Tuesday, 30 March 2004

Tom Wright upsets Americans

The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, is in Pittsburgh this week. He was interviewed just before he left England by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette resulting in this: Visiting bishop wants end to rhetoric on gay clergy.

His quoted remarks here, comparing ECUSA to the Bush administration, have provoked considerable criticism in America. In fact they are quite similar to earlier expression of his views. See for example, That special relationship in the Guardian last October.

However, the Pittsburgh story does contain some rather odd details. Leaving aside for now all the issues arising from the comparison with the Bush administration, just consider the ECUSA facts.

He compared that action to the Episcopal Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop against existing church polity. “So why should the world listen to the [Episcopalians in the] United States when changing Episcopal Church law?” he asked. “It is bound to be perceived as, ‘There you go again.’ It’s more of the same.”

But the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop in ECUSA is not against “existing [ECUSA] church polity” and the only relevant changes to “Episcopal Church law” were made several years ago. Specifically:

1. The canons of ECUSA were modified by General Convention in 1994:

All Bishops of Dioceses and other Clergy shall make provisions to identify fit persons for Holy Orders and encourage them to present themselves for Postulancy. No one shall be denied access to the selection process for ordination in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, or age, except as otherwise specified by these Canons. No right to ordination is hereby established.
Title III, Canon 4, Section 1 of the Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, p. 60

2. Then in 1996, an ECUSA ecclesiastical court ruled that retired Bishop Walter Righter had violated no church law or “core doctrine” when he ordained (back in 1990) a non-celibate homosexual man. The court therefore declined to consider further the heresy charges that had been made against him (by ten bishops, many of whom are those now forming the NACDP). The bishops chose not to appeal the decision.

3. And for good measure, in 1997, the ECUSA General Convention approved health benefits for domestic partners to be extended to the partners of clergy and lay employees in dioceses that wish to do so.

So, it is hardly surprising that, seven years after the Righter judgement, a non-celibate homosexual has been consecrated as a bishop in ECUSA. Much of the comment about the Robinson case has related to the events of 2003 (election, confirmation, consecration), all of which were conducted entirely in accord with existing ECUSA requirements and involved no changes in church law. But the initial eligibility of the candidate for the office was established in law long before that. Surely the time for complaining about any of the changes listed has long since expired?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 30 March 2004 at 10:40 PM GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 28 March 2004

ECUSA developments

A letter, written by ECUSA Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, to Archbishop Robin Eames in his capacity as Chairman of the Lambeth Commission has been published on the web. The PDF original is on the Lambeth Commision site.

You can read the full text here. (Note that the use of boldface for one section is an editorial action of that website, not something in the original letter).

This very interesting letter recounts events in the history of ECUSA leading up to Gene Robinson’s election and consecration. I noticed in particular:

Ten years ago at the General Convention in 1994 a resolution was passed amending the canons such that “no one shall be denied access to the selection process for ordination in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age.”

and also

When we met at Lambeth the primates asked me if I couldn’t have intervened and stopped the consecration. I made it clear that I could not because of the canonical realities by which I am bound, and that it is my responsibility to uphold the decisions formally made by the church.

Meanwhile, a meeting took place in Georgia of representatives of several groups of moderate Episcopalians who live in conservative (typically “Network”) dioceses and are worried that the NACDP will not stay within ECUSA. See this Associated Press news report: Episcopal groups try to mend break over gay clergy issue.
The press release is copied below.

EPISCOPALIANS UNITE IN ATLANTA MEETING
Episcopalians from 11 dioceses across the United States have joined together to promote unity within the national church.
The alliance, named Via Media USA, represents laypeople and clergy from grassroots organizations that hold diverse opinions about many issues facing the church but are solid in their desire to remain in communion with The Episcopal Church of the USA and the worldwide Anglican Communion. The name - “via media” means middle way - reflects the group’s focus on preserving the church and its traditional openness to differing interpretations of scripture, tradition and reason.
“There is room for everyone in the Episcopal Church,” said The Rev. Michael Russell, Rector of All Souls’ Episcopal Church in San Diego, CA, and a member of Episcopal Way of San Diego. “We believe that the Christian way is to love, work and worship together - to resolve disputes within the church without tearing it apart.”
The 12 groups, from California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Texas, South Carolina, and Florida, met for three days of worship and fellowship during which many members talked about specific concerns in their dioceses. Most of the groups are in the minority in the leadership of their dioceses, many of which have joined a newly formed network. Via Media USA has ongoing concerns that the network’s actions may ultimately result in schism within the national church.
“We learned about and from each other, drawn together in fellowship,” said Dr. Joan Gundersen of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. “Some people who were feeling isolated now feel supported. This meeting has helped us move closer together and has given us a better working relationship.”
The organization of Via Media USA is in its preliminary stages and all of the represented groups will be consulting with their own members in coming weeks about how to move forward. Two observers from The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council attended the meeting and Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold sent a letter that encouraged the group’s efforts to promote unity.
“The diverse center is the overwhelming reality of our church and its voice is urgently needed, both within the church and in our fractured and polarized world,” Griswold wrote.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 28 March 2004 at 2:56 PM GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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RW in today's papers

First, several reports of his Easter message to Canterbury diocese (the text of which is not on the diocesan website today):

Sunday Times Hell is Footballers’ Wives, says archbishop
BBC Archbishop’s despair at TV soap
Observer Archbishop sees our sin in Footballers’ Wives
Independent The Archbishop and the ‘Footballers’ Wives’

But better than all that, and tucked away in Christina Odone’s Observer column is this:

Grace and favour
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, came to lunch at the New Statesman last week. We had been trying to guess whether His Grace was the first head of the Church of England to lunch at the New Statesman since its founding in 1913. Had Kingsley Martin invited William Temple during his editorship? Had Paul Johnson invited Michael Ramsay? Whatever the precedents, Dr Williams confounded all prejudices, proving so interesting, intelligent and humourous that even Peter Wilby, our determinedly secular editor, confessed to being impressed. Before the meal, the archbishop intoned a short but eloquent grace, while the rest of the guests - who included Michael Portillo, Adhaf Soueif, Suzi Leather, Zeinab Badawi and Susie Orbach - bowed their heads. After everyone had left and we were conducting our usual postmortem (whom could we commission to write which incendiary piece?), Peter asked me in which language had the archbishop delivered grace. Had it been Latin? Or Aramaic, now revitalised by Mel Gibson? No, it had been in English, I replied, puzzled. Then it came to me, in a blinding flash: words such as ‘trinity’, ‘sacred’, ‘sanctity’, ‘heavenly’, and ‘holy’ have fallen into such disuse that Peter couldn’t recognise them as English.

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Carey and Islam continued

The BBC had a radio interview: Listen with Real Audio.

Carey and the clash of civilisations
Were Dr. Carey’s criticisms of Islam valid, and should he have made them? Talking to Brian Baron the following day, Lord. Carey said his remarks had been taken out of context and called the criticism “simplistic”.
Interview with Lord Carey, and discussion with Patrick Sokdeo, Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity and by Sahid Bleher, General secretary of the Islamic Party of Britain.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times columnist Atticus had this:

Atticus: Kilroy Carey makes up with Muslims by upsetting gays.
George Carey, the Church of England’s answer to Robert Kilroy-Silk, has obviously not lost the incisive diplomatic skills for which he was renowned while Archbishop of Canterbury. Trying to smooth over the row about his remarks on the Muslim world, he has reopened the argument that is most bitterly dividing Anglicans, that of homosexual priests.
The former archbishop, waded in with his ecclesiastical hobnailed boots while telling Gavin Esler, on Newsnight, of the dialogue he has had with the Islamic world.
“Muslim leaders are not afraid to talk to me about western excesses,” said Carey. “They have expressed their great condemnation of practising homosexuality in the church, particularly in the United States. I hear those criticisms. They are rightly made.”
In an echo of the newspaper article that lost Kilroy-Silk his job, Carey said in a lecture earlier last week that Islamic culture was authoritarian and had contributed little to world culture for 500 years.
He insists: “I’m a friend of Muslims. I know many of them by name.”
Perhaps, but they probably won’t be inviting him round to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

And the Sunday Telegraph had this editorial comment: Leap of faith

Lord Carey’s speech revealed that he is after all a man of strong views, many of which he evidently suppressed when Archbishop of Canterbury. The question remains, however: why was he so paralysed by caution when actually in the job that would have allowed him to make a difference?

In the Independent, columnist Henry Porter wrote What God condones this?. Worth a read.

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godslot columns

In the Independent, the Editor of the Church Times, Paul Handley writes about Passiontide.
Faith & Reason: Forget Mel Gibson, the Passion is to be found in Rwanda.

In the Telegraph, Christopher Howse plugs his new book: The comfort of misly globules.

The Guardian has an article Taxing questions for the Church which is actually about Taxation.

The Times has a Lenten meditation Lent is a season for penitence - so do not sin any more.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 28 March 2004 at 11:59 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 27 March 2004

Lambeth Commission documents

A number of important additional documents are now available on the website of the Lambeth Commission.

Most are only available as PDF files. Two key items are:

Some Legal and Constitutional Considerations
Paper by John Rees, submitted to the Primates Meeting, October 2003 (100k) download here

Communion and Autonomy in Anglicanism: Nature and Maintenance
Norman Doe (245k) download here

But there are also numerous other items. Take a look.

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ECUSA reactions analysed

ENS has published a detailed survey covering many of the reactions to the proposal made by ECUSA bishops for delegated oversight.
Conservative responses mixed on Camp Allen oversight plan.

This report does not however include the most recent NACDP statement Convocation Deans Respond to House of Bishops Plan.

The House of Bishops has failed the Church by its new process for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO). The bishops had the opportunity to act sacrificially and lovingly to reach out to orthodox Episcopal congregations and parishioners. Instead, they have offered DEPO, a cumbersome bureaucratic process controlled by the very overseers from whom relief is sought. It inadequately deals with episcopal pastoral care and fails entirely to address such issues as ordination, the calling of clergy, church planting, finances or property. Under DEPO, the power and prerogatives of the bishops are paramount, while genuine concern for parishioners is lost. It shows that the House of Bishops is not serious about reform which would respond to the concerns of the Primates.
We know that our Network bishops who were present worked valiantly for a better outcome from the House of Bishops meeting just concluded. Nevertheless, the great majority of the bishops have made clear by the terms of the plan for DEPO that the rejection of biblical authority and the endorsement of sexual intimacy outside of marriage are now the settled teaching of our Church; all that remains is to regulate the speed with which this new teaching is imposed on orthodox Episcopalians.
The Anglican Communion Network is committed to living under the authority of Holy Scripture and in true unity with the vast majority of the world-wide Anglicans. We serve in partnership with the Primates, who have written, “we offer our support and the full weight of our ministries and offices to those who are gathering” in the Network.

This does not sound like a body looking for a negotiated settlement.

Reference is sometimes made to the English Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 as a model for the American or Canadian situation. But this Act does not remove a petitioning parish from the jurisdiction of its diocesan bishop, and is dependent on his agreement for its application. So I think it is unlikely to be acceptable to NACDP.

Where the English model differs from the American proposal is in its de facto compulsion. Every bishop in the Church of England has agreed to abide by it, and, as far as I know, no properly submitted parish petition for “appropriate episcopal duties in the parish” to be carried out by another bishop in accordance with the Act has ever been refused. It seem that NACDP believes that some American bishops are even now unwilling to offer any form of “DEPO”. If this is true, then only a General Convention (next scheduled for 2006) could compel them to do so. From a British perspective, this perceived inflexibility of diocesan bishops just seems very strange.

Nevertheless, I find it very surprising indeed that no-one among the conservatives has published any draft of an alternative oversight proposal that might be acceptable to them. With no such document in circulation it is easy for others to accuse the Network leaders of insincerity in their statements about wanting to remain within ECUSA, as opposed to forming a North American equivalent of the FiF-proposed but as yet non-existent CofE Third Province.

Footnote
Since writing the above, the AAC has published Setting the Record Straight: What Really Happened at the House of Bishops which raises the temperature yet again.

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Islam lecture reactions

First, if you have trouble reading the full text of George Carey’s lecture on The Times website, here it is courtesy of the Diocese of Bradford.

Now reactions in the British press:
Independent Carey dismisses ‘simplistic’ criticism of controversial speech about Islam
Guardian Muslim dismay at Carey speech by Stephen Bates and
The right answer or the wrong question? by Brian Whitaker
Telegraph Muslims hit back following attack by Carey and
‘Islam has helped civilised world for 1,400 years’
The Times Muslim leaders hit back at Carey ‘bigotry’. Some extracts from this one:

Muslim leaders in Britain accused the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, of “bigotry” and “religious prejudice” after he accused Islamic societies of being authoritarian and committed to power and privilege.
They called on the present Archbishop, Rowan Williams, to condemn his predecessor’s views, expressed in a public lecture at the Gregorian University in Rome.
Lord Carey, seen for more than a decade as a friend and supporter of Muslims, aroused anger and disbelief by his speech, in which he said that Muslim societies were often led by people who rose to power “at the point of a gun”. He also criticised Muslim leaders who failed to unequivocally condemn suicide bombers.
His lecture threatened to cast a shadow over a three-day conference of Christian and Muslim scholars from across the world in Washington next week, which is being convened by Dr Williams. The archbishop declined to comment officially, but a source described the lecture as a “bolt from the blue”. Church of England leaders played down the remarks last night, emphasising that they were purely personal.
…Lord Carey argued that it was not his intention to be critical. Clearly bemused by the reaction that his speech had provoked, he said that some of his closest friends were Muslims, and described how only last Saturday he was in Hebron where he had lunch with a former leader of Hamas.
…Lord Carey, 69, who has been delivering a course of lectures entitled Unity and Mission, made his comments on Islam in a public lecture at the university under the title Christianity and Islam: Collision or convergence? His speech is the culmination of a lifetime’s fascination with Islam. His views on Islam are, in fact, not uncommon in the Church of England, in particular in the evangelical wing from which he himself emerged.
…One of his most significant achievements, towards the end of his term of office, was a commitment from Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders from Israel to the Alexandria declaration, a document which pledges all sides to a non- violent search for peace. The declaration states: “Therefore we, the members of the Alexandria permanent committee condemn all and any derogatory remarks directed to the faith, tenets and/or central figures of any of our faiths. Such remarks undermine our efforts and commitments to advance peace between our communities and, in their very character, do harm both to the faith defamed and the very religion in whose name they are made.”

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Friday, 26 March 2004

lectures on Islam

The Telegraph reports that Muslim culture has contributed little for centuries, says Carey

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, launched a trenchant attack on Islamic culture last night, saying it was authoritarian, inflexible and under-achieving.
In a speech that will upset sensitive relations between the faiths, he denounced moderate Muslims for failing unequivocally to condemn the “evil” of suicide bombers.
He attacked the “glaring absence” of democracy in Muslim countries, suggested that they had contributed little of major significance to world culture for centuries and criticised the Islamic faith.
Dr Carey’s comments, in a lecture in Rome, are the most forthright by a senior Church leader. He was speaking on the eve of a seminar of Christian and Muslim scholars in New York, led by his successor as archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams.

See also Islamic world is violent, says Carey Guardian
Carey attack on Islamic culture The Times

Note to newspapers: the forthcoming seminar is in fact in Washington DC, details here and here.

As previously, Christian and Muslim scholars from across the world will hold detailed discussions over three days. This year speakers will focus on the understanding of prophecy in the two faith communities; through intensive study of Biblical and Qur’anic texts the participants will also address topics such as ‘Prophecy and Conflict’, ‘Prophecy and Society’ and the claims to finality within Islam and Christianity.
Dr Williams said that he hoped the conference would build on the work of previous gatherings:
“Muslims and Christians share the conviction that the God who creates so generously also communicates with his creation, and they see the sending of prophets as a crucial part of that communication. So it’s an exciting prospect for Christian and Muslim scholars to spend three days together studying the different ways in which our scriptures understand prophecy. I look forward to all that we will be able to learn from each other and to the deepening of understanding and of friendship between us.”

Update
The BBC has Carey’s Islam comments condemned.
The Evening Standard has Islam ‘propping up backward despots’.

The Times has the full text of his speech here Carey speech on Islam in full
and also Muslims reject Carey’s ‘anti-Islam’ speech.
Press Association Ex-Archbishop Defends Speech Amid ‘Anti-Muslim’ Row.

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Thursday, 25 March 2004

more ECUSA press coverage

No British newspaper reports yet on the bishops’ plan.

Another ENS story not yet noted here is
Bishops repudiate irregular confirmations in Ohio
which AP reported as Episcopal Bishops Rebuke Conservatives.

Other American newspapers:
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Conservative Episcopalians cool to reconciliation plan
Washington Times (Moonie-owned) Oversight plan ‘silly,’ Episcopal priest says
Houston Chronicle Unauthorized service angers church leaders (AP story with local additions)

San Diego Union-Tribune reports on local Episcopal election in light of all this,
Hunting for a healer

Orlando Sentinel reports on national meeting today of Via Media groups, Episcopalians seek middle ground

And the CEN is published, but went to press before any reports had emerged, so their headline is US Bishops pressured to find a compromise. Still it has a few tidbits, such as:

To add to the problems, four bishops - three members of Forward in Faith and one evangelical - have boycotted the meeting in protest to the presence of Gene Robinson while five bishops have refused to stay at the Conference Centre.
Conference organisers scored a spectacular own goal by placing Bishop Bob Duncan, the leader of the dissenting ‘Anglican Communion Network’ in the same Bible study and prayer group as Gene Robinson, causing Bishop Duncan to withdraw.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2004

Reactions to ECUSA bishops

Statements have been issued by:
American Anglican Council House of Bishops Approves Inadequate Oversight Plan (this is quite a detailed analysis)
FiFNA FIFNA President declares it unacceptable (no idea why this is not yet on FiFNA website)
Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes HOB Oversight Plan will take ‘extraordinary new levels of trust’ (this is a bit less negative than the AAC commentary)
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has published this note.

Kendall Harmon has published Key Section of the Saturday Afternoon Version of the Plan which shows that at an earlier stage it looked less complicated.

There are lots of individual opinions floating around, which I have not had time to digest yet.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 24 March 2004 at 11:25 PM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 23 March 2004

ECUSA bishops offer plan

The ECUSA House of Bishops has completed its meeting in Texas and published its proposals for what is now called delegated episcopal pastoral oversight.
Here is the formal statement:
Caring For All The Churches
and here is the press release from ENS that describes the proposal:
Bishops propose plan for delegated episcopal pastoral oversight.
Here is the Associated Press report of this: Bishops Offer New Plan to Gay Dissenters.

“although the vote was not unanimous, an overwhelming majority of the bishops voted in favor of adopting the plan”.

Update
Houston Chronicle report Clergy devises plan to deal with gay bishop split
Washington Post Episcopal Bishops Reach Pact On Dissent
Later version of Associated Press story
Washington Times Episcopalians forge compromise
For basics of the plan, read on…

If for serious cause in the light of our current disagreements on issues of human sexuality, the bishop and rector/congregation cannot work together, we propose the following process for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

1) In the spirit of openness, the rector and vestry, or the canonically designated lay leadership shall meet with the bishop to seek reconciliation. After such a meeting, it is our hope that in most instances a mutually agreeable way forward will be found.

2) If reconciliation does not occur, then the rector and two-thirds of the vestry, or in the absence of a rector, two-thirds of the canonically designated lay leadership, after fully engaging the congregation, may seek from their diocesan bishop, (or the diocesan bishop may suggest) a conference regarding the appropriateness and conditions for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

3) After such a conference the bishop may appoint another bishop to provide pastoral oversight.

4) If no reconciliation is achieved, there may then be an appeal to the bishop who is president or vice-president of the ECUSA province in which the congregation is geographically located, for help in seeking a resolution. Those making such an appeal must inform the other party of their decision to appeal.

5) When such an appeal has been made, the provincial bishop may request two other bishops, representative of the divergent views in this church, to join with the provincial bishop to review the situation, to consider the appeal, and to make recommendations to all parties. If an episcopal visitor is to be invited, that bishop shall be a member in good standing in this Church.

6) When an agreement is reached with respect to a plan, it shall be for the purpose of reconciliation. The plan shall include expectations of all parties,especially mutual accountability. The plan shall be for a stated period of time with regular reviews.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 23 March 2004 at 2:36 PM GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Monday, 22 March 2004

post card from Navasota

Here is a fragment of information from the ECUSA House of Bishops meeting.
Post Card from Camp Allen

We have started our work on what has been re-named delegated pastoral oversight, and so far it has gone well.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 22 March 2004 at 8:27 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 21 March 2004

Sunday reports

First, the Telegraph on Wednesday carried this account of Rowan Williams and Philip Pullman’s joint appearance at the National Theatre last week:
The Dark Materials debate: life, God, the universe…
Kevin Myers, today, doesn’t like it Dr Williams has made an art of imprecision.

And today also, the Sunday Telegraph reports that Britain’s best organists are lured to America by higher wages.

Another report from last Wednesday, here is a column from the Irish Examiner which comments on what an RC bishop said to an Anglican archdeacon Liberals should stick to the point in debate on non-marital relationships.

No more news yet from Navasota, but more on the Ohio event, via FiFNA, from the person who presided at it: INTERVIEW WITH BISHOP WANTLAND, CELEBRANT IN OHIO.

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Saturday, 20 March 2004

growth and decline

Michael Bordeaux writes a very interesting article in The Times about religion in Cuba:
Communist Cuba suffers an unorthodox crisis of faith.

Christianity is making an unlikely comeback in Fidel Castro’s isolated island.
Patriarch Bartholomew came to Cuba at the personal invitation of Fidel Castro, who, in his declining years (he is now 78 and was celebrating the 45th year of his accession to power at the same time) is desperate to break out of the long isolation experienced by his country. Castro has seen eight American presidents and seven Soviet or Russian leaders come and go, but his seniority among world leaders does not put him high on anyone’s guest-list. None of the past three archbishops of Canterbury has visited the island and the growing Anglican community is eager to invite the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to make the trip.

Ruth Gledhill writes in The Times about what the Bishop of Manchester wrote in the foreword to The UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends published by Christian Research.
Bishop warns Church that it may disappear
(Another story about this appears in the Guardian).
Extract from Ruth’s article:

The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, said that the Established Church was in danger of becoming a minority sect. “We will, unless there is a turn in the tide, be a Church that gradually disappears from this land,” he said.
Bishop McCulloch said clergy were being diverted from their true mission of evangelism by the debate over sexuality, 25 years of church legislation and increasing red tape caused by secular regulations.
“It is almost as if the Devil is in this. It distracts people from what they are meant to be doing,” he said. “Far too many of us are being forced into managing an institution rather than engaging with souls.” The moment that an institution goes down that road, he said, it “has lost its heart, the purpose it was created for”.
Bishop McCulloch said: “The agendas which are imposed on most churches these days are almost deliberately designed to veer them away from what the spiritual issues need to be.” He was speaking to The Times after the latest figures showed plummeting membership across all the churches.

Update Thanks to Nick Ralph for pointing out that this news report was accompanied by an editorial column.
The Times opined on this matter under the title Raise the rafters and here some extracts, but note that it is not a specifically Anglican problem:

Churches need congregations as well as repairs

The irony is, however, that at a time when historic churches are more assured than ever of adequate maintenance, their congregations are dwindling to vanishing point. The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, says that the Established Church is in danger of becoming a minority sect. The latest figures of church attendance confirm the fall in numbers across all denominations and in all parts of Britain. Already there are only 800,000 churchgoers regularly attending Church of England Sunday services - fewer than the number of Muslims attending mosques. In all, the number of church worshippers has fallen more than a million since 1990, to 5.3 million. If the decline continues at this rate, there will be no one left in church by the end of the century.

Some churches have bucked the trend, drawing large congregations either because of their social cachet or in response to evangelical, often charismatic, clergy. But churches on big industrial estates remain almost empty. There is no one answer in a land where religious affiliation is so weak. Part of the problem is the Church’s pre-occupation with dogma and division, at the expense of its moral message; part is because of its incompetence in managing its finances and organising its workforce. The exceptions are the great cathedrals, which are remarkably successful in remaining at the heart of their cities, attracting visitors, worshippers and cash and spreading their influence far beyond their precincts. They should lead the churches’ fight to remain a vibrant part of Britain’s life.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 March 2004 at 2:12 PM GMT | TrackBack
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weekend columns

Geoffrey Rowell writes in the Times, Our fantasies and fears can beget terrible consequences. Here is a portion:

To flourish as human beings we need to be delivered from the fears and fantasies which threaten to overwhelm us, and which can distort and destroy our humanity. The Christian teachers of spiritual wisdom point us insistently to the God whose perfect love casts out fear.
In the Gospels Jesus stills a storm on the Lake of Galilee, when the disciples are overcome with fear that the boat will capsize and they will drown. The old mythology of the chaos monster of the deep echoes in this story, but Jesus shows Himself as Lord of the wind and the sea. Immediately after this story there is another, of a man possessed by a multitude of demons, and again, just as the wind and sea are stilled with a word of peace, so the inner chaos and conflict of the possessed man is overcome by a word of peace and deliverance.
The biblical writers insist that there is one fear which is both necessary and not destructive. It is that “fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of wisdom. But what is meant by this “fear” is something akin to awe, and reverence, and wonder. It is a fear, the great Byzantine saint, Maximos the Confessor, tells us which is “linked with love and constantly produces reverence in the soul”. This awesome wonder is at the heart of the prayer of adoration in which we come before God in our need and seeking His grace, that we may be rooted and grounded in love, a love which meets our deepest needs and so dispels the fears and terrors of the night, of whatever kind.

In the Telegraph Christopher Howse’s column is about the Templeton Prize winner, When science met spirituality.

George Ellis is a 64-year-old Quaker who lives in South Africa, and he tussled in the 1970s with the apartheid government, drawing attention to the injustices done to squatters in the Western Cape. He has not won the prize for this, but for his work on cosmology and religion.
Dr Ellis has outstanding qualifications to speak about the science of cosmology, being a professor of applied mathematics who has co-authored a book with Stephen Hawking (The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, 1973).

Mark Vernon writes in the Guardian about Resources for living.

On one level, it is no surprise that corporations are bad at coping with existential crises, or, indeed, the deep desires and longings that can lie behind love affairs. There are also positive signs that organisations can make space for their human assets to genuinely care for themselves, such as the option of a four-day week.
But beware. When the company says it wants you to flourish, it can only have your goodwill at heart to the extent that it maximises your creative output, your commercial surplus value. Life is to be found elsewhere.

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Friday, 19 March 2004

ECUSA bishops meeting

The Church Times summarises the story so far as Bishop of Ohio snubbed over confirmation.

The CEN had this version of events US bishops raise stakes.

Today the Associated Press reports Episcopal Church bishops meet amid unprecedented tension over gay bishop and includes this:

The leading conservative bishop is Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of a “network” formed in January to unite Episcopal dioceses and parishes that insist upon the traditional Christian teaching against same-sex relationships.
Duncan said some conservative bishops are boycotting the Navasota meeting, some will participate fully and some - like himself - will stay offsite and attend only sessions treating the church fracture.

Here’s another report from the Houston Chronicle (Houston is near where they are meeting):
Bishops to discuss gay ordination
Episcopal retreat held in Navasota; some conservatives to boycott

The retreat will be the first meeting of bishops since the consecration of Robinson, who is expected to attend. A few conservative bishops will boycott the meeting, said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, a member of the Anglican Communion Network, an organization of conservative dioceses and parishes formed in January.
“Some bishops have decided they cannot in good conscience attend the meeting,” Duncan said in a statement. “Others have agreed to be present only for those sessions in which (oversight) will be discussed.”

Some proposal for providing what the primates called adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities is expected. The last official word on what this might look like was this but…

Exactly what Griswold will propose this weekend to resolve the impasse is unknown, said the Rev. Jan Nunley, deputy director of Episcopal News Service.
“No one has seen it,” Nunley added. “No one knows what the plan is.”
The bishops are expected to take up the issue Saturday and Sunday behind closed doors, but it was unclear whether they would take any official action.

And here’s another note which gives a few details of the meeting agenda.

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Thursday, 18 March 2004

extra-marital sex

Another delayed Church Times article:
Not all extra-marital sex is the same by Duncan Dormor.
The Church should recognise cohabitation as a step towards marriage, he says, in an article published before the General Synod debate on the York diocesan synod motion. See report on that debate here.

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Lambeth Commission again

After some delay I have been able to extract this op-ed article from the Church Times archive.
Mark Hill a distinguished English church lawyer, wrote this back in February:
We can work out what we are - The Eames Commission is a great opportunity

THE Anglican Communion teeters on the brink - not of imminent collapse, but of reinvigoration. Far from being the dysfunctional legacy of a misguided imperialist past, the Communion is a vital body, animated by a shared ecclesiological inheritance.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2004

more on the Union challenge

As noted in my earlier report the National Union of Teachers is participating in the action now under way in the High Court to challenge parts of the new employment regulations. Below is a copy of the NUT Briefing Paper on this.

The Judicial Review is expected to last three days and it is envisaged that judgment will be reserved. I attended part of this morning’s session in Court 10 at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

Update Here is the Press Association report on yesterday’s proceedings.
Further update Jonathan Petre filed this account in the Telegraph Unions go to court over anti-gay rules

NUT briefing

On 17 March the High Court will hear a challenge to parts of the new Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. The NUT claims that parts of the Regulations are unlawful as they have no legal basis in the E.U. Employment Directive which they are supposed to implement, and that they are in breach of fundamental human rights.

The Union’s main concern is that Regulation 7(3) allows too broad a scope for faith-based employers to discriminate against lesbians and gays on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Regulations allow religious organisations to discriminate against some employees if they can show they have done so in order to comply with strongly-held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers, or in accordance with the religion’s doctrines. This could allow faith schools a very wide defence to a teacher’s claim of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, based on the supposed convictions of the religion’s followers.

Voluntary aided faith schools can already take into account whether a teacher has upheld the tenets of their religion under existing provisions in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

No union or non-religious interest group was consulted on this provision, which was a last minute change introduced by the government. It did not appear in the previous draft regulations and was not canvassed in the consultation documents published previously.

We are also concerned that the Regulations allow religious organisations to determine whether an employee or applicant is of a particular sexual orientation. They can discriminate if they are reasonably satisfied as to their sexuality even if they are mistaken.

The Regulations will introduce uncertainty, confusion and animosity. Committed teachers in faith schools may become vulnerable to misinformed or over-zealous application of the provisions. Already, some organisations that run independent schools have said that they will use this law to ensure that no lesbians and gays are employed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 March 2004 at 11:09 PM GMT | TrackBack
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More criticism of Ohio action

The Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice has issued a statement regarding the March 14 confirmation of 110 individuals in Ohio by five retired Episcopal bishops and a diocesan bishop from Brazil without the permission of the local diocesan bishop. The full text of the statement is here. These ten diocesan bishops are elected to represent their geographical regions (“provinces” within ECUSA). Two quotes:

We, the elected members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, on the eve of the spring meeting of our House of Bishops, are moved to express our strong disapproval of the action taken by five retired bishops of our church who have violated our Constitution and Canons by performing episcopal and sacramental actions in the Diocese of Ohio without first securing the permission of the Bishop of Ohio.

We also note that this action—being in violation of our Constitution and Canons—is contrary to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s understanding of how we are to move forward. As he said in a recent letter to our Presiding Bishop regarding the forthcoming meeting of the House of Bishops: “My hope and prayer is that this meeting will offer generous and constructive ways forward within the constitutional and canonical structures of ECUSA that will guarantee Episcopal care for all and avoid further fragmentation, and the consequent distraction from our main task of proclaiming Christ.”

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Tuesday, 16 March 2004

upset conservatives

The “executive committee” of “Anglican Mainstream” is unhappy about a service held in Canterbury Cathedral. So much so that they wrote to both the Archbishop and Dean about it. Here is what they wrote, and here is their press release telling us what they wrote.

The letter was, says the press release, signed by Dr Phillip Giddings, member of the Archbishops’ Council; the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes; the Rev Nicholas Wynne-Jones Secretary of Church of England Evangelical Council; the Rev David Banting, Chairman of Reform; the Rev George Curry, Chairman of Church Society; the Rev John Coles, Chairman of New Wine; Prebendary Richard Bewes, Rector of All Soul’s [sic] Langham Place and Dr Chris Sugden, Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

The replies to this missive should make interesting reading.

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Ohio - more

Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and “Moderator” of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes has issued a statement about the event in the diocese next door to his:
Bishop Duncan Supports Ohio Confirmands (press release issued by the American Anglican Council)

“I pray for those newly confirmed and for the congregations from which they were presented. I also pray for the retiring Bishop of Ohio and for the Bishop-elect that they might respond with grace to the canonical irregularities with which they now find themselves confronted,” said Bishop Duncan.
“The joint confirmation service, organized by Episcopalians from five congregations and the members of one Anglican fellowship, was brought about by the failure of the Episcopal Church to provide Adequate Episcopal Oversight for orthodox minorities in revisionist dioceses,” added Duncan.

He goes on to say that the current ECUSA proposals for Supplemental Pastoral Care have been rejected by the Network.
Incidentally, the Network makes the claim that it is “commonly known as the Anglican Communion Network”.

Update
Forward in Faith NA offers its support and prayers to the ‘Ohio cluster’ in less guarded terms, actually mentioning “the bishops who took the pastoral initiative”.

Forward in Faith, North America, the oldest orthodox and traditional organization in the Episcopal Church, offers its support and prayers to both the bishops who took the pastoral initiative to reach out to beleaguered members of the church, and to the clergy and people of the “Ohio cluster.” We believe in the necessity of Sunday’s action as a response that provides Godly leadership and hope for members of the church who remain steadfastly committed to biblical Christianity as practiced in the vast majority of the Anglican Communion.

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Unions challenge law

Starting tomorrow, a legal challenge to the validity of Regulation 7(3) of the Employment Equality Regulations (Sexual Orientation) 2003 will be made in the High Court by the National Union of Teachers and other trade unions. For background on this, see my earlier reports here and here.

The TUC has issued a press release which is mostly about the challenge to the part of the regulations relating to pensions, but buried in the Notes for Editors is the following important item:

The other aspect of the unions’ legal challenge, which involves the NUT as well, relates to regulation 7(3) which allows for sexual orientation discrimination where someone works for an organised religion. The unions are arguing that the law may allow employers to stop gay, lesbian or bisexual people from working at church schools and other religious organisations such as voluntary organisations.

To remind you what Regulation 7(3) says read my Church Times article here and the text of the regulations here.
I will report on this case as it progresses.

Update
Press Association report Unions Oppose ‘Anti-Gay’ Employment Laws mentions some of the Christian groups opposing the unions:

Christian groups, including the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Schools Trust and Christian Action Research and Education, are intervening in the case, which is being brought by the unions against the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
The evangelicals - who believe homosexuality is contrary to scripture - argue Christian organisations have the right to formulate and apply their own policies regarding the employment of gays as clerics and as teachers in faith schools.

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Servants of the People

There was a documentary radio programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, about Church of England clergy. Four priests, representing a wide range of traditions within the church, talked to Gavin Esler.
Servants of the People
will be repeated tonight at 9.30 p.m. London time.

The programme is available on the internet here using Real Audio. I suspect this link will last only one week.
I thought this programme was the best PR for the CofE that I have heard in some time.

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PB about Ohio

Frank Griswold has also responded to the event in Ohio by issuing the following statement.
Update
There is now an ENS press release available: Irregular confirmations in Ohio spark stern response from bishops.

Text of Presiding Bishop’s Statement

By their recent action in the Diocese of Ohio, five of our retired bishops and a bishop from the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil have arrogated to themselves the right to perform episcopal and sacramental acts without the permission of the diocesan bishop. The claim that their action was pastoral and in accordance with a mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion is contradicted by the statement of the Primates last October which states quite clearly that they, “reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own,” and that they “call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care,” and that they should do so “in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.”
Provisions for “episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities” is thus clearly a matter to be resolved by the province. That is precisely what this church is seeking to do. In consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his chancellor, our bishops have been considering a draft plan for episcopal pastoral care which they will address further when we gather for our spring meeting later this week in Texas.
With respect to this forthcoming meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a recent letter to me, “My hope and prayer is that this meeting will offer generous and constructive ways forward within the constitutional and canonical structures of ECUSA that will guarantee Episcopal care for all and avoid further fragmentation, and the consequent distraction from our main task of proclaiming Christ.”
What is quite clear is that whatever pastoral response is agreed to, it must, as the Archbishop points out, be consistent with the “constitutional and canonical structures of ECUSA.” Here I note that according to our Constitution:
A bishop shall confine the exercise of such office to the Diocese in which elected, unless requested to perform episcopal acts in another Diocese by the Ecclesiastical Authority thereof… [Article II,Sec.3]
Why, I am moved to ask, did these bishops decide that Confirmation of these persons was pastorally necessary at this moment and act without permission of the Bishop of Ohio? Given that the House of Bishops will meet later this week, I can only surmise that their intention is to co-opt the bishops’ agenda and provoke a reaction that will appear sufficiently lacking in pastoral concern for “dissenting minorities” to justify what they have done in the eyes of others. I trust that they will be disappointed in their hope and that the vast majority of bishops of this church—occupying the diverse center—will find a way forward that is clear and just in its principles, pastoral in its approach and responsive to the needs of the church in this present moment.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA
March 15, 2004

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Monday, 15 March 2004

Ohio update

The bishops of the Diocese of Ohio have responded to yesterday’s event.
On the Extra-Canonical Confirmation Service Held 14 March 2004 in Fairlawn, Ohio

From the Ven. Mark Hollingsworth Jr., Bishop-Elect of Ohio:
I am disappointed that the parish priests from the Diocese of Ohio and the six bishops of the Church who were involved in this service chose to begin their relationship with me, not with direct and honest dialogue, but by acting in this manner. I certainly don’t want anyone to think that this behavior is characteristic of Christian community, especially the young people of those congregations.
An action of this sort, designed to break down the community of faith, has no place in our polity. No one group can define for the whole Church what constitutes an “emergency.” The laity and the clergy of the Diocese of Ohio, meeting in convention last November, clearly articulated their support of an inclusive theology in the larger Church, and their affirmation of its actions in last summer’s General Convention. It is a singular privilege to begin serving with them in this diocese at a time of such great potential for the Church.

From the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, II, Bishop of Ohio
It is unfortunate that five Episcopal parishes, gathering people for sacramental purposes, have felt the need to participate in an unauthorized and clandestine service. I am not yet clear on what prompted such an action, one that was also decided and planned in secret, except perhaps an anxiety on their part caused by having the majority of clergy and parishes in this diocese take up the work of mission at home and abroad after the events of last summer, and center themselves in the gospel imperatives with renewed energy in anticipation of shared service with Bishop-elect Mark Hollingsworth.
It saddens me that these five congregations had to create a disturbance with our common Church polity, in order to focus attention once more on their minority position. There is no crisis in the Diocese of Ohio, except the one created by a group that hopes to hold on to attention that is slipping away as time passes, a group that may use the threat of further extracanonical action as a way to manipulate the House of Bishops in its deliberations on the matter of alternative oversight.
Neither the House of Bishops nor the Diocese of Ohio is likely to be swayed by sudden confrontational actions. Any response by the Diocese of Ohio in this matter will be prayerfully considered and characterized by the life of Jesus himself, who calls us all to unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.

Thanks to Kendall Harmon for the following press coverage:
Two local radio reports Diane Keough talks to participants and also to ECUSA Communications Director Dan England
Associated Press Conservative Bishops Defy Episcopal Church
Cleveland Plain Dealer Episcopalians exclude bishop

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Sunday, 14 March 2004

News from Ohio

British newspaper websites have carried this Associated Press report:
Conservative Bishops Defy Episcopal Church. What’s going on?

OK, the first story to appear about this was from Beliefnet:
Six Episcopal Churches Move to Split from Ohio Diocese
Then, the American Anglican Council issued this press release
Senior Bishops Cross Diocesan Lines: Confirm 110 at Unprecedented Service
and Kendall Harmon and others published
STATEMENT OF SENIOR BISHOPS AT MULTI-CONGREGATIONAL SERVICE OF CONFIRMATION AND HOLY EUCHARIST. Extract of this below.

I will post more when it appears.

Our presence today is in direct response to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the rest of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, who called for “adequate provision for episcopal oversight” in their statement of October 2003. To date no such oversight has been offered by ECUSA. We represent a spectrum of congregations and Provinces within the Anglican Communion, and our actions represent a spectrum of possible responses to the Primates directive. Our participation in today’s Service represents “emergency measures” for those ECUSA congregations in revisionist dioceses who cannot in good conscience accept the radical actions taken by our General Convention last year and who now find themselves alienated from their bishops and diocesan leadership who voted for and support such actions. Our active bishops are currently seeking means for providing Adequate Episcopal Oversight, and if an acceptable plan is approved, these kinds of measures may no longer be necessary. But right now, we consider these actions an essential and imperative response to a pastoral emergency in Northern Ohio.

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Sunday news and views

In the Tablet David Edwards reviews Anglicanism and the Western Christian Tradition: continuity, change and the search for communion. A sample:

The only major criticism which seems valid is about the book’s title. This is not a discussion about the multiple crisis in “the Western Christian tradition”, and incidentally in “Anglicanism”, which is currently being reported week by week. We are not given wisdom about the massive secularisation of Europe (social and intellectual), about the rejection of ecclesiastical authority by millions who still identify themselves as Christians, about conservatism in response, about the complexities of religion and morality in North America, or about the worldwide and religiously minded backlash against European colonialism and American neo-colonialism.
More defensibly, this is not a book reporting any permanent or totally clear solutions to the problems with which it does deal. It is far from being Anglican propaganda (further than the exhibition was). Professor MacCulloch’s wisecrack that Anglicans have made uncertainty a Christian virtue is spot-on if we substitute controversy for “uncertainty”, since most Anglicans know what they think and have always done so. All these objective experts demonstrate that those who want their Church to be both Catholic and Reformed, and latterly both traditional and modern, cannot do a neat job, and in defence it can be said that Christian diversity begins within the New Testament.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Gordon Brown will help churches pay the VAT tax on building repairs in this week’s Budget: Brown will ease churches’ VAT bills

The Observer has more about RW’s enthusiasm for Philip Pullman, Bless the archbishop for his bookish tendencies
whereas the Sunday Times columnist Minette Marrin thinks he is quite wrong in his views, Oh lord, even the archbishop is clutching at atheist straws.

The BBC radio programme Sunday has a piece about:
Women priests (listen with Real Audio)

The ordination of women priests was a revolution; over four hundred priests left the Church in its aftermath - though some sixty have since returned. Still, it was in many ways a more peaceful revolution than many people had predicted, because the Church of England continues to make special provision for those who cannot in conscience accept women priests. Ten years on from those first ordinations, with the prospect of women bishops perhaps not so far away, that compromise is coming under increasing strain. Christopher Landau reports.

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Saturday, 13 March 2004

British stuff Saturday

The Times reports on a new illustrated Bible, A portrait of Jesus by a fresh artist

A FRESH, illustrated Bible hopes to transform the way that children comprehend the Christian scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The Life of Jesus Through the Eyes of an Artist, is designed for children between 7 and 11, and looks at the events surrounding the life of Jesus in an innovative and inventive manner. Due to be published by the Bible Reading Fellowship in July, it is the product of the work of the artist Paul Forsey and the culmination of a lengthy and unlikely personal journey.

At your service visited Southwark Cathedral and heard a sermon by Jeffrey John:

The Old Testament reading was of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib. Canon Jeffery [sic] John took this as the base of a sermon of piercing intelligence, passion and good humour. He took three ancient and oft-repeated theological arguments for the subservience of woman: her creation from a part of Adam, her creation after Adam and her named status as “helper”, and deftly turned them on their logical heads. If being made later than something makes a thing inferior to it, is Adam lower than water? If being made from something makes you subservient to it, is Adam subordinate to dust? If Eve’s title “helper” is a lower-grade term, why is it used 15 times of God, and why does Jesus present himself as servant helper?
Whatever one’s view on the Jeffery John affair, these are cogent and demanding arguments: strong intellectual coffee for a Sunday morning.

In the Telegraph, Christopher Howse simmarises what the Church Times and its correspondents said earlier regarding What to run up your flagpole and
Jonathan Petre reports: Women priests still held back after 10 years with a sidebar ‘Nobody greeted me except my vicar’

The Guardian has a splendid Lenten meditation by Jane Shaw:
Find your own desert during Lent

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Thursday, 11 March 2004

Canadian news

Two London newspapers carry reports about Canadian plans in relation to same sex blessings.
The Times Canadian Anglicans move closer to gay ‘marriages’
Telegraph Anglicanism on brink of schism over gay ‘marriage’

From The Times:

THE Anglican province at the centre of a row over same-sex blessings has put in place a plan to allow every diocese to approve gay “marriages”.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is expected to agree in May that “the blessing of same-sex unions is within the authority of a diocesan synod and that any Canadian Anglican diocese, if the bishop agrees, has the authority to perform such blessings”.
The move is certain to deepen the crisis over gay people in the Anglican Church because it comes while the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Commission is still in the process of finding a way forward.

And from the Telegraph:

To the dismay of conservatives, it announced that its General Synod would be asked to affirm that there was no bar to Canadian dioceses authorising the blessing of “committed same-sex unions”.
One Canadian diocese has already unilaterally approved a rite for such blessings, and officials believe there is little doubt that the Synod will validate its decision.
Although illicit gay blessings are widespread in the Anglican Church, such a vote would be seen as the first clear endorsement of the practice by an entire province.

Here is the press release from Canada about this: Anglican council crafts motion on same-sex blessings issue
And, of equal importance but little reported in England, here is the report concerning proposals for Alternative Episcopal Oversight. This is a very lengthy document (also available in pdf format here) but contains as its key recommendation a proposal which I reproduce below. This is substantially different from the current English or Welsh arrangements for opponents of Women’s Ordination, and also substantially different from the current ECUSA proposals for dealing with similar matters to the Canadian situation.

6.2 Model #1

6.2.1 In the event that General Synod passes a resolution permitting dioceses to exercise local option on the matter of the blessing of same sex unions, this Task Force recommends that such option be exercised only by a resolution of diocesan synod. In dioceses affirming local option by a resolution of diocesan synod, dissenting and distressed parishes would be given the option of being placed in trust by the Diocesan Bishop. That Trust would be delivered into the hands of a Metropolitan, who then names the AEO bishop assigned by the Metropolitan of the Province. The parish(es) are then delivered into the hands of the AEO bishop by the Metropolitan of the Province. The selection of AEO bishops happens by nomination of the Metropolitans with the concurrence of the majority of the National House of Bishops, and Metropolitans will maintain a current list of such bishops. It is recommended that the AEO be a bishop living in reasonable proximity to the parish(es) requesting AEO. The AEO bishop is designated as Episcopal Assistant to the Metropolitan.

6.2.2 In keeping with the repeated admonition heard by the Task Force that the need for AEO is urgent and that the appointment of an AEO bishop must be temporary, we suggest that the appointment be for a six month term, renewable but not exceeding six years, with a review every two years. This “In Trust” model is similar to a trial separation in a marriage and assumes that there is the will on all sides to repent and work towards reconciliation. This timeframe also permits the church at various levels to continue to pray, study and discern God’s will and allows our Province to consider this subject at two further General Synods, and to receive the outcomes of deliberations from within the Anglican Communion.

6.2.3 This model of AEO assumes a conscience clause for parishes and clergy who decline to bless same sex unions. It is our hope that General Synod would provide such a conscience clause and ensure its continuing availability for parishes and clergy.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Irish news

The Archdeacon of Dublin, Gordon Linney spoke about homosexuality and gay marriages in Dublin this week. Here is what he said.

This generated press reports such as State must recognise gay civil unions, says top C of I cleric and Gay rites issue threatens an unholy row.

You can also hear a radio interview with Gordon Linney here (Real Audio).

Last week a visitor from Canada had predicted Church of Ireland to bless gay unions which probably did not go down well with his audience, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy.

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His Dark Materials

The papers are full of reports about Rowan Williams and his views on Philip Pullman’s work.
Guardian
‘A near-miraculous triumph’ Archbishop Rowan Williams reveals how it felt to see religion savaged and God killed in His Dark Materials
Archbishop praises author accused of blasphemy Stephen Bates comments:

…Archbishop of Canterbury who has risked the wrath of fundamentalists by praising the National Theatre’s adaptation of the author’s His Dark Materials as a “near miraculous triumph”.
Rowan Williams, already regarded with some suspicion by conservative evangelicals for his liberal social views, writes in today’s Guardian: “This extraordinary theatrical adventure sets a creative religious agenda in a way hard to parallel in recent literature and performance.”

The Times
Archbishop wants pupils to be taught tale of wicked priests and a dying God
Independent
Pullman’s ‘blasphemies’ should be part of RE studies, says Archbishop
Telegraph
Williams backs Pullman
BBC
Archbishop wants Pullman in class

What Rowan Williams said in his Downing Street lecture is available in full from his own website:
Belief, unbelief and religious education - Downing Street
Warning: this discussion starts with the arrest of Polycarp in 156.

Update Thursday
The Telegraph has an opinion on all this: Archbishop and atheist

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Monday, 8 March 2004

The jawbone of an ass

In the recent General Synod debate on Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds the Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, delivered a speech. The full text is now on the web and can be read here.
It’s well worth reading in full. But it is also worth bearing in mind who was on the working group that produced the report; press reports focused on Andreas Whittam Smith who presented it to the synod, but he was not alone, here is a list of the names, all of whom are responsible for the report:

MEMBERSHIP OF THE SPENDING REVIEW WORKING GROUP
Lady Brentford Third Church Estates Commissioner
Andrew Britton Southwark DBF Chairman and Chair of the Consultative Group of DBF Chairmen and Secretaries
Michael Chamberlain Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Finance Division
Philip Giddings Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Mission and Public Affairs Division.
The Rt Revd David James Bishop of Bradford
Canon Lyn Jamieson Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham
Andreas Whittam Smith First Church Estates Commissioner and member of the Archbishops’ Council (The Group’s Facilitator)

Now back to what Christopher Herbert said:

…This report is, in my view, another jawbone of an ass: it is clumsy, inept and brutal. It is clumsy because it refers to consultation - (it’s now becoming one of the most slippery words in the Church’s vocabulary): but nowhere in the report does it indicate where changes were made to the text as a result of that consultation. It is clumsy because it arrogates to itself decision-making powers about the distribution of money - and assumes that finance and policy are one and the same.

It is inept because it recommends taking money from Cathedrals, places which are, at the very forefront of mission - and does so in the name of mission.
It is inept because it arrogantly assume that Bishops have nothing to do with mission - when much of my time is spent precisely at points of mission; and treats us as “cost centre” which cannot (and I quote) be “insulated” from cuts.
It is inept because it fails to ask why our costs have gone up and does not explain that being HR departments of dioceses, which our offices largely are, new legislation e.g. on data protection or child protection cannot be instituted without cost.

But above all it is brutal because it joins others in the Church in despising the Bishops as leaders; it despises our rôle in mission; it despises the fact that we have been called by the Church to be Bishops and does so, knowing that for us as Bishops to have to justify ourselves in public is a degrading and humiliating exercise. It is brutality with a smirk.
And it is brutal because it wilfully wants to set one part of the Church against another, Cathedrals v parishes, Bishops v Cathedrals - and there is no concept of Christian fraternity at its heart. No sense of reciprocity.

If I were its author I should want to have the grace to withdraw it now - and then spend time asking before God why such a clumsy, inept and brutal document has been placed before us.
In the interests of solidarity one with another I urge Synod to reject it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 March 2004 at 10:09 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday television

The BBC’s Sunday morning News programme, Breakfast with Frost carried an interview with Frank Griswold, under the title “Gay Marriages”.
You can read the transcript here.

In the USA, the CBS TV programme 60 Minutes interviewed Gene Robinson, under the title “Being Honest”.
You can read about that here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 March 2004 at 12:24 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 7 March 2004

Sunday radio

As usual, the Sunday programme on Radio 4 had some material of Anglican interest.

Women Bishops
Hardly a week seems to go by without threats of schism or at least serious fallings out within the Church of England. This week it’s not about GAY bishops - it’s about WOMEN bishops. The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, has said that IF women are allowed to become bishops the church may have to set up a separate “Third Province” for those who disagree. Dr Hope was speaking at a service in Leeds to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Act of Synod that established “flying bishops” to minister to those who rejected the ordination of women. This week - March the 12th - sees the tenth anniversary of the first female ordinations. Cause for celebration for Christina Rees a leading light in the movement to remove the obstacles top women becoming bishops. She’s upset by Dr Hope’s suggestion of a church within a church. Listen with Real Audio

Internet Church
In the divine supermarket that is the world wide web, you can browse for all manner of spiritual products and services. There’s even a Church of Jesus Christ the Shopper. Well now the Church of England is placing itself on the virtual shelves with its first online parish. It’s the brainchild of the Oxford Diocese’s Director of Communications, The Reverend Richard Thomas, who’s placed an ad in this week’s Church Times, for a web pastor - lay or ordained - who has the “ability to work creatively in a new and untested environment.” So for whom is the “I-Church”, as it’s being called, intended? Listen with Real Audio

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 7 March 2004 at 4:34 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 6 March 2004

more CT synod reports

From the Church Times of 20 February:

Don’t rob asylum-seekers of legal rights and sustenance, says Synod
Church urged to help in fight against AIDS
New weekday lectionary discussed
Finance
Marriage is best, but others need rights, too, says Synod
ARCIC asked to revisit papal infallibility and jurisdiction
Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure
Broad welcome for new safeguards for clergy
Farewells

And from last week’s Church Times opinion columns
This is no way to disagree Giles Fraser writes about the recent General Synod debate on sexuality.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 March 2004 at 1:16 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday roundup

From the Guardian
Silence on sex is no answer Marilyn McCord Adams

The most serious threat to the Anglican communion is not cross-cultural substantive differences about sexual norms, serious as these are, but the spirit in which the debate is conducted. Late 19th- and early 20th-century English theologians did not fear to let sharp theological disagreements coexist, and allow experiments to run their course until time proved whether or not the Lord would prosper them.
By contrast, in the present controversies, some show a tendency to slide from explicit professions of biblical infallibility into implicit confidence in the inerrancy of their own methods and interpretations. Some wish to take to themselves quasi-papal authority to determine doctrine and discipline, and to excommunicate those who refuse to conform.

Ten years on, opponents are in the minority Stephen Bates (published last Thursday)

US Anglicans ‘naive’ about gay bishop Bates interviews Griswold

From The Times
Light and love are at the centre of both Islam and Christianity Bruce Dear

Christian and Islamic traditions contain a network of overlapping insights that can create a space for mutual comprehension. This is not to say that the two religions are the “same”, in some politically-correct sense. Each has unique and incompatible claims. However, there is irrefutably an architecture of shared ideas which can help to open dialogue. This dialogue cannot share out oil, land or power more fairly; but it can help to dispel the crudest prejudice which demonises all Christians or all Muslims.

Ruth Gledhill reports on the service to dedicate the new ACO offices and spoke to Archbishop Malango:

In the congregation was Archbishop Bernard Malango, Primate of the province of Central Africa and one of those most opposed to Bishop Robinson’s elevation. “A split is inevitable,” he told me afterwards.
The split over gays is roughly defined as one between North and South. The warring factions can share Communion, it seems, but not much else. Some can not even bring themselves to share Communion. The week-long committee meeting that preceded this service was boycotted by the Primate of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, because of the presence of Bishop Griswold.

From the Telegraph
Who’s in charge of leaking tub? Christopher Howse writes more about Edward Norman

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 March 2004 at 12:22 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 March 2004

news reports Friday

The news about www.i-church.org is all over the internet tonight.
Church Times Oxford launches web church
Diocese of Oxford Web Pastor: i-church
The Times Church mouse needed for online parish
Telegraph Wanted: virtual vicar for online parish
BBC Church plans parish in cyberspace and listen to Richard Thomas here with Real Audio and Richard also writes on Thinking Anglicans about it
Reuters Church of England hunts for virtual vicar

All this rather overshadowed the reports about what David Hope said:
BBC Primate praises ‘flying bishops’
Guardian Crisis warning on women bishops

The Archbishop of York, David Hope, last night reignited the row over the ordination of women priests in the Church of England by suggesting that if women were allowed to become bishops the church would have to consider setting up a separate, third province for members who disagreed with the move.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 March 2004 at 10:43 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 2 March 2004

less air travel by bishops

On the one hand, Peter Akinola has made news by not coming to England this week:
Primate to snub Williams over gay bishop (The Telegraph broke this story)
Gay Bishop: Nigeria’s Akinola Shuns London Talks Vanguard (Lagos)
and this is all officially confirmed by ACNS in Nigerian archbishop will not attend Committee meeting
whereas Frank Griswold not only attended but presided at the eucharist, as shown here, ECUSA Primate celebrates Eucharist at Canterbury.

But Gene Robinson also made news by not coming to England next week:
Gay Bishop Pulls Out of Debate Press Association
Gay bishop cancels Oxford date BBC
Gay US bishop cancels Oxford Union debate Guardian

By the way, the details of the debate which VGR is not now attending were to have been:

This House believes a gay lifestyle should be no bar to becoming a Bishop
Guest Speakers:
Rt. Revd. Gene Robinson
Recently elected Bishop of New Hampshire. His elevation caused worldwide controversy in the Anglican Communion, owing to his open homosexual lifestyle.
Revd. Richard Kirker
General Secretary of the Lesbian and gay Christian Movement, Claims “the current policy and practice of the church encourages deception and rewards hypocrisy.”
Revd. Dr. Andrew Goddard, St. John’s & Wycliffe Hall.
Tutor in Theology and Christian Ethics at Wycliffe Hall. Studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics as an undergraduate.
The Revd. Canon Brian Mountford
Former student at Oriel, now vicar at St Mary the Virgin, the University Church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 March 2004 at 9:12 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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