives of gay and lesbian Christians, both within the church and in their relationships. However, other equally faithful persons among us regard same gender relationships as contrary to scripture. Consequently, we continue to struggle with questions regarding sexuality.

Here I note the Report recommends that practical ways be found for the listening process commended by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 to be taken forward with a view to greater understanding about homosexuality and same gender relationships. It also requests the Episcopal Church to contribute to the ongoing discussion. I welcome this invitation and know that we stand ready to make a contribution to the continuing conversation and discernment of the place and ministry of homosexual persons in the life of the church.

The Report calls our Communion to reconciliation, which does not mean the reduction of differences to a single point of view. In fact, it is my experience that the fundamental reality of the Episcopal Church is the diverse center, in which a common commitment to Jesus Christ and a sense of mission in his name to a broken and hurting world override varying opinions on any number of issues, including homosexuality. The diverse center is characterized by a spirit of mutual respect and affection rather than hostility and suspicion. I would therefore hope that some of the ways in which we have learned to recognize Christ in one another, in spite of strongly held divergent opinions, can be of use in other parts of our Communion.

As Presiding Bishop I know I speak for members of our church in saying how highly we value our Communion and the bonds of affection we share. Therefore, we regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans.

In a “Word to the Church” following the meeting of our House of Bishops in September we wrote as follows. “We believe our relationships with others make real and apparent God’s reconciling love for all of creation. Our mutual responsibility, interdependence and communion are gifts from God. Therefore, we deeply value and are much enriched by our membership in the Anglican Communion. We also value Anglican comprehensiveness and its capacity to make room for difference.”

One section of the Report recommends the development of a covenant to be entered into by the provinces of the Communion. This notion will need to be studied with particular care. As we and other provinces explore the idea of a covenant we must do so knowing that over the centuries Anglican comprehensiveness has given us the ability to include those who wish to see boundaries clearly and closely drawn and those who value boundaries that are broad and permeable. Throughout our history we have managed to live with the tension between a need for clear boundaries and for room in order that the Spirit might express itself in fresh ways in a variety of contexts.

The Report makes demands on all of us, regardless of where we may stand, and is grounded in a theology of reconciliation and an understanding of communion as the gift of the triune God. It is therefore an invitation for all of us to take seriously the place in which we presently find ourselves but to do so with a view to a future yet to be revealed.

Here I am put in mind of the words of Archbishop Eames in the Foreword to the Report. “This Report is not a judgment. It is part of a process. It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation.” It is my earnest prayer that we will undertake this pilgrimage in a spirit of generosity and patient faithfulness, not primarily for the sake of our church and the Anglican Communion but for the sake of the world our Lord came among us to save.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 2:18pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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at the hour

12 noon, and the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, is published. Unless their website is swamped you can read the report online at the Anglican Communion Office.

If their site is overwhelmed (and it appears to be at the moment) then we have a copy of the pdf version here


There’s already quite a lot of reportage of this story, most of which seems to lead on the request for an apology from ECUSA. Journalists have perhaps not yet had time to fully digest the Report, or to note the more subtle aspects. Stories include:

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 12:00pm BST | TrackBack
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before the hour

In a short while the Windsor Report will be published and we will be able to form our own opinions.

In the meantime there is plenty of coverage and comment on what the report is expected to say. No one seems to have disputed the accuracy of the story published in The Times last week.

The BBC has Splits feared in Anglican Church. The Times has Church report to spark gay debate, the Guardian carries a PA story Church report ‘set to fuel gay row’, and the Independent Gay rights report threatens to shatter unity of Anglican Church.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 October 2004 at 9:57am BST | TrackBack
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Saturday, 16 October 2004

A binding covenant?

The Times claims a scoop today on what the Windsor Report will say. Acccording to Ruth Gledhill:

A commission set up to save the Church from schism will propose a binding covenant.

Anglican provinces are to be told they must sign an unbreakable unity agreement which would prevent dioceses and provinces from ordaining bishops such as Gene Robinson in the US again. A “star chamber” will adjudicate when provinces are accused of breaking the agreement.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 16 October 2004 at 7:44am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 15 October 2004

Reform apologises

We noted an article in Wednesday’s Guardian reporting comments about the Archbishop of Canterbury made by the Dean of Sydney at Reform’s national conference. Reform has now felt it necessary to apologise to the Archbishop for what was said.

Church Times Reform is sorry for Dean’s jibe

Here are some other reports and reactions to the Dean’s comments.

ABC Online (Australia) Anglican Church leaders bewildered by Dean’s outburst
and Australian Anglican Church distances itself from Philip Jensen’s comments
The Sydney Morning Herald Anglican turmoil over Dean Jensen’s attack
and Dean Jensen lays into Prince and church leader
The Star (South Africa) Dean causes Anglican spat

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 15 October 2004 at 10:25am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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York Advert

Since early last year, the Archbishops’ and Prime Minister’s appointments secretaries have been placing notices in the church press inviting comments and suggestions about filling vacant diocesan bishoprics. The one for York has appeared this week, and is reproduced below.

The Telegraph and BBC picked this up yesterday, but their stories give the impression that the reporters had not actually seen a copy of the notice.

Telegraph Worshippers invited to nominate archbishop
BBC Archbishop job ad in newspapers

The Church Times carries the notice in its paper edition today, but apparently does not consider it to be a job advertisement and so has not added it to its online listing of job vacancies.

The Church of England Newspaper, the other paper to carry the notice, has not yet updated its website to include this week’s classified ads.


Following the announcement of the resignation of Dr David Hope, Archbishop of York, the See will fall vacant on the 1st March 2005. The main meeting of the Vacancy in See Committee will be held on 30th October 2004.The Crown Nominations Commission will meet on 28th February/1st March 2005 and 10th/11th May 2005.

Any person wishing to comment on the needs of the diocese, the northern province or the wider church, or who wishes to propose candidates, should write before the 12th November to

Caroline Boddington
Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments
Cowley House
9 Little College Street

or to

William Chapman
Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary
10 Downing St

Any letters received will be shared by the two Secretaries.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 15 October 2004 at 9:50am BST | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 13 October 2004

'Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute'

That’s the headline over a story by Stephen Bates in today’s Guardian, reporting on the Conference of Reform.

Conservative evangelicals flexed their muscles yesterday by denouncing the Church of England and its leader, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as sinful and corrupt, and threatening to refuse to recognise the authority of liberal bishops.


Dr Williams was denounced as a theological prostitute by the Very Rev Phillip Jensen, the controversial Anglican dean of Sydney, addressing the 200 clergy and lay members attending the conference.

Dean Jensen was applauded as his sweeping denunciation of the Church of England took in the Prince of Wales — a “public adulterer”; King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, attacked as a “temple to paganism” for selling the records and compact discs of its famous choir in the ante-chapel; and women priests because, “as soon as you accept women’s ordination everything else in the denomination declines”.

More coverage of the Conference in the Telegraph.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 13 October 2004 at 10:55pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Ethical Investments

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Church of England may review its policy on ethical investments. Currently, the Church Commissioners are unable to invest in companies involved in pornography, arms, tobacco, gambling and alcohol.

The Church Commissioners, who manage assets worth £3.9 billion, are reviewing their ethical investment policy to ensure that they are maximising their returns. Clerical insiders admitted that any significant changes could prove controversial among the General Synod, who are sensitive about the size and use of the Church’s holdings.

A copy of this Telegraph article also appears here.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 12 October 2004 at 12:51pm BST | TrackBack
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Noddy Land

Anthony Howard writes in The Times today about the forthcoming Rochester report, due next month, on women bishops. And he doesn’t like what he thinks it will say.

The Bishop of Rochester’s 15-strong working party has come up with what is, in effect, a shopping list. And a pretty ludicrous one it is, too.


Its suggested courses of action for the future range from a kind of ecclesiastical Noddy land in which women could become suffragan bishops but not diocesan ones, through an even greater fantasy world in which they could hope to be full-scale diocesan bishops but never Archbishop of Canterbury or Archbishop of York, to a somewhat dismal and defeated maintenance of the status quo under which our present crop of women priests may become deans or archdeacons but never break through the stained-glass ceiling to sit on the episcopal bench.

(For the benefit of readers outside Britain, ‘Noddy’ is a character in a simplistic children’s storybook.)

As for next week’s Windsor Report he comments:

punitive action hardly looks like an essentially Christian activity and it is impossible to see anything but damage coming out of this particular piece of reprisal. Conceived in panic, it seems doomed to end in recrimination. No situation is ever surer to delight the outsider than the sight of those who purport to uphold standards of forgiveness and charity failing to live up to them.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 12 October 2004 at 12:43pm BST | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 6 October 2004

the Windsor Report

ACNS reports that the Lambeth Commission report will be published on Monday, 18 October, 12.00 midday in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. The report is named the Windsor Report after St George’s, Windsor, where it was drafted.

ACNS expects a large media frenzy to surround the report, which will also be available online at midday BST (i.e., GMT +1) on 18 October.

Update 18 October — for more reports and comments on the Windsor Report see the main page at Thinking Anglicans

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 6 October 2004 at 11:31am BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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new Deputy Secretary General

ACNS reports that the Anglican Consultative Council is to have a deputy Secretary General, a new position. Canon Gregory Cameron has been appointed to this position with immediate effect.

Canon Cameron is currently Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Studies at the Anglican Communion Office, and he has been secretary to the Lambeth (or Eames) Commission.

(As an aside, it’s interesting to note that in this announcement Canon John Peterson is described as ‘Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council’, and not as ‘Secretary General of the Anglican Communion’, a phrase which has been used frequently over the last few years.)

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 6 October 2004 at 10:37am BST | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Gladwin for York?

Bishop John Gladwin

The House of Bishops of the Church of England is having one of its regular private meetings today and tomorrow. Michael Brown in the Yorkshire Post reports that they will discuss who they would like to see chosen as the next Archbishop of York and that their first choice will be John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford. The paper describes him as a “tolerant liberal”, a “tilter at Thatcherism” and a “friend of gays”. He is also a former Provost of Sheffield Cathedral, which explains the paper’s particular interest.

This weekend’s Sunday Times also tipped Gladwin, but did not go so far as to say that the bishops as a whole were supporting him.

The York diocesan vacancy-in-see committee will be holding its first meeting on Tuesday 12 October. Can anybody tell me when the Crown Nominations Commission will meet to consider the York appointment?

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 5 October 2004 at 10:50am BST | TrackBack
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Friday, 4 June 2004

Canadian wrap

This will be the last report here on the week’s synodical proceedings in Canada.

Reports in British papers:

The Church Times has this report by David Harris (the content has been updated from the version that appears in the printed paper) Canada debates same-sex unions

In the Guardian Stephen Bates has Canadian Anglicans put off gay blessings which is subtitled
Synod avoids internal split and worldwide evangelical revulsion

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph has Anglicans delay vote on gay blessings notes the overwhelming strength of the vote in favour of adding the “sanctity” clause against the “tiny majority” for the deferral proposal.

The Press Association has Canadian Anglicans Back ‘Sanctity’ of Gay Relationships

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 4 June 2004 at 11:44am BST | TrackBack
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Thursday, 3 June 2004

further Canadian developments

Today, the General Synod of the Church of Canada passed an addition to the motion approved yesterday that “affirms the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a press release which welcomed the decision by the Canadian General Synod to defer a decision on the question of same sex blessings until 2007.

Official Press Release Anglican synod ‘affirms’ integrity of same-sex relationships
Anglican Journal Synod ‘affirms’ same-sex relationships

Toronto Globe and Mail Anglicans clash again over same-sex couples
Toronto Star Anglicans affirm adult same-sex relationships

Associated Press Canadian Church Affirms Same-Sex Unions

Today’s further move by the Synod has angered many conservatives:
Orthodox Anglicans astounded at back-door approval of same-sex relationships
Statement to faithful Canadian Anglicans from Archbishop Drexel Gomez

Update Friday morning
Anglican Journal Nine bishops ‘express sorrow’ at synod’s actions

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 June 2004 at 10:49pm BST | TrackBack
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Canadians defer decision

The Anglican Church of Canada has decided to delay a decision on same-sex blessings until 2007.

The wording of the revised motion is here. Clergy and laity voted 142-118 and bishops voted 22-12 in favour of deferral. A further debate will occur Thursday concerning an additional proposal to “affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

Press Association Canada’s Anglicans Delay Action on Gay Blessings
BBC Canadian gay union vote put off
Anglican Journal Synod defers decision on blessings - Will decide tomorrow on ‘integrity’ of gay relationships and Reaction to synod’s vote to defer a decision on same-sex blessings
Toronto Globe and Mail Anglicans put sex issue on hold and Anglicans hesitate to bless same-sex unions
Toronto Star Anglicans defer same-sex decision and Anglicans retreat from conflict
Associated Press Canadian Church Nixes Gay Marriage Issue.

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Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Canadian Church may revise proposals

According to Associated Press Religion Writer Richard Ostling in Canadian Church Nixes Gay Marriage Issue the Canadian General Synod will consider an alternative proposal to the one originally scheduled for a vote tonight.

A proposal authorizing Anglican Church of Canada dioceses to provide blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples was pulled Wednesday, just hours before a scheduled vote on the matter at a national church meeting.
The move reflected caution and confusion among church delegates over the impact the go-ahead would have on the Canadian church - and internationally in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion of which it’s a part.

It remained possible that liberals would try to restore the original proposal to allow “local option” on gay policies, meaning each diocese gets to decide for itself whether to allow the blessing ceremonies.
A revised proposal calls for a two-year study of whether same-sex rituals are “a matter of doctrine,” delaying action till the next national meeting in 2007. That measure appeared to be gaining momentum on Wednesday afternoon.
If the 2007 meeting decides doctrine is involved but wants to allow same-sex unions, that would require amendment of church law at two consecutive meetings - further delaying any approval until at least 2010.

But according to Oliver Moore in the Toronto Globe and Mail in Anglican activists water down same-sex motion the original proposal has not been withdrawn, but draft amendments have been submitted.

“It was actually the same people who moved the original motion,” Anglican spokeswoman Lorrie Chortyk told “A layperson from the diocese of Toronto and it was seconded by the Bishop of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.”
Ms. Chortyk denied reports that the original motion had been discarded because of its divisiveness.
“They haven’t discussed it all. It’s happening tonight from seven to nine,” she explained in a telephone interview from St. Catherines, Ont. “The original motion hasn’t even been presented yet. So nothing’s been tossed out or decided.”
Ms. Chortyk said that the 300 delegates at the meeting will have the chance Wednesday evening to vote first on whether to accept the motion as amended. If they do, it will be discussed and then voted upon.
If not, the original motion called that the issue be left to the discretion of the individual bishops.
In comments earlier Wednesday, the new head of the Canadian church had predicted that the original motion wouldn’t survive the day.
“There is a motion before the synod and discussion goes on through the day,” Primate Andrew Hutchison told CBC Newsworld early in the morning.
“But I think it’s quite unlikely that the motion will survive in its present form. It’s been subject to a number of amendments and I think, in the final analysis, we may end up voting on quite a different motion.”

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Canada approaches decision

Updated 6 pm London time
Later today the Canadian General Synod will decide what to do about same-sex blessings. (Internet live coverage here.) Official synod background paper here.
News Release: Anglican debate on same-sex blessings opens with a plea to delay decision

This event is discussed in British newspapers, two of whom have correspondents on the scene:
Telegraph Jonathan Petre New liberal primate as gay vote approaches
Guardian Stephen Bates Church faces split on gay blessings

Canadian reports:
Toronto Globe and Mail Debate shows Anglicans split on gay unions
CBC News Decision day for Anglican same-sex unions

Canadian Anglicans to vote on same-sex blessings
Associated Press:
Canadian Anglicans’ new leader notes complexities on eve of gay showdown

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Tuesday, 1 June 2004

New Canadian Primate

The Canadian General Synod has elected Andrew Hutchison as the new Primate of Canada.

Official press release: Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal elected 12th Primate of Anglican Church of Canada

Anglican Journal:
Synod elects Montreal archbishop as primate
Reaction to the election of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison as primate
New primate’s interest in peacemaking runs deep

Associated Press via the Guardian: Canada’s Anglicans Pick Liberal Leader

Toronto Globe and Mail: Anglicans pick trailblazer to lead flock

Toronto Star: Anglicans pick liberal as leader

CBC News: Anglicans choose leader who supports same-sex unions

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Monday, 31 May 2004

Canadian General Synod

The 2004 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is meeting now. Their convention website gives detailed coverage including webcasts, and the Anglican Journal reports from the convention are posted here. The webcasts all are in .wmv format (Microsoft Media Player).

There are news reports today in two British newspapers:
In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports Canada’s Anglicans debate blessing of gay unions.
In the Telegraph Jonathan Petre says Williams envoy hopes to turn gay marriage vote.

Both these stories report the speech made to the synod by Gregory Cameron, who is secretary to the Lambeth Commission.
This speech can be seen and heard on a recorded webcast downloadable here, but as this is a 7.5M download, a full transcript also appears below.
Also below that is a copy of the relevant portion of the Presidential Address (full webcast is 13.7 Mb, downloadable here) to which reference is made several times in Gregory Cameron’s remarks.

Update 11 June Official version of this speech is now on ACO website here.

Some Canadian news reports:
Toronto Star
Anglican schism feared over same-sex blessings
Anglicans clear way for vote on leader
Montreal Gazette
Gay Anglican priest elected to high post at synod
Vancouver Sun
Anglicans elect gay B.C. priest to Synod

And an internet naming angle reported in the Anglican Journal:
Who owns the name ‘Anglican’?

Transcript of talk given to Canadian General Synod by Gregory Cameron on 29 May 2004.

I suppose that I should begin by saluting your courage as a General Synod in being willing to debate what is probably the single most controversial topic that could be chosen today in the life of the Anglican Communion today. It is arguably crazy that it should take up so much of the Communion’s life at present, but, as your Acting Primate said last night, it is a debate which has been short on generosity, and long on vituperousness. To debate it, however, is your absolute right and, many would say, your duty, but it does mean that I am filled with something of a quiet terror as I stand here before you, knowing the strength of diverse opinions on the issue.

I have been asked to speak to you as the Secretary of the Lambeth Commission on Communion,and as you have heard, this is the body set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Primates of the Anglican Communion after their meeting last October to look at ways of keeping the Communion together in the wake of all the events of the last eighteen months. And so it is that I have come, not only to speak to you now, but perhaps more importantly to listen to you, to discern what is going on in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to hear the different viewpoints that are generated and expressed. And I am extremely grateful for the hospitality afforded to me, and for the honesty with which those conversations have begun.

No debate or decisions can be taken in vacuum, and that I suppose is why I have been asked to provide something of the Anglican Communion context. But I am uneasy about doing that in a situation that almost anything one says will be interpreted as aiming at one particular goal or another. And I’m uneasy about it as well, because quite honestly I am struggling with different loyalties in the current situation.

First of all, I want to be loyal as a disciple of Christ, because that is what I try to be; I want to be loyal to the chair and members of the Lambeth Commission, whom I represent on this occasion, and to their process of work, and that does not complete itself for another four months or so; I want to be loyal to those of my friends who are gay, and whose Christian faith and discipleship often puts my own to shame; I want to be loyal to my fellow Christians of the Global South, who see recent developments as a terrible betrayal of the gospel. And last but not at all least, I want to be loyal to you as the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to respect your proper autonomy.

And I rehearse those loyalties, not merely as a piece of self-indulgence, but because I suspect that many Anglicans across the globe feel the same tug of similar and different loyalties, and that this is one of the main reasons why the debate has been so fierce - on all sides, this debate touches deeply the integrity and convictions of our faith.

Of course, the idea of a Public Rite of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions is not new, and not distinctive to the Anglican Church of Canada. Indeed, only yesterday a colleague was pointing out to me that bishops in the Episcopal Church of the USA have been developing such rites since at least 1973. You do not need me to tell you how the case for same-sex civil marriages, let alone mere same-sex partnerships, is very much part of the political debate here in North America, in the United Kingdom and in Australia; nor will you need reminding about the decisions of the General Convention of ECUSA last summer which recognized the developments of rites of blessing as within the legitimate life of the church.

Less well-known are the same debates currently going on within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, in the Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran churches in the States; the acceptance by some of the Lutheran churches of Europe of pastors openly living in same-sex relationships; and the decisions by Old Catholic dioceses in Europe to authorize such rites. For many, such developments are a welcome sign that the church is at last turning its back on centuries of prejudice and oppression.

However, nothing can be plain sailing - and no sooner did your Diocese of New Westminster persuade its bishop to accept its desire for a Public Rite of Blessing of Same-Sex Unions than that decision was under attack. The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong passed a motion advising against the adoption of controversial decisions in the life of the Anglican Communion - by a diocese without consulting the province, and by a province without consulting the Communion; and in so doing some of its members at least were seeking to invoke an ancient principle of church government - that what touches all should be decided by all.

Opponents of the decision in New Westminster were quick to point out that not only had ACC12 urged caution, but that the decisions flew directly in the face of the teaching on human sexuality adopted by the overwhelming majority of Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The Primates of the Anglican Communion, as a body, reiterated their own views at their meeting in 2003 - they wrote to all the Communion to say that they could not as the college of the senior bishops of the Anglican Communion, together support the authorization of such rites, echoing their earlier statements of 2000 and 2001. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself said at that meeting that there was no theological consensus on such matters.

In other words, at least three, arguably the four, of the Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion took positions opposed to the developments in New Westminster. Others went further, and were quick to condemn - in June 2003, the Primate of Nigeria and leader of 17 million Anglicans, announced that he was severing communion with the Diocese of New Westminster, because he believed that it was being unfaithful to Scripture.

Now your Acting Primate has rightly pointed out that as a matter of church law none of these voices have anything more than a moral authority in the Anglican Communion, and primates have not been slow to assert the autonomy of the independent provinces, such as for example the Primate of the Province in Southern Africa, who has said almost its’ none of our business what happens in other provinces.
but you need also to be aware that our sister and brother Anglicans of the Global South - much of Asia, most of Africa and in Latin America - are asking whether the Anglican churches of the West are prepared to pay any attention at all to the Instruments of Unity, and they intend to judge the value we place on our Communion with them by the heed we pay to the views expressed. Nor should we decry their motives, this is no game playing - on all sides people are acting out of profound convictions that this is what God calls the church towards.

Your Acting Primate could have cited principles adopted at successive Lambeth Conferences to support his anger at the irregular actions of primates from overseas intervening in the internal affairs of your Church. “That is not the Anglican way”, he said to us last night - but the fear of the Lambeth Commission is that it may end up becoming the Anglican way, as we move from respect towards rivalry: and that is why the Commission is working so hard to find ways to allow the Anglican Communion to walk together again.

Whatever happened in New Westminster: within days of Nigeria’s condemnation, the whole matter was eclipsed by the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire in the States. These two events taken together have caused joy to many of those who have witnessed - or experienced - the intolerance and persecution of gay people at first hand, but it is also true it caused enormous pain in other places - in Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Egypt, Christians - and not just Anglicans, but Baptists and Copts and others - were publicly pilloried and physically attacked, homes being set on fire, and people physically assaulted. The Russian Orthodox have severed links with ECUSA; the Oriental Orthodox Churches have suspended talks with the Anglican Communion, and their church leaders have denounced what they see as an attack on the institution of marriage and the teaching of the Bible about family life. The Roman Catholic Church has paused for thought about what they make of the Anglican Communion’s claim to be a worldwide family of churches, and stated that developments constitute a new and serious obstacle to the path to unity.

Reaction has come from right across the oikumene of the church. As Cardinal Casper said to the Archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to Rome, “In this day and age, no one is an observer. We are all participants.”

Within our own Communion, the leaders of twenty-two of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing about forty-four million Anglicans, have pronounced that they reject the moves in New Hampshire and in New Westminster as incompatible with the Gospel and with the Christian fellowship of which they are part. They have said that these developments tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level, and a state of broken communion now exists between ECUSA and some twelve to eighteen provinces of the Communion.

I really would that this was not so, but I cannot pretend that this is not the reality across the Anglican and ecumenical world at the moment. All of this has become a distraction from the wider mission and ministry of the church, and innumerable bishops speak of how they are frustrated by the seeming inability of the church to move beyond this topic.

The Lambeth Commission, for its part, is painfully, carefully listening to all who will talk to it, to discover whether there is a way to hold this great family of ours together - and it has been given a mere twelve months by the primates in which all provinces have been urged not to take precipitate action in order to allow space for the Communion to find a way to heal itself.

This week, the eyes of all those other provinces will turn to you, to watch how you decide. It is your decision, and you must bring your collective wisdom to bear upon it. But I am afraid to say that the context of this decision is so fraught at the moment that the fear must be that no matter what the careful wording of your resolutions this week, the Anglican Church of Canada will be seen to be debating, as I think your Acting Primate recognized last night, the place of gay and lesbian lifestyles in your Church. Fairly or unfairly, the Anglican and ecumenical worlds are likely to react to your decisions on whether they perceive you to support or to reject the possibility of public rites of blessings of same-sex unions as elements of your lived-out faith in Canada.

If you say “no” to the motions before you, you will be in danger of letting down the thousands of gay people in your midst, who are part of your Canadian family, as well as all those others who are looking towards the Anglican Church of Canada to set a new standard in dealing with this issue.

But if you say “yes”, the work of the Lambeth Commission becomes horribly complicated, because we will be told that the Anglican Church of Canada refuses to hear the voice, or to heed the concerns of your fellow Anglicans in the growing provinces of the Global South, who are your international family. The reaction to such a decision, without very careful explanation and liaison by the Church of Canada, is likely to be on a par with that currently being experienced by your neighbours to the South.

Now that may be a price worth paying if you conclude that that is where Christ leads. You must do what you believe God is calling you to do - as your Acting Primate said - to do what will expand the realm of God, but I think I would be unfaithful to the task I have been set if I did not say that the implications of your decision for the unity of the Anglican Communion, perhaps even its very survival in its current form, are just about as serious as it could get.

Transcript of portion of Presidential Address by Archbishop David Crawley, Acting Primate on 28 May 2004

…Thirdly, we face a difficult and demanding discussion and debate on the place of gay men and lesbians in our church, focussed particularly on the issue of the blessing of same-sex couples.

It would be… inappropriate for me to speak of my own position in this matter, but I do want to make some comments about a couple of things.

First, I want to remind us that for the Anglican Church of Canada, we gathered here in this Synod is the highest legislative body in the Anglican Communion. Just as in New Zealand, or England, their General Synods are the highest legislative body in the Anglican Communion for them.

Our Communion is a communion; it is a family of 38 regional or national churches, which has no central legislative body, and no central magisterium— such as the Roman Church has.

[pause] There is no body external to the Anglican Church of Canada which can make definitive rulings about our life.

We have in the Anglican Communion what are called - in a kind of odd phrase, that always makes me think of the dentist - Instruments of Union.

First is the Archbishop of Canterbury - who is, of course, without jurisdiction in this country.

The other day the General Secretary sent him a letter of invitation to come on behalf of the Canadian Church to visit Detroit [laughter] - well, they don’t know North from South, do they? - anyway, because the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church are having a joint meeting in Detroit in 1905 - er, 2005 - 1905? Bit late, aren’t we? - 2005, and the General Secretary wrote and issued an invitation, and they put it on his calendar but they couldn’t say yes, ‘till they got a letter from me, because only the Primate can ask him to come into this country, because he has no jurisdiction here.

Secondly, the Lambeth Conference is precisely what it’s called: a conference. It is an advisory body; it can make statements about things, and it can advise, but it has no compelling power. They have moral force, they have intellectual force, but it is not a legislative body.

The Anglican Consultative Council? Listen to it’s name: consultative - it is to consult, it is not to decide for the Provinces.

The Primate’s MEETING, it’s called - isn’t even - isn’t even anything more than a meeting! It is an advisory body. Now, I believe it’s important for us to make a decision on this matter… whatever the decision may be. I don’t think we can stand three more years of this strange night-battle in which we’re now engaged.

Having said all that, I have to say, and I want to say, and - that we must acknowledge that we are in fact part of a Communion, and whatever we do will affect other parts of the Communion; and that whatever we decide will not be decided in any sense of ill-will against the other parts of the Communion, or of ignoring their concerns; but in the knowledge of their concerns, still making the decision that we must make - one way or the other, for our own life….

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Sunday, 25 April 2004

Dean stories

Only the Telegraph could sustain the St Albans story into another Sunday.
Evangelicals threaten to ‘ruin’ C of E over gay canon which begins:

Evangelical Anglican churches are threatening the Church of England with financial ruin in protest at the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, a homosexual, as the Dean of St Albans Cathedral.

The BBC’s Sunday radio programme took a broader view, with:
Several cathedral Deans have been lively characters with a national profile. And colourful deans aren’t just the stuff of church history: as Christopher Landau has been finding out, even in Anthony Trollope’s fictional town of Barchester, controversy surrounded a dean’s appointment.
Listen (5m 31s - Real Audio)

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Saturday, 24 April 2004

Dean of St Albans roundup

Since last Tuesday there have been further reports in the local St Albans papers, and in the church press, all listed below. Coverage of the story outside the UK has been very limited, consisting mainly of copies of the AP story linked earlier.

Also, we failed to list the Guardian’s leader comment from Tuesday, Evangelical veto which concludes with this:

The subdued reaction to Dr John’s appointment suggests that a sobering shame has descended on his opponents after the excitements of last year. That is welcome, if surprising: they had seemed shameless in the heat of the campaign against him. But it does not undo the damage done last year, when it was established that the Church of England is in the last analysis controlled by the large evangelical churches which consider themselves its paymasters.
No one can now be appointed a bishop against their veto, backed up by the threat of financial sanctions. Deans are immune to this kind of pressure. Their salaries are centrally paid and their appointment is made directly from arcane committees. Curiously, this is an argument in favour of the Church’s establishment, which is a mechanism for preserving diversity. The more democratic and congregational the Church becomes, the less tolerant it is likely to be. American churches, operating in a free religious market, tend to hold narrow and exclusive views, whether liberal or conservative. It is the civil war over homosexuality in the US church which is driving the break-up of Anglicanism. In the end, it may be the absurdity of a church which can take so seriously a job like bishop of Reading or dean of St Albans, which preserves it as an oasis of tolerance in a world where religion is increasingly important, and dangerous.

However, yesterday, “Anglican Mainstream” launched a new campaign against Jeffrey John’s appointment (see later report for details) which was reflected in two newspapers today:
Guardian Campaign begins against gay dean
Telegraph Evangelical backlash over gay dean

The Church Times reported the story as New chapter opens for Dr Jeffrey John and carried editorial comment under the headline Jeffrey John’s appointment. Andrew Brown’s weekly press review column analysed coverage, and I have summarised that here. Giles Fraser’s opinion column, which is mostly about something else, mentions it in passing towards the end.

On the other hand, the Church of England Newspaper reports St Albans clergy meet to decide response to John and editorialised The appointment of Dr Jeffrey John (this URL will fail after one week, so archived here for TA readers).

Local newspaper stories:
Herts Advertiser New Dean for St Albans, followed by Gay cleric is the new Dean and sidebar comment City’s warm welcome for Dr John
St Albans Observer Gay dean praises city’s welcoming tradition

Local Radio report BBC 3 Counties Reaction to gay cleric’s appointment and this one earlier Gay cleric welcomed into role, both with Real Audio links:
Main radio report including key parts of press conference, listen here and
Interview with Patience Purchase the day before the official announcement, listen here.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2004

New Dean of St Albans

There are a few more articles in this morning’s newspapers, and the St Albans diocesan website has added a few extracts from yesterday’s press conference.

The Times has Time to bless same-sex unions, says gay cleric.

The Guardian has Gay canon welcomed as dean of St Albans with the subtitle “After prayer, bishop feels appointment is ‘right and good’”.

The Guardian also has an Associated Press report Gay Clergyman to Hold England Church Post. This AP report has also been carried by large numbers of online newspapers in the USA.

The Telegraph has On his first day, dean says Church should bless gays.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 20 April 2004 at 4:13pm BST | TrackBack
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Monday, 19 April 2004

New Dean of St Albans - early evening update

Following this morning’s official announcement from Downing Street of Dr John’s appointment the St Albans diocesan website carries statements made at the press conference in St Albans, a number of responses to the appointment and a letter that the diocesan bishop has sent to the clergy.

Several online newspapers are already carrying articles written since the announcement, although, since the story was accurately leaked several days ago, they have little new to say.

The Telegraph has Gay cleric takes senior Anglican post.

Reuters has Gay priest given senior church post.

The BBC has Gay cleric takes up senior post.

The Scotsman has Gay Cleric Takes Up Senior Post and, later, Gay Churchman Promoted Dean Offers Olive Branch.

Outside Britain, the Mail and Guardian in South Africa and the Providence Journal in Rhode Island have stories.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 19 April 2004 at 7:35pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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New Dean of St Albans

Last week’s ‘rumours’ about the appointment of a new Dean of St Albans have been confirmed this morning.

The press release from the Diocese of St Albans reads

It has been announced from 10 Downing Street today (Monday, April 19th) that the Queen has approved the nomination of The Revd Canon Dr Jeffrey John as the next Dean of St Albans.

Canon Jeffery John, who is also to be Rector of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans, is currently Chancellor and Canon Theologian of Southwark Cathedral. He succeeds the Very Revd Christopher Lewis, who became Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, last October, after nine years as Dean of St Albans.

The Bishop of St Albans will be writing to all clergy in the diocese today. The text of the letter will be placed on the diocesan website later today.

More information on the diocesan website.

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Thursday, 26 February 2004

What the world thinks of God

The BBC has a major documentary going out tonight on BBC2 television in the UK and next Sunday on World Service Radio. The programme will be broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 26th February at 21:00 GMT. The programme can also be heard on World Service Radio on Sunday 29th February at 13:06 GMT.

Those who have seen the programme are welcome to write to TA (use the Comments below) to tell us what you thought about it.

The website for this programme is here: What the World thinks of God

As part of this the BBC has conducted a new poll which it is reporting under the headline UK among most secular nations.

A survey of people’s religious beliefs in 10 countries suggests the UK is among the most secular nations in the world.
Ten thousand people were questioned in the poll by research company ICM for The BBC programme What The World Thinks Of God.
More than a quarter of Britons thought the world would be more peaceful with nobody believing in God, but very few people in other countries agreed.
The survey found the highest levels of belief in some of the world’s poorer countries, but also in the world’s richest, America.
Some poll results are available on this page
Full poll results will be published on the programme website after the programme. They are now here in PDF format.

The Church of England has thought fit to issue a press release in advance of the TV broadcast: The Church of England questions BBC analysis of faith poll - 26/02/2004

Update 29 February This survey was discussed in detail by two experts, Grace Davie and Bernard Silverman on the BBC Radio programme Sunday. Listen to that report here with Real Audio.

The Church of England today questioned the BBC’s portrayal of results from a survey of 10,000 people in 10 countries in support of the Corporation’s What the World Thinks of God programme. A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council Communications Unit criticised the emphasis placed by BBC news reports on 46% of those polled in the UK saying they had always believed in God but ignoring the figure of 67% who said they believed in God or a higher power.

“The BBC has misrepresented the faith communities in the UK by suggesting that less than half the country believe. This is based on only 46% of UK respondents answering “yes” to a question that specifically asked if they had always believed in God: a highly spurious way of defining current belief. I cannot speak for other faith communities but any committed Christian would recognise that many who hold a strong faith today may well have come to faith late in life or lived through periods where they lost their belief. No one could seriously argue that such people are any less believers than those who have believed for as long as they can remember.

“Those people would not say they had “always believed in God”. Therefore, the poll more accurately shows that two-thirds of people in the UK have a belief as recorded in the figure of 67% who said they believed in God or a higher power.”

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Tuesday, 17 February 2004

RW charge to Eames

Rowan Williams delivered a charge to what is now called the Lambeth Commission, during its opening service at Windsor last week. This is available from the ACO website only as a pdf file. Portions of this text are now being quoted in news reports and will no doubt appear in various blogs. Below is the full text as a web page, to show the context of these quotations.

To the Eames Commission
9 February 2004

Dear Friends

I must begin by expressing my deep gratitude to you for undertaking this most testing of jobs for the sake of the Communion. The Primates of the Communion have repeatedly asserted that they wish to remain a Communion, rather than becoming a federation of churches; and the task of this Commission is to help make this more of a reality at a time when many pressures seem to be pushing in another direction.

The difficult balance in our Communion as it presently exists is between the deep conviction that we should not look for a single executive authority and the equally deep anxiety about the way in which a single local decision can step beyond what the Communion as whole is committed to, and create division, embarrassment and evangelistic difficulties in other churches. The Pauline principle that in the Body of Christ we should ‘wait for each other’ (I Cor 11.21) at the Lord’s Table needs to be thought about in its relation to our present problems.

But we also have to think about what it means to be a Church existing not by human concord or agreement but by the free choice of God: ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn 15.16) is a word fundamental to the whole being of the Christian Church. The question is how we hold together the belief that membership in the Church is God’s gift, so that communion always pre-exists ordinary human agreement, and the recognition that a Church faithful to the biblical revelation has to exercise discipline and draw boundaries if it is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and not its own concerns. You will not be dealing with a problem that is simply about biblical faithfulness versus fashionable relativism. There are profound biblical principles involved in all the points so far mentioned, which may point to different emphases and solutions.

You will need to be aware of the danger of those doctrines of the Church which, by isolating one element of the Bible’s teaching, produce distortions - a Church of the perfect or the perfectly unanimous on one side, a Church of general human inspiration or liberation on the other. Anglicanism has had to deal with such tensions from its beginnings - and indeed, so has the Church overall. You will be drawing on a variety of historical and theological resources from every age in confronting the contemporary challenge.

Countless people in the Communion and beyond will be praying for you, so take courage from that fact. I wish you every blessing and every gift of discernment and courage in your vital work, praying that its results will be for God’s glory and the advancement of his Kingdom.

Yours ever in Christ,

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 17 February 2004 at 11:29am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 February 2004


I wrote a news article for Anglicans Online this week.
The title is What the Church of England said about ECUSA

At this week’s General Synod, several questions were asked about the relationship between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA in the light of the consecration of Gene Robinson. The answers to these questions have received almost no press attention so far, but they are of considerable importance to ECUSA members. The Archbishop of Canterbury also made some remarks about Anglican Communion matters at the opening session of the synod, which have been widely reported and made available in full on the web, but also seriously misunderstood by some.

Read the full article here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 February 2004 at 8:46pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 February 2004

IC petition presented

The Church of England Newspaper reports that

On Tuesday the lobbying group Inclusive Church, set up as a result of anger over the mishandling of the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John to Reading, handed over a petition to a member of the Archbishop’s staff. The petition, with 8,500 signatures and the support of about 100 parochial church councils, calls for the ministries of the Church to be open to all regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
But the Chairman of Inclusive Church, Dr Giles Fraser, spelt out the message: “The Archbishop must resist those bent on dividing the Church as an authentic response to the consecration of bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire.”

The Church Times carried a picture captioned thus:

Point of view: the Revd Dr Giles Fraser handing a petition from the InclusiveChurch network to Chris Smith, Dr Williams’s chief of staff, outside the Synod chamber on Tuesday. Photo Richard Watt

The BBC has a short video clip of the handover ceremony, viewable with Real Player here

The covering letter to the petition is reproduced below.

Inclusive Church Petition, February 10, 2004

Dear Archbishop,

We write as friends, though many of us are broken-hearted about the direction currently being pursued by the Anglican Church.

We deeply regret the fact that you were forced to overturn your original affirmation of Jeffrey John’s name as chosen candidate for Reading. The message given on that day was that the way to get things done in the church is through organisational muscle and pressure. If Christian theology boils down to little more than the machinations of power politics, block votes at Synods, websites and even petitions, then God help us all.

The other message given out on that day was that gay and lesbian people are not welcome as members of the body of Christ. The Church may weakly insist that gay and lesbian Christians are valuable members of the Church - but its actions say something very different. Indeed, the cost of the current strategy is being paid by some of the most vulnerable members of our Church. This point cannot be passed over with a weary shrug as an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of unity. Faithful gay and lesbian Christians are being scapegoated in the name of a false unity that seems little more than a cover by theological conservatives for claiming possession of the Church.

In her sermon later today, Professor Adams will say:

‘We who regard gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians, not as the latest problems on the sexuality syllabus, but as spiritual treasures for the whole community, cannot afford to equivocate or temporise. We must act to maintain safe spaces within the Church where they may be celebrated, housed, nurtured and cared for. We must support them in their life in Christ, [and] bear wide and public witness to how we have experienced their partnerships as sacraments of God’s love in a broken and divided world.’

But this is not just about any one issue. At stake here is a historic understanding of the Anglican Church as broad, tolerant, generous and inclusive. These values have always shaped the heart of our Church and they are in very real jeopardy.

When you became Archbishop you insisted that the Church must not lose touch with the values of the people of this country. It is clear they will not tolerate a homophobic Church at the centre of our spiritual life, nor will they be edified by a theology born of ecclesiastical expediency rather than theological principle.

With all our prayers and support at this most difficult time,

Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser
Chair, inclusivechurch

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Monday, 9 February 2004

Synod answers on VGR

The main feature of the first day of the General Synod of the Church of England was Questions. There were 85 of them. Several dealt with matters arising from the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop in ECUSA.

Dr Philip Jeffrey (Chichester) asked the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
Q. What advice, if any, will the House of Bishops be offering in connection with any decision as to whether the Church of England is in full or impaired communion with those bishops of ECUSA who took part in the consecration of Gene Robinson and will any such advice be given in time to assist those members of the Church of England who, whilst working or travelling in the United States in the course of this summer, desire to worship in Anglican churches.
Revd Brian Leathers (Derby) asked:
Q. In the light of the world-wide opposition to the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, what consideration has the House given to formally breaking communion with the Diocese of New Hampshire and with those parts of ECUSA which endorsed his appointment?
Mrs Margaret Brown (Chichester) also asked:
Q. What steps has the House of Bishops taken to ensure that any bishops involved in the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson should not be allowed to officiate at Confirmations, Ordinations and Consecrations, or to celebrate the Holy Communion in this country?
Revd Brian Leathers (Derby) also asked:
Q. Has the House of Bishops issued, or will it be issuing a policy or guidance for its members on the granting of licenses or permission to minister in their dioceses to those who took part in the consecration of Gene Robinson.
Mrs Margaret Brown (Chichester) also asked:
Q. Has the House of Bishops expressed its support for all those in ECUSA and the Canadian Church who remain faithful to traditional Biblical teaching on marriage, homosexual practice and cohabitation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury replied:
A. Chairman, with permission I will respond to the question from Dr Jeffrey and the two questions each from Mrs Brown and Mr Leathers together.
Synod has heard the remarks I made earlier concerning the Anglican Communion. As I said then, I hope we will pray for the work of the Eames Commission looking into related matters.
With regard to arrangements for visitors worshipping in the United States, this is surely a judgement for individuals and not one for the House of Bishops.
On the ministry of Gene Robinson in this country - that is not a question for the House of Bishops, but, in accordance with the Overseas and Other Clergy Measure of 1967 - for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. I have indicated already that I would not be prepared to give my permission under that legislation for Gene Robinson to exercise episcopal functions here.
On the position of others involved in the consecration, the House of Bishops has not thought it appropriate to issue guidance.

Also, the following:
Dr Philip Jeffrey (Chichester) asked the Secretary General:
Q. In view of the fact that a number of Provinces of the Anglican Communion have declared themselves to be out of communion with, or in a state of impaired communion with, those bishops of ECUSA who took part in the consecration of Gene Robinson, what is the competent authority in the Church of England to decide whether or not the Church of England is in full or impaired communion with those bishops?

The Secretary General, Mr William Fittall replied:
A. The Church of England is in communion with Churches, and not separately with individual dioceses - still less with individual bishops - within those churches. For the purposes of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure and the Church Representation Rules, a decision by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is conclusive in determining whether a Church - as a whole - is in communion with the Church of England.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 February 2004 at 9:31pm GMT | TrackBack
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IC petition to Archbishop hands petition to Archbishop
PRESS RELEASE - - 5th February 2004

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to be handed a petition signed by over 8,500 individuals and over 100 Parochial Church Councils from the Inclusivechurch network of Anglicans. The petition demonstrates the strong conviction of the majority of grassroots Anglicans that the Church of England must be an inclusive church, open to all. The handing over will take place outside Church House,Westminster on Tuesday 10th February 2004 at 1.30pm, whilst the General Synod is meeting.

‘ is an organisation set up to campaign for an open, honest and generous spirited Anglicanism that has always been the very heart and soul of the Church of England,’ says Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser, chair. ‘It is excellent that so many people have supported the petition in such a short time, and with such little promotion.’

The message of the petition is clear: the Archbishop must resist those bent on dividing the church as an authentic response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, U.S.A, and continue to work for a Church that is open to all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

The Inclusivechurch petition contrasts dramatically with the petition handed to the Archbishop last month by evangelicals opposed to a fully inclusive church for gay people. It claimed to include millions of Anglicans but turned out to have been signed by fewer individuals than this new petition from Inclusivechurch. ‘The point is that dioceses and parishes do not operate like unions, with block votes,’ says Fraser. ‘Rather, dioceses and parishes are made up of individuals.’

The vast majority of Inclusivechurch’s signatories belong to the Church of England. In addition to individual Anglicans who have signed the petition over 100 parishes have signed up too, each having passed motions of support through their PCCs. ‘It is important to note that many signatories come from parishes belonging to organisations like Reform,’ adds Fraser. ‘We have also received emails from individuals keen to protest against the actions of their local clergy who make gays or women clergy feel unwelcome, for example in places like Fort Worth or Pittsburgh in the USA, where dioceses have declared themselves to be conservative, non-inclusive zones.’

Inclusivechurch believes that this petition is part of the groundswell of Anglican opinion that is opposed to the sort of intolerance and bigotry that has been threatening the church. ‘The true diversity of Anglicanism is beginning to come through, for all that well-organised, well-funded conservative forces would have it otherwise,’ continues Fraser. ‘We are here to celebrate the true spirit of Anglicanism which is strongest when it is diverse and inclusive.’

Notes to editors:

The petition will be handed to Chris Smith, Chief of Staff at Lambeth Palace, on behalf of the Archbishop outside Church House, Great Smith Street, Westminster on Tuesday 10th February 2004 at 1.30pm.

An Inclusivechurch Eucharist will be celebrated at St Matthew’s Church, Great Peter Street, Westminster at 10th February. The preacher will be the Revd Canon Dr Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Canon of Christ Church.

Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser, the chair of, will be available for comment on 10th February or he can be contacted on 07811 444011. is a grassroots network of Anglicans with a campaigning edge, open to anyone who shares the vision of an inclusive church. It began as a group of friends from Southwark, London and Oxford who were increasingly worried about the future direction of the Church of England. Others similarly concerned over recent injustices in the church asked if they could join, including individuals from the evangelical wing of the Church. It snowballed very quickly: many thousands of people have now registered their support. A number of organizations including Changing Attitude, Affirming Catholicism, MCU, GRAS and the Open Synod group are involved.

In August 2003 a petition was launched on the website It contains a Statement of Belief written by a group of Oxford theologians. The statement expresses the strong conviction that the Church is for all people regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. It calls on the Church to act justly, particularly in the appointment of clergy and bishops regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation.

Visitors to the website, be they individuals, PCCs (Parochial Church Councils) or other organizations, are invited to register their support.

The full text of the declaration signed by individuals in the petition reads as follows:

‘We affirm that the Church’s mission, in obedience to Holy Scripture, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every generation. We acknowledge that this is Good News for people regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation. We believe that, in order to strengthen the Gospel’s proclamation of justice to the world, and for the greater glory of God, the Church’s own common life must be justly ordered. To that end, we call on our Church to live out the promise of the Gospel; to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation.’

— ends

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 February 2004 at 9:00pm GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 14 January 2004

plot to supplant ECUSA

The Washington Post has revealed details of the plot by the American Anglican Council for the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes to supplant ECUSA as the globally-recognised Anglican jurisdiction in the USA.

Plan to Supplant Episcopal Church USA Is Revealed

Episcopalians who oppose the consecration of a gay bishop are preparing to engage in widespread disobedience to church law in 2004, according to a confidential document outlining their strategy.
The document makes clear that despite their public denials of any plan to break away from the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church USA, leaders of the traditionalist camp intend to severely challenge the authority of Episcopal bishops, and expect that both civil lawsuits and ecclesiastical charges against dissenting priests will result.

The full text of the strategy document described in the article can be found here.

Update: for follow-up press coverage on this, and other regular reports of Anglican news, go here

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Thursday, 20 November 2003

Istanbul bombings

Saturday and Sunday additions below

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement concerning today’s bombings in Istanbul, which you can read here.
The Diocese in Europe has also issued a statement concerning this, which you can read here.
The Church Times has a news story, on the web but not in the paper edition,
Chaplain comforts Istanbul bereaved.

More news coverage of this from The Times
Williams escaped the attack by hours
Perfect posting that ended in tragedy
and yesterday’s PA report
And from the Telegraph, Victoria Combe formerly religious affairs correspondent for the paper, writes ‘Roger Short was brilliant. He was just one of the best’

Saturday additions
Grieving widow takes her children to see place where their father was assassinated by Victoria Combe in the Telegraph.
Consul General’s wife went to the shops for milk and cheated death in The Times
Canon Ian Sherwood, Chaplain in Istanbul, on BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day (Real Player required)

Sunday additions
BBC Far from home, Britons remember and Prayers said for Istanbul victims
Ian Sherwood interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme (Real Player required)

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Thursday, 6 November 2003

About News reporting

I shall now revert to posting my near-daily News updates on my personal blog rather than here on TA.

The “really major events” of the primates meeting and the New Hampshire consecration have now passed, and the level of press activity is reducing rapidly.

Simon Sarmiento

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 November 2003 at 9:22am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 4 November 2003

international press Tuesday

Africa first today.
This Day, Lagos Akinola Leads Protest Against Anglican Gay Bishop
East African Standard, Nairobi Kenyan Anglicans Disown Gay Bishop
The Monitor, Kampala Church of Uganda Rejects Gay Bishop

In the USA
New York Times African Anglican Leaders Outraged Over Gay Bishop in U.S.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman Hypocrites, not gays, are what invite God’s wrath and last Sunday the Post-Gazette’s Steve Levin and Maeve Reston had this, which I missed previously, Pittsburgh’s bishop, gay N.H. colleague represent opposite ends of Episcopal Church (strongly recommended for those trying to learn something about Bishop Duncan).

The Bahamas, Nassau Guardian Gomez challenges U.S. church

ABC Church will survive gay Bishop divide: Primate and transcript of interview with Peter Carnley
The Australian Primates rethink split from church reports that the primates who disagree with the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson wil not secede from the Anglican Communion:

The primates’ spokesman, Nigerian arch-conservative archbishop Peter Akinola, said “What that means is that we can no longer claim to be in the same communion and those bishops will not be recognised by us any more. We have come to the end of the road,” he said.

While the words were strong, and reflected a theological split, they allow for the communion to, essentially, remain intact.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 4 November 2003 at 11:00pm GMT | TrackBack
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British media Tuesday

The Guardian Rowan plea for unity over gay bishop and What they said about…Bishop Gene Robinson
The Independent Anglicans sever ties amid gay bishop fury
The Telegraph Day the Church split and Lambeth’s fragile peace shattered and African Anglicans fear cost of split
The Times World’s churches cut links over gay bishop and ‘Lost sheep’ start to desert liberal churches
Also The Times has this leader On the brink Anglicans should still strive to avert a schism
The BBC African Church anger over gay bishop links also to video report
Also on the BBC Alex Kirby has this opinion article, Split church hopes to muddle on.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 4 November 2003 at 6:04pm GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 3 November 2003

international reports

Here are the four key American newspaper sources:
The New York Times Openly Gay Man Is Made a Bishop and African Anglicans Vent Anger at Gay Bishop
The Washington Post Episcopalians Consecrate First Openly Gay Bishop
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Openly gay man becomes Episcopal bishop but more interesting is Steve Levin’s account of local events yesterday, Fellowship prevails in local service where conservative meets liberals.
Larry Stammer reports in the Los Angeles Times Episcopalians Consecrate Openly Gay Bishop.
Christianity Today’s Doug LeBlanc filed Gay Bishop Consecrated Despite Objections
if you want more American reports there is a huge list of them here (scroll down to second item).

From Australia, the broadcaster, ABC News has Sydney Archbishop fears church split (this has audio and video links) and later, Peter Jensen appeared on ABC TV’s Lateline programme. Read the transcript here or with Real Player, watch it here. This interview is worth studying.

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formal statements listed

This entry contains, for convenient reference, links to all public statements made by official bodies (above the level of the individual diocese) or by lobbying groups, consequent upon the consecration of the Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire. The order is completely random. Requests for additions invited.
Revised 8, 13, 18, 21 November, 4 December, 11 December

Despite reports to the contrary in other places, I have been unable so far to confirm any formal provincial statement from either Rwanda or Central Africa.

The Archbishop of Canterbury
Anglican Mainstream (Philip Giddings and others)
Global South Primates ( Peter Akinola “on behalf of the working committee for the Primates of the Global South”)
Note I have been unable to determine who else signed this statement.
Canadian and American Bishops (read at consecration service, 38 total signatories including 6 Canadian diocesans and 16 ECUSA diocesans)
American Anglican Council
Inclusive Church
Changing Attitude
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh
Forward in Faith UK
Forward in Faith North America
Primate of Australia
Anglican Church of Canada

Additions made 8 November
Anglican Church of Kenya
Anglican Church of Tanzania
Province of West Africa
Note I have been unable to locate on the web a formal statement by this province to back up this news story (which I have no reason to doubt).

Additions made 13 November
Evangelical Alliance
Church of England Evangelical Council
Primate of Southern Africa

Addition made 18 November
Church of the Province of West Indies

Additions made 21 November
Church of Uganda or this shorter version
Anglican Communion Institute
Church of Nigeria

Addition made 4 December
Province of the Anglican Church of South East Asia or here

Addition made 11 December
Primate of Central Africa

Addition made 5 January 04
Anglican Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Monday press reactions

British newspaper websites have the following:
The Times Gay bishop consecrated amid threat of schism and Williams: my deep regret at division
The Telegraph Diatribes mar consecration of gay bishop and Williams anger as ceremony for gay bishop tears Church apart
The Guardian Gay consecration splits church and Two views from the pulpit - in just one church
The Scotsman Unholy row reaches its peak and this PA report, Parishioners Defiantly Support Their Bishop’s Consecration
The Sun Gay bishop cops swoop (worth reading this!)

The Independent Consecrated: but nothing prepared Gene Robinson for the protests
and ‘The communion is already broken. Now just prepare for the backlash’

The BBC Church divided over gay bishop and Archbishop ‘regrets’ divisions (each of these has a link to a video report too)
Also, radio reports (Real Audio required):
Jane Little on the Today programme
Interview with Robin Eames
Discussion with Philip Giddings, Derek Rawcliffe, and Judith Rose
James Jones on Thought for the Day
Addition: Text of James Jones thought is now here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 November 2003 at 9:45am GMT | TrackBack
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Inclusive Church welcomes GR

UK Anglicans welcome the consecration of Gene Robinson
3rd November 2003

The original release is here and reproduced below., the network of Anglicans working for an inclusive church, has whole-heartedly welcomed the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. ‘It is not only the people of New Hampshire who are celebrating this weekend,’ says Giles Fraser, the chair of ‘Inclusivity is at the very heart of the Gospel message. In Christ there is neither black or white, male or female, straight or gay. The consecration of Gene Robinson underlines the Biblical witness of God’s love for all.’

‘It was very important that Gene Robinson’s consecration took place,’ says Fraser. ‘Along with many others, I was very disappointed when Jeffrey John was forced to withdraw after having been appointed Bishop of Reading earlier in the summer. If the consecration of another openly gay priest, duly elected and confirmed, had failed to take place it would have been disastrous for the church.’

The statement from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, following their meeting at Lambeth Palace on 15-16th October, has begun a process that could lead to realignments in the church. But Fraser is of the firm conviction that groups who find it difficult to accept a gay bishop mustn’t split off from the Church. ‘I sincerely hope that people do not leave. The great genius of Anglicanism is that it manages to hold together unity and diversity,’ Fraser continues.

He also believes that the consecration is vital to the mission of the church. ‘In this country, 58 per cent of the population say they are Christians but do not go to church - in no small part because they think the church is judgmental. Gene Robinson’s consecration could hardly send out the message more strongly: the Anglican Church is an inclusive church.’


Giles Fraser, the chair of, can be contacted for comment directly on 07811 444011. is a grassroots network of Anglicans with a campaigning edge, open to anyone who shares the vision of an inclusive church. It consists of thousands of people concerned over recent injustices in the church, including individuals from all wings of the Church. A number of organizations including LGCM, Changing Attitudes, Affirming Catholicism, MCU, GRAS and the Open Synod group are involved.

In August 2003 a petition was launched on the website It contains a Statement of Belief written by a group of Oxford theologians. The statement expresses the strong conviction that the Church is for all people regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. It calls on the Church to act justly, particularly in the appointment of clergy and bishops regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. Visitors to the website, be they individuals, PCCs (Parochial Church Councils) or other organizations, are invited to register their support.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 November 2003 at 12:00am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 2 November 2003

Gene Robinson consecration

The BBC website is carrying this live video link of Canon Robinson’s consecration, starting at 9pm until around midnight or so GMT.

Three protesters came forward to object to the consecration when the Presiding Bishop asked if there were any objections. The PB asked that they be listened to courteously and without approval or disapproval. The PB interrupted the first protester when he began to describe explicitly various sexual practices, and he continued briefly. The third protester, Bishop Bena, suffragan of Albany, read a statement on behalf of 38 ECUSA and Canadian bishops. The PB then responded briefly, thanking the objectors for their concerns, and saying that the basis of their objection has been known to all those involved in the process, the diocese of NH, General Convention, and the Primates. The Primates, he noted, affirmed their desire that we should understand one anothers’ contexts, that this was precisely what was happening here, and that therefore ‘we shall proceed’. The service then continued with the congregational affirmation of the the bishop-elect, and then the Litany. There was no sign of any disturbance or of people leaving the arena, but this may have occurred out of camera.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 2 November 2003 at 10:13pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Sunday newspapers & BBC

The Independent on Sunday prints Tom Butler: Today’s Bishop is a gay divorcee. We may not like it but is it worth a schism? by the Bishop of Southwark. This paper also has a news story, Gay bishop in disruption scare.

The Observer claims in Williams set to condemn gay bishop that Rowan Williams will issue “a strongly worded statement attacking the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire within the next 24 hours.”

The Sunday Telegraph says in Primates break with Church over homosexuality that 20 primates will today break relations with ECUSA, and that

In the statement, the primates will say that continued communion with the New Hampshire diocese and those who support the appointment, including the presiding Episcopalian archbishop, Frank Griswold, is no longer possible.
Instead, they intend to recognise another, as yet unnamed, senior spiritual leader who will represent the Episcopalian congregations that continue to adhere to the traditional Anglican line.

The BBC has several stories. Gay splits in Church ‘will heal’ reports on what Rowan Williams said yesterday in London, as well as on what is due to happen today in New Hampshire. There is a link on that page to a video report by Jane Little (BBC religious affairs correspondent) which includes an interview with Gene Robinson. The BBC also has Unity plea over gay bishop which reports on Barry Williams’ (Archbishop of Wales) remarks.
The BBC radio programme Sunday has three items, all requiring Real Audio to hear:
Archbishop Robin Eames interviewed
Jane Little talks about Gene Robinson
Corruption in Zimbabwe about the Anglican Bishop of Harare

Chris Morgan in the Sunday Times reports that Gay bishop to face walk-out at ordination.

The Scottish Sunday Herald has Gay bishop splinters Anglican Church.

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Saturday, 1 November 2003

Anglican-Methodist Covenant

This was signed today in a service which started in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster and finished across the road in Westminster Abbey.

The Methodist Church has a report which includes links to the address given by the President of the Methodist Conference, and to a pdf file of the complete order of service.

Westminster Abbey has a brief report and if you follow the link to “More…” you will find two photographs taken during the Abbey part of the service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s address does not appear to be online yet, but the text of it is available in a press release which is copied below.
[Update on Monday 3 November - The Archbishop’s address has been put online by the Anglican Communion News Service.]

The BBC has Anglicans and Methodists end rift.

An Associated Press report can be read here on the CTV (of Canada) site and icWales has this.

Archbishop of Canterbury’s address

Press release from Lambeth Palace
Embargoed until 1100 hrs - check against delivery
Address given at the signing of an Anglican - Methodist Covenant Central Hall, London
Saturday 1st November 2003

At his first meeting with leaders of the Jewish community in Rome, Pope John
XXIII, it’s said, greeted them with the words, ‘I am Joseph, your brother’.
He was evoking one of the most poignant moments in the Old Testament:
Joseph, whose arrogance had provoked the resentment and rejection of his
brothers, is carried off into exile and slavery, then rises to great power.
He finds that this power is given to him so that he can save the lives of
his brothers when they come to him, not knowing him, begging him for help;
and at last he reveals who he is: ‘I am Joseph, your brother’.

The application of this to Jewish-Christian relations is perhaps not as
straightforward as the Pope’s generous instincts might have suggested. But
the point we might want to think about today is how the providence of God
works in and through even our divisions. Just over two centuries ago, the
insensitivity and missionary sluggishness of the Church of England provoked
a dramatic act of protest from John Wesley; and our two families began to
grow apart. Yet in those centuries of separation, don’t we have to say that
both of our church communities have been given gifts and have learned
lessons that we might not have learned or received had this never happened?
As we now take this -significant step in our growing together again, we do
so not in the pretence that two hundred years have been wasted, or that we
can go back to where we were. We have all, in the intervening years,
discovered things about Christ and his Kingdom that we are now eager to
share with each other, as brothers and sisters working to overcome the
distant legacy of arrogance and resentment.

Wesley was a very reluctant protester - a loyal conservative High Churchman,
expert in the Greek Fathers and the French mystics, he was no natural rebel.
He would have been as honoured and delighted as are we all today to see Her
Majesty the Queen witnessing and praying with us on such an occasion,
marking the full involvement of the Church of England in this reconciling
moment through the participation of its Supreme Governor. Yet Wesley came
to the point where he believed that he and his followers could only be fully
obedient to Jesus Christ if they took the risk of separation. No-one can
easily pass judgement on this costly decision, and no-one is seeking to do
so; what we can be sure of is that by God’s direction it bore fruit in
witness and transforming service to the Kingdom of God in this nation and
far beyond.

It is an irony that as we celebrate this new mutuality today, we also as
Anglicans face new tensions and divisions, with those on both sides of our
current troubles believing that obedience calls them to a risky break with
what we have thought of as orthodoxy and good order. But perhaps this
celebration is timely after all in God’s purpose. It is a reminder that
when we can no longer see how to hold together, God will still teach us in
our separateness; and one day we shall be led, in both thankfulness and
repentance, to share with one another what we have learned apart; to bring
to one another a history not without its shadows and stresses, but still one
in which something quite distinctive has been learned. And if all God’s
gifts are given to be shared, we have no option finally but to offer them to
each other in reconciliation.

God be thanked, then, even for our years of separation. Gifts have been
given that can never be forgotten or laid aside, because God uses every
opportunity of loving zeal and devotion to Jesus Christ to pour out his
abundance. Thanks to our brothers and sisters for the good news their
history proclaims to us; but thanks again to God for the even better news
that our growth together will bring to the Church and the world.


Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 1 November 2003 at 9:35pm GMT | TrackBack
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American press reports

In the USA, the Washington Post has details of the planned protests on Sunday in Consecration Will Include Objections.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a profile of both Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh and Bishop Bennison of Pennsylvania (the diocese centred on Philadelphia, altogether the state is divided into five Episcopal dioceses) in Two Pa. bishops, one church divide earlier story from that paper is headlined As gay bishop’s consecration nears, Episcopalians talk of schism.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that the Bishop of Virginia is preaching at Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday,Crisis and union in Anglican Communion.
The Indianapolis Star has a thoughtful column, Furor over bishop exposes problems by Tom Emrich.
Colorado is the home to some of the most vocal conservatives in ECUSA and Rocky Mountain News has these two stories, Episcopal Church at critical juncture and Conservatives to congregate.
in Rochester NY, things seem rather calmer, Episcopal churches embrace tolerance
from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
in New Hampshire itself, as in many other cities, this AP report was published, and here you can read the blog comments from Kendall Harmon about it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 November 2003 at 1:00pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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British newspapers Saturday

The Times has A. C. Grayling writing on Schisms, The reason of things;

The threatened schism within Anglicanism turns on a scriptural teaching which some Anglicans are not minded to defy, namely, the proscription of homosexuality in Leviticus xviii, 22. Here schism seems to be the right answer, for a church which does not accept gay people fully seems well worth schisming from.

The Telegraph has a leader Christian disunity which regrets the forthcoming consecration:

It will be as historic an event for the Anglican Communion as the hurling of anathemas between Michael Cerularius and Cardinal Humbert was for the universal Church in 1054, when Latins and Greeks broke into open schism.

and also Jonathan Petre filed this report, Gay bishop-elect draws Charles into Church row

The Independent has this opinion column by Jo Ind, Faith & Reason: In the Tory quest for unity can you hear the music of the spheres? which is not about the Tories but about All Saints Day.

In the Guardian, Stephen Bates reports that Church skates on thin ice over gay bishop

The Belfast Telegraph relays the views expressed in the Church of Ireland Gazette, Gay bishop’s election ‘incomprehensible’ Robinson naive, claims C of I paper. You can read the Gazette editorial directly at FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY

The Irish Independent reports Irish prelate to attend US gay bishop ceremony (the Bishop of Limerick).

Addition (thanks to KH)
The Financial Times had Protest is the likely welcome for gay bishop.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 November 2003 at 12:11pm GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 31 October 2003

more from the Church Times

Back on 10 October, I reported on the feature that the Church Times carried before the special primates meeting. The following additional articles from that issue are now available online:
The scriptural view, and interpretations an extract from the Doctrine Commission’s recent book Being Human
Africa, too, has sexual truths to confront by Kevin Ward
‘The unity of a community of friends’ by Bishop Peter J Lee of Virginia
Carry on in conversation by David L Edwards
The price of living a lie by Sarah Hill

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 October 2003 at 10:56pm GMT | TrackBack
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Halloween news

Tony Blair was interviewed on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show on Thursday, resulting in:
The Telegraph, Blair ‘has no problem’ with gay bishops
The Times, Blair: ‘no problem’ with gay clergy

The Guardian has The Guardian profile: Gene Robinson by their religious affairs correspondent Stephen Bates. Warning: this article will offend conservatives.

The Church Times has two reports online:
Commission to advise on Anglicans’ future
End duplicity, says LGCM
plus others in the paper edition only.

The Church of England Newspaper has surveyed about one-fifth of the General Synod members (that would mean around 120 people) and found that Synod members support Archbishop’s tough line and provides more details at Survey results examined.
This survey shows that, although rather few respondents are supportive of the consecration of Gene Robinson, neither is there any consenus in favour of the CofE taking action to distance itself from ECUSA.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 October 2003 at 4:03pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 30 October 2003

news roundup

The Australian ABC Radio National programme The Religion Report has this interview with a former Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Andrew St John, now serving in New York City, about current events in ECUSA.

National Public Radio in the USA has a report Episcopal Church at a Crossroads. (You will need Real Audio to listen.)

There are various reports on the appointment of the new Eames commission.

In The Times, under the seriously misleading headline Eames to head Church inquiry into gay priests, Ruth Gledhill notes that Professor Norman Doe is a member. He wrote “an influential study into Anglican ius commune, or common law, which was presented to a meeting of the primates in Kanuga, North Carolina, in 2001 and published recently in the _Ecclesiastical Law Journal_.”
In his paper Professor Doe wrote: “There is no formal Anglican canon law globally applicable to and binding upon member churches of the Communion. No central institution exists with competence to create such a body of laws.”
As Ruth reports, “In the study he outlined a way of drawing up an understanding of Anglican common law dealing with inter- Anglican relations and looks at how this overarching common law could be incorporated into each individual Church’s canonical structure. This would, he predicted, vastly reduce the likelihood of disagreements between provinces.”

The Herald has some helpful information about Anne McGavin in Scotland to have voice in Anglican debate on gays.

The BBC had Church team to tackle gay crisis.
The Independent has Archbishop names group to tackle gay bishop crisis but this turns out to be pnly part of the full PA report, here in the Scotsman.
The Telegraph and Guardian do not report this story.

Some other stuff from earlier:

Telegraph Gay bishop kept under 24-hour FBI guard.

William Rees-Mogg, who was many years ago the Editor of The Times, had an opinion column which in part discusses Rowan Williams (the other parts concerned Ian Duncan Smith and the Prince of Wales): Britain, a society so sick that it cannot be led. On RW, some of what he said is this:

…This has revealed an ethnic as well as a sexual division, with the Anglican Church in Africa and the Caribbean taking a conservative line. Yet it all goes beyond sexual or racial politics. I was impressed by the addendum to the judgment of the primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez. He says his Church is only in “technical” communion with that of Canon Robinson, the elected gay bishop, in New Hampshire. But he adds that the situation “has risen not because we have differences about sexuality but rather because what was once a consensual view of Christianity … is no longer the case”.
Modern history has been eroding the Christian consensus, but it has also been eroding the British cultural consensus. We think that we share certain assumptions, but we do not. These divisions do not necessarily follow sexual or ethnic lines, nor do they seem to me to follow political lines. It is almost an accident that it is at present the Conservative Party, the monarchy and the Anglican Church which are the institutions immediately under threat. It could just as well be the Labour Party, the Army, and the Roman Catholic Church - which would possibly be even more dangerous. Après Tony, le déluge.

This column provoked a raft of online responses.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 30 October 2003 at 12:22pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Anglican-Methodist Covenant

The Anglican-Methodist Covenant in England will be signed at a national celebration on Saturday 1 November 2003 in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. Earlier this year the Covenant was strongly endorsed by the Methodist Conference of Great Britain and the General Synod of the Church of England.

The event will begin at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, at 11.00 am when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the President, Vice-President and Secretary of the Methodist Conference will sign the Covenant on behalf of their churches before an invited assembly. The ceremony will continue at Westminster Abbey with a short service of thanksgiving and dedication.

The order of service is not yet available online, but material from it, adapted for local use, is available here as a Word document and here as a pdf file.

Thirty years ago a unity scheme between the Church of England and the Methodist Church failed at the last