The St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship has issued a statement expressing “Serious Disquiet” following the appointment of Jeffrey John to be Dean of St Albans.
You can read the statement on the diocesan website. Below it is a note from the diocese explaining that The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert will be pleased to meet with diocesan clergy and official representatives of parishes who are concerned about the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, following his return from the diocesan pilgrimage (which concludes on 7 May).
The BBC has a report of all this here
and so does the Press Association here while
the Telegraph has Gay cleric faces new pressure to step down.
Meanwhile, “Anglican Mainstream” has created a St Albans page with links to many of the stories of the past few days.
In the Guardian today, Stephen Bates reports that Gay row dean attacks prejudice in church.
In a move likely to provoke renewed aggravation from conservative evangelicals, Canon Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, yesterday broke his silence in a sermon in which he reminded the Church of England that Jesus excluded no “untouchables” such as homosexuals from his special care.
But this is seriously misleading. Canon John is of course not yet Dean of St Albans. And what Stephen Bates is referring to is not a sermon that was delivered anywhere yesterday, but rather some sermon notes, prepared a while ago, and intended for use next June, as part of Inclusive Church Sunday, an observation being organised by inclusivechurch.net.
Similarly erroneous stories have been posted by The Times here
and also by OnReligion (thanks KH) here
Repeating the story doesn’t make it true. No such sermon was preached by Jeffrey John.
Judgement has been delivered in the High Court case brought by several trade unions. For the background read my earlier note here.
Press Association via the Independent Unions lose ‘faith-based’ equality fight
Trade unions today lost their High Court battle for a ruling that new equality regulations are flawed because they fail to protect lesbian and gay workers from discrimination by “faith-based” employers.
A judge upheld the legality of the Government’s 2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations and refused to condemn them as “incompatible” with European law.
Christian groups, including the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Schools Trust and Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), all intervened to resist the union challenge, which was brought against the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
The evangelicals - who believe homosexuality is contrary to scripture - argued that Christian organisations had the right to formulate and apply their own policies regarding the employment of gays as clerics and as teachers in faith schools.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Richards refused to rule that the equality regulations were “incompatible” with European law.
He said: “To treat the regulations as reducing the level of protection (from sex discrimination) seems to me to require a distorted view of their effect.”
However, in recognition of the importance of the case, he gave the unions, which include Amicus, Unison and the RMT, leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Separately, the unions - in an action co-ordinated by the TUC - unsuccessfully challenged provisions which they said enabled employers to exclude same-sex couples from pension and benefits rights currently enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
Update - further newspaper reports
Guardian Faith schools cannot sack teachers for being gay, court rules
Here is a slightly more technical news report from HR Gateway (registration required) Unions lose sexual orientation inequality case
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC said today that judge’s verdict was ‘disappointing’. “Important issues are at stake. No one should be treated differently because of their sexuality,” he said.
Unions will be consulting their legal teams over the next few days, said the TUC today, to “try and figure out the next move”. The individual unions need to make a decision whether to fight the case in the Court of Appeal.
Campaign group Stonewall told HRG today that it was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome of the case. The Government had given religious organisations a “licence to discriminate”, it said, while same sex couples still lose out on pension rights.
A further note from HR Gateway is here
The full text of the ruling is online here. (Warning:this is a very large document)
Geoffrey Rowell in The Times
Let us liberate ourselves from the dark, demonic powers of evil. Here is an extract:
If the memory of the crusades is still a distorting one in the context of Christian-Muslim relations, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade still haunts memories and attitudes in the relationship of the Christian East to the Christian West, and colours the suspicion of many Orthodox Christians towards Christians of the West. Both Catholics and Pentecostals can be seen in very different ways as representative of the ancient aggression of the Latin West.
Eastern Christianity, which has never had the experience of either the Reformation or the Enlightenment has, at its best, a deep awareness of the cosmic dimension of redemption, and a sacramental understanding of the world. The Easter Liturgy, so central to Orthodox worship, proclaims Christ?s victory over death and His liberation of humanity from the imprisonment of the dark, demonic powers of evil. We are called into a new creation and a transfiguration of our life by the grace of Christ.
The healing of memories is necessary if the different traditions of the Christian churches are to find their true unity in Christ. We cannot ignore history, and we must learn to understand the histories of other traditions and communities. In so far as it is possible for a later generation to be penitent for what earlier generations did, Christians in the West need to remember that events can have a terrible afterlife and so be ready to acknowledge the scars and fault lines that have resulted from what happened in Constantinople 800 years ago this month.
If the risen Christ appeared to His disciples still bearing the wounds of His passion, but transfigured, we can surely believe that the wounds of history may by humility, penitence and grace be transfigured in the same way. The peace of the world and the unity of its peoples depend in the end on this Easter reality.
Judith Maltby in the Guardian
What women want reflects on the progress still to be made in the CofE:
…Officially, Anglicans continue to constrain the ministry of women clergy. Terms like “provisionality” and “in reception” are used of our orders, and the church endorses employment discrimination on the basis of sex that it would condemn in any secular employer. In the midst of all this, women priests must not, of course, give anything other than complete loyalty and commitment back to the church.
We continue to exclude women from the church’s most authoritative body, the House of Bishops, although it is clear that we are not awash with talent in the episcopate. Tellingly, Canon Jeffrey John’s welcome appointment as dean of St Albans has been characterised as “compensation” for a bishopric, whereas a deanery is the highest office to which a woman may be called in the Church of England.
Most disastrously, however, we provide “flying bishops”, with “untainted hands”, for those who cannot tolerate sacramental contact with a bishop who ordains women. What does this provision reveal about what the Church of England, as an institution, thinks of women as a source of pollution? How, too, is this model being applied to other issues of conscience? Those who object to the “bishops of choice” model as a way of dealing with disputes over sexuality must ask themselves why it is bearable, or desirable, in dealing with the debate over gender. I, for one, would like to see a bit more anger from my own “liberal side” about the treatment of women, as well as of gay men.
Why do women priests put up with it? Opponents like to see us as fuelled by something rather wicked called “secular feminism”, which, I suppose, means owning property and having the vote. But on the contrary, the vocations of the vast majority of women priests have been fed from deep within the life of the church. A doctoral study of the 1994 ordinations revealed that the single largest group defined themselves as evangelical, something worth remembering as the word has become, to many, synonymous with “reactionary”.
Christopher Howse in the Telegraph
What’s all this about Rapture?
It sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Indeed, a bestselling series of 10 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins, starting with Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (1995), has sold in almost Harry Potter-ish millions.
Yet the Left Behind publishing phenomenon reflects the remarkable fact that many - perhaps eight million - in the United States really believe The Rapture is coming, probably soon. Makes sense, they say, what with this terrible world violence and Israel surrounded by hostile nations.
Guardian For God’s sake The strong influence of the Christian right on US policy will only increase if George Bush wins a second term, says Philip James
The influence of the Christian right on the Bush White House is self-evident. As well as George Bush, cabinet members Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft and Don Evans all consider themselves to be born again.
The administration is acutely aware of the power of the Christian voting block in the US. Gallup surveys consistently count 46% of the population as being self-described born again Christians, the bulk of whom live in middle America.
It is a stunning statistic, and one that escapes the attention of the chattering classes who populate the much less devout coastal strips.
Many of these churchgoers voted for Bush in 2000, and Carl Rove is determined that all of them should do the same this year. The latest data should put a spring in his step - Bush’s job approval among grassroots Christian social conservatives hovers between 92% and 96%.
The Times At your service visits St Nicholas, Brighton.
Labyrinths are to be found in religious traditions all over the world. Many take the form of a large circle, with a single path leading you through the four quadrants to the centre. They became an established part of the Catholic Church during the crusades, when pilgrimage to the Holy Land was dangerous, and people needed another way of honouring their vows.
By coincidence, I just visited Amiens Cathedral, which has a genuine medieval labyrinth built into the tiling of the floor of the nave.
Andrew Brown’s regular weekly Press column in the Church Times discusses how the British broadsheets covered the St Albans story. As this isn’t on the web for another 2 weeks, I summarise it below.
Update 8 May
The full text of Andrew Brown’s press column of two weeks ago is now available here.
A new Diary feature is inspired by a robust missive from one Rev Justin Hughes, sent to our colleague Steve Bates and concerning gay Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John. With “Behind the Barking Letter”, then, we will attempt to bring you the people behind the poison, the personalities behind green ink.
There isn’t space, alas, to print Justin’s theological argument in full, but he explains Jeffrey is “one of Blair’s anus-lusting perverts… no better than a member of the vile cult of the dead woman, the pope religion… these vile creatures claim to be servants of God, when they actually serve your master, Satan …”
Having placed a call to the evangelical minister at his home in Bruton, Somerset, we begin. Thank you, Justin, for being the inaugural Behind the Barking Letter. Do outline your basic day. “My day-to-day life,” says his reverence personably, “wouldn’t be that different from yours.” Well, you say that … “I might do some street level evangelism.” Is that sandwich board work? “No, I carry a small battery-powered amplifier.” And how often, on an average day, does someone tell you you’re barking? “Quite a lot. I’ve been swung at by sodomites, I’ve had feminists shake their fists at me. Jesus tells you this’ll happen though.” What’s he like? “He can be like me. He’s lovely, but he can be firm. He told me off once.” What for? “Speaking against the wrong person.” And finally, how do you pay the bills? “I’m a rep for a medical equipment company.” Thanking you Justin, you’ve been most kind.
Andrew has published the full text of the letter sent to Stephen Bates, see Smashing Stereotypes
Now back to the CT press review.
After laughing at the gross ignorance of the CofE shown in the American quote (in Ruth Gledhill’s initial report):
This is an outrageous appointment. It is a backdoor attempt to make homosexuality mainstream in the Church of England.
if there is a gay clergyman there must be outrage; so phone around until you find it. This in itself makes an implicit judgement that the outrage must be significant, but it’s one that will be more quickly forgotten if it is wrong. Hyperbole is the natural key of a news report: when was the last time one saw real “fury” in the world? Yet even those journalists sent off to St Albans instead of Iraq find fury everywhere. Their readers, correspondingly, discount it, and remember instead the occasional shocking modulations into the key of common sense.
I will link the whole column here when it is released to the web (now done).
Most coverage of recent St Albans news is on the TA blog.
Legal action against Catholic Charity
A Gay man is taking legal action against a Catholic Charity for refusing to employ him. His case will provide an important benchmark - testing new government legislation which outlaws discrimination against homosexuals. It also challenges the limits of an exemption to the legislation granted to religious organisations.
The Guardian carried this report on 27 April, Charity to face tribunal over gay employment law.
The BBC radio programme Sunday carries a 9.5 minute feature on the rumours about a new Dean of St Albans. Listen here with Real Audio. Interviews with people in St Albans, and also with David Banting, Colin Coward, and Kendall Harmon.
And in a separate radio interview the matter is discussed with Andrew Carey.
There is also material from St Albans in Saturday afternoon’s BBC Radio 4 PM news programme but this link won’t last beyond Monday afternoon. The segment starts about 20 minutes into the programme, and runs about 4 minutes.
The Independent also visited St Albans and reports Hostility disappears as gay canon is appointed Dean of St Albans. Archive copy of this available here.
Whereas the Telegraph thinks Fury as Church appoints gay canon new dean of St Albans. They only visited St Albans by telephone.
The Observer has No 10 drive to give gay priest top job.
Below is the full text of the CAPA statement issued in Nairobi on 16 April 2004.
The press release said:
Primates resolve to multiply efforts of fortifying CAPA and African Theology
By Justus Waimiri
Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) Primates met in Nairobi on Wednesday and Thursday this week, and agreed to strengthen the financial position of the African Provinces and CAPA secretariat.
A statement issued at the end of the meeting that went late into Wednesday night and Thursday morning, said the Primates were encouraged by the outcome of the meeting, in which they affirmed the role of CAPA in uniting African Provinces.
They agreed to develop the available economic and organisational resources, and to increase their commitment to CAPA.
The Primates also deliberated on the development of an African Theological and Doctrinal Commission, and agreed to forge ahead with the initiative.
The meeting was attended by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who is also CAPA Chairman, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Archbishop Fidele Dirokpa of Congo, Archbishop Joseph Marona of Sudan and Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa.
Others were The Rt Revd Nicodemus Okille of Uganda, Rt Revd Dinis Sengulane of Southern Africa, Rt Revd Mouneer Anis of Egypt, and Rt Revd Jean Claude of Indian Ocean.
Regarding the controversial sexuality issues, the CAPA Primates affirmed the Lambeth resolution of 1998 and the previous CAPA Primates meeting of September last year, that opposed appointment of openly gay people to church ministry.
However, the Primates expressed faith and “prayerful support” to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Lambeth Commission established by him to study the appropriate measures to take after the controversial consecration of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church of United States (ECUSA), New Hempshire.
The Primates and Bishops also discussed the stalemate that followed the retirement of Archbishop Robert Okine of West Africa, and expressed hope that the issue would be resolved soon. They said they would avail themselves as CAPA if called upon to mediate any contentious issues.
The meeting said it was encouraged by the peace process in the Sudan, and thanked the Government of Kenya for its role in bringing the warring factions together. A special message will be delivered to Kenya’s President, Mwai Kibaki.
On Rwanda, the Primates congratulated the reconciliation going on in the country, and pledged their support.
Below is a full text the CAPA Primates Statement:
CAPA PRIMATES’ STATEMENT
We CAPA Primates meeting in Nairobi on 14th April had a very constructive discussion of the issues that concern our church in Africa. We are encouraged by the outcome of the meeting in which we affirmed the importance of the ownership of CAPA and furthering its development. We therefore recommended the following steps;
a) To work hard to develop our economic and organisational resources.
b) To increase the financial contribution to CAPA.
c) To develop our African theological training programme that would equip our ministers with the African spirituality that is based on the scripture.
In regard to the sexuality issues,
We continue to affirm Lambeth resolution 1.10 of 1998 and our statement of the last CAPA meeting as well as the Primates statement of October 2003.
We are committed to prayerful support for the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan William and his leadership to the Communion in this very difficult time. We also pray and support Lambeth Commission set by him to study the appropriate actions towards those in ECUSA who ignored the Primates’ warnings and violated the historical faith and order of the Church by consecrating a non-celibate open homosexual Priest as Bishop.
We appeal to the Commission to consider the serious implications of not taking a strong disciplinary action against ECUSA, which will definitely tear the Communion apart and will badly affect our ecumenical and interfaith relations as a Communion.
The Primates of CAPA reaffirm the statement that was issued in September last year.
We note that some Provinces have already taken action in declaring a broken Communion with ECUSA as an institution, while maintaining communion with individuals who have stayed away from the official position of ECUSA.
Some Provinces have impaired communion with ECUSA.
The Commission is requested to call ECUSA to repentance giving it a three -months period to show signs of such repentance. Failing that, discipline should be applied.
As CAPA Primates we stand firm to what we have decided that if there is no sign of repentance on the part of ECUSA, the consequences will determine the next line of our action.
f) WEST AFRICA
The question of the enthronement of the Primate that did not take place was received with sadness and asked the secretariat to write to the Dean of the Church of West Africa assuring them of our prayers and expressed the availability of CAPA if there will be need for consultation with them.
g) CHURCH OF RWANDA
We congratulate and rejoice with the people and government of Rwanda on the efforts being made at reconciliation.
We support the Primate of Rwanda, the Council of Churches and the Government of Rwanda in their reconciliatory efforts..
Emphasis on the catechistical teaching of the sanctity of human life and the ministry of healing of memories are of great importance for this situation.
h) CHURCH OF SUDAN
The Primates are encouraged by the progress that was made in the peace process in Sudan. We hope and pray that both the government of Sudan and SPLA would reach the final peace agreement.
i) THE MIDDLE EAST
The CAPA Primates are saddened by the continuing violence in the Holy Land and appeal to the international community to intervene to achieve peace for both the Palestinians and the Israeli people.
Our hope is that Iraqi people resume their peace and develop their country under Iraqi government.
From British newspapers Saturday:
Guardian David Bryant Taking the sin out of sex
The Times Jonathan Sacks ‘Never again’ - but will we ever learn the lessons of history?
The ENS has a detailed report about the news from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA): Mixed signals emerge from Nairobi meeting of Global South primates.
This refers to a formal statement from CAPA the full text of which
I have yet to find published on the web is now available on TA here, although Kendall Harmon has some earlier notes from Nairobi here, here and here. ENS also refers to a separate press statement by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, which again I have not seen the full text of yet.
It contains information about the complexity of American financial support to Africa:
It was not clear what would be the immediate effect of Akinola’s declaration that the CAPA primates would not accept donations from certain dioceses within the Episcopal Church.
“All disbursements for mission from the national budget for this year have been made already,” said the Rev. Pat Mauney, director of Anglican and Global Relations (AGR) for the Episcopal Church. “The disbursements are offered without strings attached. If they decide not to accept, we respect their decision.”
Of the 12 African provinces, Nigeria and Central Africa do not request mission funds from AGR. Of the remaining ten, only Uganda has rejected a $7500 grant, and Rwanda has not yet responded for the 2003-2006 triennium. The CAPA secretariat accepted a $16,000 grant from AGR for 2003.
Other mission funds come through wealthy parishes such as Trinity Church in New York and Truro Church in Virginia, as well as independent foundations and mission organizations. Another source is the companion diocese relationship between American and African dioceses and provinces. Currently 19 US dioceses whose bishops voted in favor of the Robinson consecration have formal or informal relationships in Africa, while another 17 whose bishops voted against Robinson have formal or informal links with African dioceses.
In Britain, The Times reported the story African Anglicans spurn gay funding and also gives some figures:
ANGLICAN bishops in Africa are to refuse all funding from dioceses that ordain homosexual clergy and bishops.
The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, headed by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a leading conservative evangelical, could lose up to 70 per cent of its funding if it acts on the motion passed at a meeting in Kenya this week.
The motion was accompanied by a demand that the Episcopal Church of the United States repent within three months for the ordination of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson. The African bishops called also for the Episcopal Church to be disciplined, a demand unlikely to be met because all Anglican provinces are autonomous.
The Episcopal Church alone provides nearly a third of the African council’s annual budget, amounting to $106,000 or £59,000 in 2002.
The council represents 12 national and regional churches in Africa plus the diocese of Egypt. Many of these, as well as other Global South provinces, have already severed ties with the New Hampshire diocese by declaring themselves “out of communion”. But eight provinces have already taken money this year.
Episcopal leaders believe the vote to refuse funds is little more than a symbolic protest. But Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya said the Africans would have to sever links with New York’s Trinity Wall Street, a prominent parish that distributes grants worth millions of dollars.
The Telegraph also has Archbishops reject US cash in gay clergy row.
African archbishops representing more than half the worldwide Anglican Church are to refuse millions of pounds a year from their US counterparts in protest at its first openly gay bishop.
Their action will be seen as another step towards schism over the issue of homosexuality. Many of them are disillusioned with the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to keep the worldwide Church together, and they are making preparations for a rival Church with an alternative leader.
The most likely candidate, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said the liberal leadership of the American Episcopal Church must be disciplined for supporting the consecration.
Canon Jeffrey John - pictured right - will be the new Dean of St Albans, Ruth Gledhill reports.
The Times Top job for gay cleric. Some excerpts:
DR JEFFREY JOHN, the gay canon forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading, is to be the next Dean of St Albans in an appointment that will generate shock waves throughout the Anglican Communion.
Conservative evangelicals in the Anglican Church, already on the verge of breaking up after the ordination of the gay bishop Gene Robinson in the US and the authorisation of same-sex blessings in Canada, condemned Dr John’s elevation as an “outrage” and predicted that it would take the Church a step closer to schism.
The Times has learnt that Downing Street plans to announce on Tuesday that Dr John, who is in a celibate relationship with his long-term partner, another priest, is to head the chapter at St Albans.
The cathedral has been without a Dean since the Very Rev Christopher Lewis moved to Christ Church, Oxford, last October. Liberals in the diocese have lobbied for months for Dr John, who many believe was treated unfairly over the Reading appointment and who is considered to have all the gifts needed to make an international impact as a preacher.
The initial response to Dr John’s appointment in the St Albans diocese was mixed. Christina Rees, a lay member of the General Synod, said: “He will be a very good Dean for St Albans. He is an excellent theologian and has very good pastoral and interpersonal skills. He will be warmly accepted and welcomed.”
Evangelicals in this country, however, greeted the appointment with caution. Anglican Mainstream, which promotes evangelicalism, said: “The biblical requirement for Christian leaders remains to uphold the Church’s teaching and fashion the life of their household in accordance with that.”
In a second Times article The parable of the two good priests - with one difference Mary Ann Sieghart writes:
OF ALL the priests in the Church of England, the one Jeffrey John most resembles is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Both men are Welsh, highly intelligent, gifted theologians, transparently good, doctrinally orthodox and socially liberal. Both believe strongly in stable, faithful, monogamous relationships.
So his elevation, at last, to the post of Dean of St Albans will have come as an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Dr John was under no illusions about the scale of opposition to a gay dean or bishop, notwithstanding the fact that his relationship of 27 years has long been celibate.
In other respects, Dr John has all the attributes of a church leader. As well as having “a brain the size of a planet”, in the words of a fellow priest, he is also hard-working and, perhaps unusually for a theologian, good at pastoral duties too. He was as popular with students when he served as Dean of Divinity at Brasenose and Magdalen colleges, Oxford, as he was as a Vicar at Holy Trinity, Eltham, where he doubled the number of worshippers.
In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports Gay displaced from bishopric given deanery as consolation prize.
Jeffrey John, the celibate gay clergyman at the heart of last year’s Church of England row over his appointment as a bishop, is to receive the consolation prize of being appointed dean of St Albans next week, the Guardian has been told.
Dr John, 53, an Oxford-trained theologian and canon of Southwark Cathedral, was forced to stand down from his appointment as suffragan bishop of Reading last July after protests by evangelicals.
His appointment to a deanery, one step down from a bishopric, may still be controversial to some church conservatives; but last summer his critics drew a distinction between the appropriateness of selecting a gay man to be a bishop, and selecting lesser clergy.
Dr John’s appointment to St Albans will be warmly greeted by liberal Anglicans.
Even evangelicals opposed to last year’s appointment conceded that he was in all other respects eminently qualified for a bishopric.
BBC report Gay cleric in line for senior job
Press Association report Gay Cleric to Take Up Senior Anglican Post - Report
African Churches Take Stand Against Gays
By TOM MALITI
Associated Press Writer
read the full article here
Peter Akinola (pictured right) said:
“If we suffer for a while to gain our independence and our freedom and to build ourselves up, I think it will be a good thing for the church in Africa,” Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria told journalists. “And we will not, on the altar of money, mortgage our conscience, mortgage our faith, mortgage our salvation.”
Update an even later revision of the AP story is here on CNN (thanks KH), with additional quotes e.g.
Akinola said the South African leader, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, told him in a telephone conversation Thursday that he supported the stand taken by the other African archbishops.
He added that Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the Bahamas, who listened in on the conversation, “is firmly in support of the views which we are espousing. He made that quite clear.”
The Guardian has a report by Stephen Bates US church ‘must repent’ for gay bishop decision.
The BBC reported all this as African clergy reject ‘gay’ funds
The bishops made it plain that money from like-minded Americans, that is those who oppose the ordination of homosexuals, would not be turned away.
They said they were now conducting a review of how many programmes would be affected by a ban on official donations from the American church.
Archbishop Akinola also said they would take “action they deem necessary” if the US Church failed to “repent” over the ordination of homosexuals within the next three months.
“We shall cross that bridge when we get there,” he said. “We represent more than half of the entire Anglican world. I don’t think anybody would simply want to wish away our opinion”.
Another report from Nairobi, this from IPS: Africa Rejects Donations From Churches That Support Gay Unions
Africa’s Anglican archbishops have vowed never to receive donations from western churches which support the ordination of gay priests.
“We do not want any money from the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. This is not rhetoric. It is not a matter of a joke. We mean what we say,” the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola said, as the other clergymen nodded in affirmation.
Akinola was addressing a news conference in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, on behalf of the continent’s 12 archbishops, on Friday. The conference followed a two-day meeting to review the African bishops’ stand on homosexuality. Five archbishops from Latin America, Asia and Middle East also attended the gathering. The church in the four regions does not condone homosexuality.
“Those who have chosen a different path away from Anglican doctrines must repent and come back to the Anglican fold or be kicked out of the communion,” Akinola said. “We have recommended to the Lambeth Commission (in London) to take this clear line of disciplinary action against ECUSA because of what it has done.”
The Press Association issued a news story about the meeting of African and other primates this week, which The Scotsman headlined as shown here:
African Anglican Leaders Revue Gay Stance.
The BBC reported this story as African bishops mull ‘gay’ funds.
The Mail & Guardian in South Africa had more detail African clergy mull funding after gay debacle,
while the South African Star headlined it Anti-gay African bishops to meet over funding.
A longer report in the Durban Mercury Boycott threat over gay bishop contains further quotes from Peter Akinola:
“Already there is a tear of the very fabric of our communion,” Akinola said in a telephone interview this week.
“Last year, we said if the Anglican Church of the United States of America should consecrate that man, it will mean that (it) has pulled out of communion. Ordaining and consecrating an openly gay (man) . . . has amounted to crafting a new template and we can’t log on to that template.”
Capa has about 42 million Anglicans, more than half the world’s Anglicans. Bishops from Latin American and Asia are also expected to attend the meeting today.
“Our brothers in Singapore said no to a meeting that (the US church) would attend in February next year . . . going to that meeting will undermine our position,” Akinola said.
He said the Capa meeting would almost certainly conclude that churches in Africa, Latin America and Asia should refuse to accept donations from Western churches that support the ordination of gay bishops.
About 70% of Capa’s funds come from donations by rich Western churches, mostly based in the United States.
“It is wrong for any bishop to go to them for money,” Akinola said.
“For so many years the church leadership in Africa has been led by the dependency syndrome.
“The goal of Capa is to work for self-reliance, and the question of thinking where to look for money is a thing of the past.”
He said the meeting would also discuss how to accommodate African bishops serving in America who did not support having gay bishops or being part of the US church.
“African Anglicans in America are unhappy to be there.
“We will not force them to be there. We will give them a spiritual home where they want to be,” the primate said.
African Anglicans to Refuse ‘Gay Cash’ from PA via the Scotsman
African Anglican archbishops resolved today to reject donations from any diocese that recognises gay clergy and will refuse cooperation with any missionary that supports the idea.
It was the latest attack by church conservatives on the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the US state of New Hampshire.
The archbishops, meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, also recommended that the Episcopal Church - the American branch of the Anglican church -, be disciplined and be given three months “to repent” for the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man.
If the Episcopal church is not disciplined, African Anglicans will be free to take whatever action they see fit, but breaking away from the worldwide Anglican Communion “is not an option”, said Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.
MacCulloch has taken on this vast subject and produced one of the most magisterial and stylishly written historical works to be published in a decade. The book sparklingly synthesizes scholarship on an astonishing array of subjects, ranging from repentance rituals in Protestant Transylvania to the Jesuits’ reactions to what they saw as the “Judaizing deviations” of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to church architecture. Throughout, MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at Oxford, explicates complex theological issues with startling lucidity. And his analyses of the lives, personalities, ideas, and struggles of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer, Philip II, and Ignatius of Loyola are at once sharp and profound (and not infrequently funny).
Earlier reviews of this book were noted here.
Speaking of which, Kendall Harmon spotted a book review in the Tablet that I missed:
NT Wright reviews Gerald O’Collins’ book, Easter Faith: believing in the risen Jesus.
Madeleine Bunting, who was once the Religious Affairs correspondent of the paper, has an opinion column in the Guardian entitled In death there is life. Part of it:
Western secular societies and Islamists regard themselves as polar opposites. They are both wrong.
For Christians, Easter is not just a bloody crucifixion (any inadequacy of imagination on the gory details now finds ample remedy in Mel Gibson’s rendition), but the resurrection - the monumental act of redemption for all humankind. Hence, from the violence comes a message of astonishing optimism.
For all the faults of the church institutions (and there are many) that perpetuate this faith, it seems to me that this is a strikingly hopeful and honest account of human experience. In contrast, western secular culture has relegated death and suffering to the role of entertainment - it’s on celluloid that we love death - or it has been tidied away as subject to the last remaining taboos. In an age of gleaming white smiles from every billboard, who finds it easy to acknowledge or to understand their suffering?
All of this comes close to sounding like nonsense (though they might be too polite to say so) to a large proportion of people in Europe in what historians of religion now call the “spiritual icebelt”. This is the only part of the globe in which secularisation has dug deep and lasting roots since the second world war. Social theorists complacently assumed for several decades that secularisation was inevitable and irreversible all over the globe. The conclusion that many drew was that there was no point trying to understand religion, because it was a belief system that would wither on the vine. The result is a widespread ignorance and lack of understanding of the religious imagination, and it is usually accompanied by the secularist’s unexamined faith in their own beliefs; for example, an astonishingly naive belief in human beings’ rationality.
Today in the Observer, Will Hutton has a column titled
Heed not the fanatics
Only by rebutting fundamentalism in all its forms can we stop ourselves being plunged into a new Dark Age
Today, more than two million Protestants and Catholics will attend church to celebrate Easter, a resilient band but millions fewer than just 50 years ago. The great fathers of sociology - Weber, Marx, Durkheim - all believed that industrialisation, wealth and democracy would lead to the development of a massively secular society. Religion and its myths, the linchpin of dirt-poor traditional society, would evaporate before detraditionalising modernity.
They were right about Europe but wrong about almost everywhere else. Protestant evangelism in the United States and Islamic fundamentalism are the two fastest-growing religions on the planet; even Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalism are on the increase. Only Europe has moved in the direction the classic sociologists predicted. A mere third of Europeans report that they think that life is worth living because God exists. In the US, 61 per cent do, a proportion matched, although we don’t have reliable evidence, within Islam. In those broad religiously inclined majorities, fundamentalists find it easier to recruit.
But why? Why is rich Europe secular and rich America religious? And are there any clues in the answer to that riddle to the rise in religious fundamentalism, one of the most pernicious and hateful phenomena in human association, ranking with political fundamentalism of Right and Left in its destructive and poisonous influence.
Whether it is the perpetrators of the Madrid atrocity or Franklin Graham, evangelical son of evangelist Billy Graham, calling Islam a ‘wicked religion’, fervent fundamentalist religiosity breeds violence, intolerance and sexism. The sacred texts of Christianity and Islam may plead love, mutual respect and peace; their fundamentalist followers observe these doctrines in the breach.
Doug LeBlanc has commented on Hutton’s article, here at GetReligion. This is part of a series of posts there all titled Creeping Fundamentalism. This one is the first that ventures outside America for its source material. From a European perspective, Hutton’s comments about American Christian fundamentalism seem quite mild to me, but evidently it looks different from over there.
Sixty-three per cent say that they think of Britain as a Christian country. There is a direct correlation between age and these perceptions. Fewer than half (48 per cent) of 18 to 24 year-olds take this view, compared with roughly three quarters of 55 to 64 year-olds (72 per cent) and of over-65s (75 per cent).
This ties in with the findings of the 2001 Census which showed that nearly seven out ten people in England and Wales identified themselves as white Christians.
Moreover, a similar proportion of black people and a half of those of mixed ethnic backgrounds also identified themselves as Christians.
Fewer than two in five (37 per cent) say they will go to a church service at some point over Easter, and 61 per cent say that they will not go. Even so, these answers are almost certainly an exaggeration of probable church attendance (regularly fewer than one in ten on Sundays, though higher over Easter).
People aged between 18 and 24 are half as likely to say they will go to church as over-65s (23 to 50 per cent). However, more than half the public (55 per cent) say that they personally believe that the “Easter story that Jesus rose from the dead is true”. Personal belief in the Resurrection rises from 39 per cent among 18 to 24 year-olds to 64 per cent among the over-65 age group.
Women are significantly more likely than men to say they plan to go to church (42 against 33 per cent) and to believe in the Resurrection (60 against 48 per cent).
Today the Independent reports Clergy need remedial lessons in Bible, says bishop
Church of England clergy have become so blasé about the Bible that they need “remedial” lessons in its meaning, says Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham and the third [sic] most senior figure in the Anglican hierarchy.
In an Easter message he complains about the lack of “biblical literacy” even in established congregations. Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, he also attacked the view of the afterlife held by many worshippers.
“The great majority of people think that ‘going to Heaven when you die’ is the name of the game. Yet it ignores the real message of Christianity. This is about commitment to equality, justice, working in the world in the present, which the old platonic dream really doesn’t give you.
“The Bible story is about resurrection and new creation, not about abandoning this world and going off to some disembodied, platonic place called Heaven. Most people in the church have only a sketchy idea of what the biblical world is like.”
Defenders of Book of Common Prayer warn of ‘piracy’
Foreign imitations are confusing worshippers and destroying the authority of the original, says the Prayer Book Society (PBS), whose influential backers include its patron, the Prince of Wales.
Alternative “Books of Common Prayer”, couched in contemporary language have sprung up around the Anglican world, and from next month, worshippers in the Church of Ireland will be told to use yet another new publication, still titled the Book of Common Prayer.
Now the PBS has issued a call to arms, predicting that correct use of the book will soon be confined to “a minority” and urging its 16,000 members to “act now to prevent this development”.
The society describes the new publications as “acts of piracy” and “breaches of the Trades Descriptions Act”.
The Labour MP Frank Field, a PBS member, is also concerned. “New ordinands don’t actually know the Book of Common Prayer or how to use it,” he said.
The 1662 version is still in use in England, where the modernised service book - including parts of the original - is labelled Common Worship.
But elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, there is no such distinction and new books are given the old title.
“This is clearly ‘passing off’, if not breach of copyright,” protests Roger Evans, PBS chairman, former Conservative MP and a barrister specialising in ecclesiastical law.
The Rev Dr Peter Toon, a PBS spokesman, said that the changes have serious theological implications, as the prayer books are the “standard of doctrine” for Anglicans.
“People will accept the notion of common prayer on the American and Irish models, ” he said.
The Church of Ireland says that its new book contains both new and traditional liturgy: “The Church is again to have one unifying book of common prayer, including within its covers material in both traditional and contemporary language.”
Saturday’s columns from the London newspapers:
Independent Tom Wright
Faith & Reason: Take care to avoid the Easter trap set by modernity
Guardian Martyn Percy
Easter facts and fictions
The Times Alan Webster
Hope, compassion and creativity are everyday resurrections
Telegraph Christopher Howse
Return journey into the grave
Three reasons to stay an Anglican, for all its follies
We seem to have the first instance of an Employment Tribunal case relating to the new regulations. The Independent and The Tablet both report the case.
A gay man is taking legal action against a Catholic charity which he alleges withdrew a job offer on the grounds that he was in a homosexual relationship.
The man had been verbally offered a post as a lay chaplain with the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) when he disclosed to them that he was living with his partner. His case will test new government legislation which outlaws discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace. It will also challenge the effectiveness of an exemption granted to religious organisations.
The 27-year-old man, who has asked to remain anonymous, says he is determined to fight the AOS decision and has taken his case to an employment tribunal. For its part, the AOS believes it was fully justified in its decision not to employ an active homosexual in a pastoral role. The AOS is an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and is concerned with the spiritual and social welfare of seafarers.
The charity’s National Director, Commodore Chris York, confirmed that he offered the man a job as a port chaplain before he knew he was homosexual. York told The Tablet that during a discussion about where he would be based, the man disclosed that he could not be completely flexible because he had a lease on a house and was in a relationship with another man.
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which came into force in December, make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. But the change has been a matter of controversy for religious groups, which maintain that their churches, schools and charities should be free to turn down non-believers and other applicants who do not conform to church teachings.
Pressure from faith groups helped to force a special exemption from the regulations, but this exemption has already been taken to judicial review in the High Court by a group of unions, including Amicus, which has a section for clergy. A decision is pending. It is understood that a second employment challenge to the Catholic church using the same legislation is in the pipeline.
The Times has an editorial The Passion. Two excerpts from this appear below.
Extreme sacrifice and extremism
Given the suffering which so many endured during the 20th century’s age of extremes, the ebbing of faith in certainties might seem to be a welcome development. And for many contemplating what has been done in the name of religion in Iraq this Holy Week, the influence of a highly politicised form of faith must seem almost wholly malign. If this is what mankind does in the grip of religious fervour, then many will yearn for a world without such passion.
On this day, however, we are called to remember a passion of a different kind, and the extremes to which one man was driven because of faith, and draw a very different message. The Easter narrative helps us to understand that what the world needs is not a retreat from faith, and religion’s moral codes, but an approach towards the mystery of creation marked by the humility of Jesus and infused by the sympathy that He showed to all mankind.
The journey to Calvary that Jesus made was, however, for them as much as anyone. He confronted the ultimate extreme - a painful death and the cries of the world jeering in His ears - to prove that compassion can triumph over calculation, and that sacrifice can redeem sin. He required a faith that might be considered so strong as to be extreme. But His quiet adherence to the principle of love, and the willingness to sacrifice His interests for others, and then His Resurrection, completed a symbolic but real journey, and began a new phase of human spirituality.
The extremists who challenge our peace this Easter come not as Jesus did, to redeem, but as His tormentors did, to uphold an arid purity and proclaim a vengeful power. Their faith is a political religion, like fascism or Marxism, their vision is exclusive and self-indulgent, and their hands are clenched round a gun. The faith of Jesus was of a very different kind: His outstretched hands on the Cross were there to embrace all mankind. If the world is to overcome the dark passion of those whose hate drives them to violent extremes, it can only be helped by contemplating the message of compassion from the One who went to the ultimate extreme for love.
The Diocese of Sydney made news in Australia recently because of the questionnaire that all candidates for ordination, or clergy seeking to become licensed in that diocese, are required to complete.
The Australian Priests forced to reveal sexual past
Sydney Morning Herald New priests to be quizzed over sexual history
ABC Radio Anglicans use questionnaire to weed out potential paedophiles
ABC Bishop stands by sex questionnaire
Today, the Church Times publishes further reports on this, at Sydney probes clergy sex-lives and also publishes the full text of the questionnaire itself. The text of the covering sheet entitled “Privacy Statement” is shown below.
I will have more to report on this topic soon.
ARCHBISHOP’S OFFICE PRIVACY STATEMENT
The Archbishop’s office respects your privacy.
The Archbishop’s office is responsible for supporting the Archbishop in discharging his episcopal functions and also administers the diocesan Registry, Professional Standards Unit and diocesan Archives.
We usually collect personal information such as a person’s name, age, contact details, occupation and family details to discharge these functions but we may collect other personal information as well. We use this information for the proper administration of the Diocese including assessing ordination applicants, licensing clergy and lay people for ministry in the Diocese, administering professional standards within the Diocese and recording significant historical events in the diocesan archives. When we collect sensitive information, as defined in the Privacy Act, we will collect it with your consent when required to do so by law.
The Archbishop’s office may disclose your personal information to third party service providers, agents or contractors such from time to time to help us to provide our services. If we do this, we generally require those parties to protect your personal information in the same way we do.
We use a variety of physical and electronic security measures including restricting physical access to our offices and the use of firewalls and secure databases to keep personal information held on IT systems secure from misuse, loss or unauthorised use or disclosure.
Where appropriate, we will handle personal information relying on the small business exemption.
Generally, you can access personal information we hold about you. If we deny your request in some circumstances we will tell you why. Please contact the Registrar at Level 1, St Andrew’s House, Sydney Square, Sydney NSW 2000 or on 9265 1519 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for access to your personal information, if you have a complaint about the way we handle your personal information, or if you would like more information about our approach to privacy, other members of the Anglican Church of Australia or our third party service providers, agents or contractors.
Pierre Whalon wrote another essay at AO on Thought, Love, and Bishops. This discusses at length some of the theological issues arising from the New Hampshire consecration. Recommended reading and not susceptible to short quotes here.
Meanwhile John Heidt, who was once in Cheltenham but is now in Fort Worth, wrote this open letter to the American bishops, which analyses the reasons for conservatives among them not participating fully in the ECUSA House of Bishops meetings. It also is recommended reading.
Again conservative comment can be found here.
Peter Akinola spoke out again. The Associated Press reported it, for example Africa’s Top Anglican Warns U.S. Church.
Archbishop Peter Akinola said the future of true Anglicanism in the United States lies with conservative minority opposition groups within the Episcopal Church who oppose gay marriage and the church’s approval of an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
Akinola also said in a telephone interview that unless conditions change, he will not attend meetings alongside the leader of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, or attend the 2008 meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops if the U.S. hierarchy participates.
Akinola underscored his support of the conservative minority over the weekend when he met in Atlanta with leaders from the two main U.S. organizations that oppose toleration of homosexual activity: the American Anglican Council and the recently formed Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.
Akinola said the Episcopal Church “is trying to redefine Christianity and rewrite Scripture, and we have no right to do that. The historic faith of the church is what we stand by, and there is no going back.”
In the archbishop’s view, although those who favor liberal policies on homosexuality have a clear operating majority in the U.S. church, he strongly backs the minority and its new network.
“It’s either repent and come back to the fold, or give up on the Anglican family,” he said.
And read this about Nigerian religion, from a Lagos newspaper: Nigerians Only Pretend to Be Religious — Mbang
Nigeria is said to be the most religious nation in the world. How do you react to such a report?
I’ve talked about this several times. We have so many churches on the streets, in fact in every street, you have a church, but that doesn’t make a country religious. It is the quality and calibre of people you have that can make you describe a country as being religious. The kind of people we have in Nigeria, with all these killings and corruption at the high and low places, it is difficult to say that Nigeria is religious or it may be religious through other religions; talking of Nigeria being a religious country outside Christianity and Islam, maybe you can say so. People in these two religions, they pretend to be very religious but when they go into their offices, it’s a different story. Most of these people who kill people, come to our churches and when they come to take Holy Communion, they will walk very holy and shout holy, holy, and you don’t know them. So that’s the problem, and I’ve raised the issue at various occasions I have gone to. What Nigerians need to work for is to see how they can produce quality God-fearing people, Christians after God’s heart. We have very few of them in Nigeria today.
Stephen Bates reported in the Guardian some time ago now:
Bishop gives warning on equality law.
A Church of England bishop has stepped out of line with his colleagues by warning religious organisations not to campaign too vociferously for exemptions from equality legislation to avoid having to employ gay or transgender people.
David Walker, the Bishop of Dudley, warned that if faith-based groups campaigned too hard to be allowed to employ only those who shared their religious beliefs, they risked losing their special status in society.
Here is a fuller version of what David Walker said on this subject.
Completely unrelated to the above, I found this story from Uganda about Equality in Norway:
So Many Rights Yet So Far From Utopia. The whole report is interesting, but I can’t help mentioning that Norway has had a woman bishop since 1993.
Theo Hobson writes in The Times about the Church of England under the headline Is the Pope a Tory? Some extracts:
Until quite recently the Church of England was sometimes called “the Tory party at prayer”. Today this could hardly be further from the truth: the Church looks more like the Lib Dems at prayer. As for the Tory party, it now chooses to pray elsewhere.
For more than a decade, the most prominent religious voices in the party have been Roman Catholic rather than Anglican.
A generation ago, the Tories’ Roman tendency would have scarcely been credible. Tories were Anglicans, almost to a man: Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Hogg, Powell, Heath. To understand this shift in the Tories’ religious allegiance we must consider the party’s disenchantment with the Church of England as well as its attraction to Rome.
The Tories were the party of the monarchy and the established Church: they sought to protect these institutions from the reforming zeal of the Whigs, to defend the common national faith. This remained the case well into the 20th century - until the 1950s, in fact. Then came the 1960s: dramatic secularisation effectively ended the Church’s traditional role of the nation’s moral guardian. In effect, the Church was semi-disestablished by 1980. As its identity became less national, it became more radical. It moved away from its Tory image, and it often pursued a global agenda (poverty, disarmament), at the expense of what the Right called the national interest.
The Tories’ resentment at liberal Anglicanism is still going strong. There was a good example in The Sunday Telegraph a few months ago: a leading article called Rowan Williams “An Unworthy Archbishop”, for daring to criticise the treatment of suspected terrorists. Tory orthodoxy still entails the claim that the Church of England is a failed guardian of the national soul, which is safer in Tory hands. And, for many Tories, in Roman Catholic hands.
But what about Rome’s old image as essentially unpatriotic? During the second half of the 1990s this evaporated with startling speed. The Queen herself began to demonstrate her openness to the old religion: she attended a service at Westminster Cathedral in 1995, and later invited Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor to officiate at Windsor. It became commonplace for her to treat Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism with equal respect - this was especially evident in her Christmas broadcast of 2000, in which she paid homage to the Pope.
The Credo column is by Maurice Glasman and is Religion without reason results in violence and injustice.
In the Guardian, Rob Marshall writes about The true meaning of Lent.
From the February General Synod of the Church of England, Monday evening.
Revd Stephen Coles (London) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
Q. In view of the blessing by a diocesan bishop of all who sail in the largest cruise liner in the world, has the House given any consideration to the question of consistency of the Church’s approach to the use of forms of blessing which endorse, or might be seen to endorse, sexual relationships of a kind which are inconsistent with the Church’s official teaching?
The Bishop of Oxford to reply as the Chairman of the House’s Group on ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’:
A. There are two aspects to the question. First, the blessing of the Queen Mary II by the Bishop of Winchester was not an endorsement of any particular behaviour amongst passengers. Secondly, as far as consistency is concerned, the church has always recognised that blessing are appropriate in some circumstances and not in others. As far as blessing of different relationships are concerned, this will no doubt be discussed during Wednesday’s debate on Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate and the York Diocesan Synod motion on cohabitation.
The Oxford branch of controversial Middle Eastern cult ‘Christianity’ has, in a surprising move, chosen a man as leader of the Reading area. This leader, or ‘bishop’, will be required to wear purple and oversee the cult in Berkshire.
Cult members in Oxfordshire were stunned by the move. Giles Fraser, a mercenary recruited during the Talk Wars of 2003, commented, ‘Purple? Leadership? That does seem a role more suited to a woman.’
Others were more welcoming. Philip Giddings, Hobbit-in-Chief of Greymalkin, Reading, smiled enigmatically and commented: ‘Lovely, just lovely, but can I have fries with that?’
‘Christianity’ began in the Middle East, but spread to the UK using trading routes, disease vectors and giant hollow whelks. Those infected with the ‘Anglican’ strain of the virus are known to display a love of cake-making, fete-throwing, floral dresses and, more recently, vicious in-fighting.
email from a journalist
Last year, Stephen Bates and Andrew Brown reported that the English Churchman still supported slavery. More recently the English Churchman published the following equally amazing comment.
Bishop of Oxford Sets Up Internet Parish
Having been blocked from his attempt to appoint a sodomite as Bishop of Reading the Bishop of Oxford is now setting up an internet parish or virtual church for those unable or unwilling to meet people face to face.
It is proposed for those wanting to learn about Christianity in a non threatening but somewhat impersonal manner. Of course it will not be able to judge people’s behaviour so if any sodomites, paedophiles or other notorious sinners want to join surreptitiously there is likely to be no hindrance to them.
Congregations without the practice of discipline are not new to the Church of England. Congregations without biblical preaching are not new either. What is new is the idea of a parish without meeting together for the sacraments or to know who our brethren really are.
While the internet has a part to play in the church it is a tragedy that it should be seen as a substitute.