Monday, 31 May 2004

Canadian news

While the General Synod of the Church of Canada is meeting, I will put reports relating to it on the Thinking Anglicans blog. The reports can be found from here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 31 May 2004 at 11:13 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 30 May 2004

Sunday papers

Update The BNP election programme recording, with Lord Carey’s name on the sound track, and showing the newspaper clippings, can be viewed and heard from this page. As noted below, the BBC objected to this.

The Sunday Times religious affairs correspondent Christopher Morgan reports today under Carey ‘inspired’ broadcast by BNP that the British National Party claimed that comments by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, had inspired its election broadcast this weekend which was sharply critical of Muslim extremists.

The BBC insisted on the removal of Carey’s name from the broadcast, but the clip continued to show the newspaper cuttings reporting Carey’s recent attack on Muslims.
Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, said yesterday that in its election broadcast the party had taken a “softer” line in criticising Muslims than Carey.

Griffin said yesterday: “I would have liked to have had the whole thing (broadcast) attributed to him because it lends a certain amount of gravitas to it and makes it sound more respectable.”
The BNP broadcast warned of what it called “the growing threat from Muslim extremists living here in Britain”.
It also said: “The BNP has no quarrel with the Islamic world . . . but we insist that Muslim fundamentalists are stopped from trying to Islamicise Britain.”

Carey was unavailable for comment this weekend, but Lady Carey described Griffin’s claim as “ridiculous”.

In the Observer Jamie Doward reports in Williams: TV soaps are good for priests that the Archbishop of Canterbury has called on priests to watch soap operas as a way of helping them connect with parishioners in the real world. The sermon in question is now available on the archbishop’s own website (you will have to look hard to find the reference to soaps).

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Saturday, 29 May 2004

CofE news roundup

Ruth Gledhill had a report in The Times about what the Methodist Church of Great Britain has to say on Church and State, Methodists urge Anglicans to loosen state link

THE Methodist Church is demanding a loosening of the ties between the Church of England and the State if the two churches are to move towards closer unity.
A report prepared for the Methodist Conference in Loughborough next month will come close to proposing disestablishing the Anglican Church in England. It makes particular criticism of the bishops who sit in the House of Lords, describing them as “too part-time” and says fewer bishops would make for “more effective representatives”.
While not proposing a complete severance of the ties between the Established Church and the State, the report proposes that the role of the Crown in the appointment of bishops is abolished. It also calls for “clarification” about the role of the Queen as Supreme Governor.

Over at the Telegraph Jonathan Petre reported that David Hope “launched a fierce attack on his own church, Archbishop attacks ‘Pop Idol worship’.

Dr Hope said worship had to be accessible, but also had to convey a sense of the awesome.
“The temptation, indeed the reality, I experience in quite a number of churches is simply to ape the passing styles of the times,” he told the students.
“Worship as entertainment; worship as distraction quite other than what it truly is or should be, namely the giving of worth to God.
“It is ironic that just at the time when not only so many young people but older people too have been captivated by the Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings genre of literature and film, the Church in its worship seems to have abandoned the mysterious in favour of the banal.”

And in Bishops in racism warning Petre also reported that

Voting for political parties that promote racism is like “spitting in the face of God”, a group of Church of England bishops warned yesterday.
A statement signed by 11 bishops from the West Midlands urged voters to reject groups that stirred up racial or religious hatred, discrimination or fear of asylum seekers.

And the Church Times reports Fears remain for small theological colleges which refers to the report mentioned in Regional Training Partnerships.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 May 2004 at 11:04 PM GMT | TrackBack
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AoS tribunal case withdrawn

I have reported twice previously on the employment tribunal case that was brought against a Roman Catholic charity for discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The complainant has now withdrawn from the case. The AoS issued a press release which appears below in full. They now assert (but why did they wait so long?) that their withdrawal of the employment offer was not because the applicant was homosexual, but because he was “in an open relationship outside of wedlock”. This is curiously described in the press release as “not discriminating… on any…grounds”. What they mean of course is that they DID discriminate, but on grounds which they consider to be lawful.
The High Court decision to which reference is made in the press release did not alter the law. It is the same now as it was when the case was brought.

Apostleship of the Sea - Press Release (only on demand):
Friday, 14 May 2004
Applicant withdraws discrimination case against Apostleship of the Sea
Statement by Alexander King, Director of Fundraising & Media:
“Our legal representatives, were approached by ACAS yesterday, and were told that the applicant was willing to withdraw his accusations if we did not pursue him for legal costs.
We have agreed to this settlement on the basis that the applicant is effectively withdrawing the case accepting that the matter cannot be pursued further.
The settlement by the applicant seems to be in recognition that, in effect, AOS has no case to answer, especially following the High Court’s decision to uphold the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2002 and Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
For the avoidance of doubt we wish to make it clear that the applicant has not received any payment from AOS to resolve this case .
We would like to restate that we did not discriminate against the applicant on grounds of his sexual orientation or on any other grounds. AOS has at all times acted fairly and lawfully with regard to his application for employment. In settling this case, we believe that the applicant now accepts this to be true.
We made this clear to him at the time, stating that, as an agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, we could not employ anyone for a role in ministry as a Port Chaplain who was in an open relationship outside of wedlock as this was contrary to the Catholic values that the post holder was required to uphold. This applies irrespective of the sexual orientation of the candidate.
AOS strives at all times to treat all individuals equally and with respect and actively seeks to encourage fair treatment for all.
We are pleased that the matter is now concluded and that we can continue with our mission alongside international seafarers, under the patronage of Our Lady, Star of the Sea.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 May 2004 at 7:05 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Eames on the Lambeth Commission

Two items have been published by ENS which those watching the work of the Lambeth Commission will want to read.

Robin Eames gave a speech in New York City, and was also interviewed there by Jan Nunley, Neva Rae Fox and Matthew Davies.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 May 2004 at 5:57 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Whitsun weekend

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph writes concerning False concerns about Muslims

There are far fewer Muslims in Britain than you might think. Indeed, everything about religion in English daily life is quite different from our impressions. Or so a new Home Office study suggests.

Roderick Strange, writes in The Times about Pentecost, If we receive the Spirit, we can overcome the Darkness

I remember [the Canadian Jesuit, David] Stanley remarking in relation to Pentecost that there was no nostalgia in the New Testament. He referred to the way people, nowadays, will sometimes say how much they would like to have seen Jesus during His public ministry. They believe that it would have strengthened their faith if they knew what He had looked like, if they had heard the sound of His voice, if they had seen how He walked. They look back to the public ministry of the Christ as to a golden age. How unlucky are we to have missed it?
At first, the point may seem obvious, but, Stanley observed, it is a view which is utterly foreign to the New Testament. There is no trace of it there. Nobody is looking back. Thomas, it is true, wanted to be able to put his finger into the wounded hands and his hand into Jesus’s side, but that was not nostalgia. He wanted proof to conquer his doubt. So why was there no nostalgia?
It is because, Stanley explained, the public ministry of Jesus for the writers of the New Testament was not the golden age. For them that began with this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That was the start of the golden age. It runs from Pentecost to the Second Coming of Jesus. Why look back? This is the golden age. We are living in it now.

In the Guardian Tom Wright also writes about Pentecost: The spirit of the age

But also, Tom Wright is interviewed at length by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter which you can read here (thanks Tim). All Lambeth Commission watchers should study the full text of this interview carefully. A few excerpts are also embedded in this column.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 May 2004 at 9:54 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 26 May 2004

Mary Ann interviews Rowan

Today, Mary Ann Sieghart of The Times has published an interview with Rowan Williams.

The transcript of the interview is here. This transcript is not in the printed edition of the paper. Another copy of it is here.

A short news report about the interview: Archbishop attacks pursuit of short-term goals. This is not the same version as the article that is in the edition of the newspaper that I read.

A leader article about the interview Portfolio people - The Archbishop says life is not a multiple-choice question.

Two articles by Mary Ann Sieghart reporting the interview Am I happy? No… life isn’t like that and …But here are some things that do make me happy. Another copy of the first article is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 26 May 2004 at 11:31 AM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 24 May 2004

more on the 18 primates

A followup to this item.

Justus Waimiri in Nairobi has sent an email to ECUSA HQ stating that only 10 primates were present in Nairobi. However, 5 other bishops also signed the statement.
The provinces thus represented were:

Primates present
The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria
The Most Rev. Dr. Bernard Malango, Primate Central Africa
The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev. Dirokpa Balufuga Fidele, Primate of Congo
The Most Rev. Joseph Bringi Marona, Primate of Sudan
The Most Rev. E. M Kolini, Primate of Rwanda
The Most Rev. Samuel Ndayisenga, Primate of Burundi
The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez Bahamas, Primate of West Indies
The Most Rev. Yong Chung, Primate of South East Asia
The Most Rev. Greg Venables, Primate of Argentina Southern Cone

other bishops present
The Rt. Rev. Mouneer Anis, Bishop Diocese of Egypt (in Province of Jerusalem and Middle East)
The Rt. Rev. Dinis Sengulane, Representative Province of Southern Africa
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Nicodemus E. Okille, Representative Province of Uganda
The Rt. Rev. Jean Claude Andrianjafimanana, Dean, (Province of) Indian Ocean
The Rt. Rev. John Chew, Bishop of Singapore (in Province of South East Asia)

So it’s still not clear who the 18 primates actually are.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 24 May 2004 at 2:39 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 23 May 2004

women bishops

Update for coverage of the report when published go here

The BBC radio programme Sunday today interviewed John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds about this subject, including the forthcoming Rochester report.

It’s ten years since women were first ordained priests in the Church of England and yesterday the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds held a conference called “A Vision Realised?” to mark the occasion. They also published the result of a survey of parishes in Leeds and parts of North Yorkshire, which have experienced the ministry of women priests. It reveals a widespread satisfaction with the work of those priests and overwhelming support for women to be allowed to become bishops.

There is also a report on this subject in the Church Times, based on what Bishop Wallace Benn wrote in the Chichester diocesan newsletter, Women - bishops group agrees report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 23 May 2004 at 1:45 PM GMT | TrackBack
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cult controversy

Rowan Williams has declined to become a patron of Inform as Stephen Bates reported in the Guardian last Monday, Cult experts snubbed by archbishop. His two immediate predecessors as archbishop had each, in turn, been patrons.

Then, Damian Thompson wrote in the Spectator about this, The stink from Lambeth Palace.

And today, the BBC Sunday radio programme carried this 7 minute feature (listen with Real Audio) which interviews Damian, Colin Slee, Eileen Barker and representatives of other anti-cult groups.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 23 May 2004 at 1:31 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 May 2004

Religion columns

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes about why Christian values must always face judgment and scrutiny. Starting from Tertullian’s question “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” he goes on to discuss the relationship Christianity should have with Culture today. He concludes:

Christians have therefore a twofold responsibility. They are called to find God in the undergrowth, the unexpected places of contemporary culture, and to welcome all who are explorers and searchers and seekers. But there can never be an uncritical endorsement of culture. Whether it be the rhetoric of multiculturalism and political correctness, or the pick-anmix individualism that makes subjective choice the measure of truth, or the popular cults of celebrities or consumerism, these are as much under the judgment of the God of sacrificial love as the ideology of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.
Likewise, the Church is always under judgment, for its compromises, its human weakness, and its failure to live out more plainly the deep compassion of Christ. But the saving grace is that at the heart of the Church’s life is the penitent knowledge of its weakness and failure and of the healing that can transfigure and transform it. The saints have always known themselves to be sinners in need of redemption, and have rejoiced in the love and grace which comes down to the lowest part of their need.
Christians live always as those looking up to the Ascended Christ, to the love that reigns victorious, and as those who know that love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit He has given to us. To live by that knowledge and vision is to live for that Christian culture and society, in which values, choices and judgments are shaped by likeness to Christ.

The Times also has an interesting report by Greg Watts on Theatre Ministry. Celebrating the theatre of faith.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph discusses some religious books in A better bowl of cherries.
I failed to report earlier that last Monday the Telegraph also carried a news story about the Church of England that did not refer to sexuality. Church of England finds fertile ground in France.

The New York Times has a column by Peter Steinfels that is headed A Thorny Issue Begets Much Reading. This is occasioned by the US republication of The Way Forward? Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church. Below is some of what Steinfels has to say:

Despite the inevitable unevenness of any collection like this, and a disappointing sense that the evangelical authors of the St. Andrew Day’s Statement have not quite engaged their critics, “The Way Forward?” operates at a level far above the usual battling about a handful of biblical passages and the usual volleying of stereotypes and sentimentalities. Yet to read these essays is almost to despair.
For one thing, simply by way of contrast, they bring to mind how rarely it is acknowledged that the current debates about homosexuality involve matters that remain unsettled, matters about which serious thinking is still required and about which more than one side may have points worth considering. The prevailing attitudes are quite different: Either resistance to revising the traditional Christian teaching (or the traditional legal arrangements) can only be the fruit of bigotry or uninformed fundamentalism; or the demand for change must spring from accommodation to a permissive culture or surrender to relativism, individualism, hedonism, etc., etc.
But still more daunting is the fact that these theological essays are in fact genuinely theological. The St. Andrew’s Day Statement begins its brief exposition of underlying principles with the straightforward declaration, “Jesus Christ is the one word of God. He came in human flesh, died for our sins, and was raised for our justification.” And the essays, even where they attend to empirical and cultural issues, make God and God’s self-revelation, whether in Scripture, creation or tradition, the framework for their judgments.
This is not, in other words, psychology or sociology or political philosophy presented in a religious wrapper. It is theology. It is a theological exploration of a theological question. And who, in the sound-bite-driven state of religion no less than of secular culture, actually has the patience, the appetite or the resources for that?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 May 2004 at 10:03 AM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 20 May 2004

local papers roundup

The Barnet Times carries this picture of Jeffrey John to illustrate its story Clergy back gay dean:

More than 40 clergy in the Diocese of St Albans have signed a letter signalling their support for the appointment of an openly homosexual dean.
The letter, which can be viewed by visiting the diocese’s web site, said the 47 signatories wanted to express their excitement and joy’ at the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, who claims to be celibate but is in favour of same-sex relationships.
The letter said: “We see nothing in his appointment, his lifestyle or his views that contradict scripture, tradition and reason, and hope that, in the long run, those who find the appointment hard will be able to engage in a sensible and rational discussion of the issue of homosexuality, which we do not see as one to impair the unity of our diocese.”

Note: the letter is not on the diocesan website, only linked from there as is the DEF statement; the letter is in fact on the site of St Peter’s Berkhamsted.

The St Albans Observer carries a report of last week’s news under the headline Tax rebellion over gay dean. This action by a single parish in Barnet has already been reported in various papers including last week’s issue of the Observer’s sister paper in Barnet (same ownership, same webserver), so to describe it as an “escalation” is misleading.

THE row over the appointment of gay priest Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans escalated this week with one church openly rebelling by refusing to pay its diocesan tax.
Holy Trinity Lyonsdown, an evangelical church in New Barnet, is withholding its yearly parish quota of around £33,600 in protest at the appointment of Dr John.
Each church pays a stipend to the diocese which then redistributes some of the money to enable churches to pay their clergy and costs. Anything above that is kept by the diocese.
Lyonsdown’s decision means it will pay its own clergy and donate the extra funds believed to be around £5,500 to a charity that helps gay Christians live a celibate life.

Comment: For “some of the money” above read “about 80% of the money” as that is roughly what comes back to Lyonsdown out of its quota payment. But beyond this, the vicar lives rent-free in the diocesan-owned vicarage. And Mr Dobbie has elsewhere stated to the bishop:

As a matter of principle, which I am sure you will understand, we request forthwith not to receive financial benefit of any kind from the diocese.

but he has not yet announced that he will move himself and his family out of the vicarage. (See here for more detail on all this.)

The Herts Advertiser carries no news reports about any of this, but has only a number of letters from the public, some of which are against the appointment.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Who are the Global South primates?

18 of them are reported to have signed the most recent statement. As is so often the case with this group, their names are not listed on this statement.
So I checked earlier statements.
This one was signed by 14, representing 13 provinces:
1. The Most Rev. Peter Akinola Nigeria
2. The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez West Indies
3. The Most Rev. Greg Venables Southern Cone
4. The Most Rev. Joseph Marona Sudan
5. The Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi Kenya
6. The Most Rev. Livingstone Nkoyoyo Uganda (outgoing)
7. The Most Rev. Henry Orombi Uganda (Incoming)
8. The Most Rev. Fidele Dirokpa Congo
9. The Most Rev. Donald Mtetemela Tanzania
10. The Most Rev. Bernard Malango Central Africa
11. The Most Rev. K.J. Samuel South India
12. The Most Rev. Alexander Malik Pakistan
13. The Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung South East Asia
14. The Most Rev. Ignacio Soliba Philippines

I suppose it’s safe to assume that all these except Nkoyoyo are among the 18.
So who are the additional five primates?

The most likely candidates appear to be among these seven:
The Church of Bangladesh
The Episcopal Church of Burundi
The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)
L’Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda
The Church of North India (United)
The Church of Ceylon (Extra-Provincial to the Archbishop of Canterbury)

I welcome more definitive information on this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 May 2004 at 2:47 PM GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Telegraph spins again

Jonathan Petre, writing in the Telegraph today under the headline Liberals in church ‘pursuing gay agenda’ purports to quote Drexel Gomez:

The Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, said that last month’s appointment of Dr Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans had seriously undermined pleas for the warring parties to show restraint.

What Drexel Gomez actually said can be read in full here and the relevant bit in context is:

There is no small feeling amongst conservative members of the Communion that they are being asked to show restraint whilst the liberal agenda moves ahead, with bishops in ECUSA taking action against conservative parishes; the Church of Canada proceeding to debate the blessing of same sex unions; dioceses in the Episcopal Church actually going forward with the authorisation of such rites, and the appointment of known advocates of same sex unions to senior office in the Church of England. This is only likely to create a situation where the playing field is perceived as skewed - conservative reaction is held back, whilst liberal viewpoints are allowed to claim too much territory. It creates the question in many minds, “Why should we wait, if others are not showing the same restraint?” I should be grateful therefore if some way could be found of addressing this question, and pointing out to our Communion that in the period of preparation of the work of the Lambeth Commission, restraint needs to be shown on all sides, and provocation to “precipitate action” avoided.

Note that the Telegraph’s headline phrase gay agenda in scare quotes does not exist anywhere in the letter which refers rather to “the liberal agenda” (whatever that might mean) and also no person is named anywhere by Gomez.

If the entire headline was in scare quotes, that would reflect the view that Gomez is claiming something that is not in fact the case. I suspect this is not the view of the Telegraph however.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 May 2004 at 11:27 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 18 May 2004

primatial statements

Another rash of these.
First, Njongonkulu Ndungane has called for the understanding and patience of the Church community in Africa in the wake of criticism by the African Provinces of the ordination of openly gay persons.
Second, there is an exchange of letters between Drexel Gomez and Robin Eames. In this Archbishop Gomez complains that Robin Eames’ earlier letter was one-sided in its call for restraint.
And third, there is a Statement of the Global South Primates which is datelined Nairobi, Kenya, 16 April, but has only appeared on the web on 18 May. Although stated to be signed by 18 primates, their names are not listed: it is signed by Peter Akinola on their behalf. The content is somewhat more detailed in relation to ECUSA/New Westminster than the CAPA statement issued in Nairobi on the same day. They make detailed recommendations to the Lambeth Commission (on which some of them sit).

The Commission should include in its Report a specific call to ECUSA to repent; revoking and rescinding their decision and action regarding the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop in the Church of God.

Should ECUSA fail to comply within three months, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates should then take appropriate disciplinary action, which should include the suspension and ultimate expulsion of ECUSA from fellowship and membership of the Anglican Communion.

Recognition and full Episcopal and pastoral oversight should be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to those dioceses, parishes and laity within ECUSA who continue to uphold the historic faith and order of the Anglican Communion.

Similar measures should be applied to the Bishop and Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada for their unilateral approval and implementation of rites for the blessing of same sex union.

We also request the Commission to give urgent consideration to the renewal of mutual accountability and the harmonization of constitutions and canons of the various Provinces in the Communion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 18 May 2004 at 10:28 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 17 May 2004

Telegraph gnaws

No other national paper has continued to mention St Albans except the Sunday Telegraph. Elizabeth Day had Rebel parish to fund ‘cure’ for homosexuals.
And this was echoed today by the London local evening newspaper the Evening Standard which had Vicar defiant in gays protest.

Update
And Church is divided over gay clergy issue from the Hendon and Finchley Times on Tuesday echoed the earlier Barnet and Potters Bar Times account by the same reporter. More on this below.

The Telegraph story concentrates on the intended beneficiary of the parish’s decision, the True Freedom Trust, but notes that

Martin Daly, the trust’s assistant director, refused to comment on the donation, insisting that the organisation had yet to decide whether to accept the money.

The Telegraph also reminds us that another similar body, the Courage Trust, had changed direction because

In 2001, the Courage Trust, a charity founded in 1990 to “heal” homosexuals, declared its mission to have been wrong, saying that such relationships were “God-given”.

The Standard quoted Mr Dobbie as saying:

“The biblical position on homosexual practice is consistent and clear, and it is against the Creation ordnance (sic) of God. This appointment is provocative and distressing for many Anglicans.”

Neither paper explains to their readers that some 80% of the so-called parish “tax” asked by the diocese is used to pay and house their own vicar.

The Hendon Times feature expands further on the position taken by the Courage Trust and Jeremy Marks:

Mr Marks said he was very, very sorry indeed’ about Holy Trinity Lyonsdown’s decision to withhold their quota.
“That sort of action in that sort of public way just means they are shooting the Church of England in the foot by refusing to accept a man eminently able to do the job. It’s shabby tactics and it’s divisive,” he said.

The Courage Trust home page links, I found, to the following article about the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 May 2004 at 3:02 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 15 May 2004

another Saturday in London

In the Guardian Giles Fraser writes about Luther, love and Gloria Gaynor. His remarks will be familiar to those who have read his recent University Sermon.

In the Telegraph Christopher Howse writes about Lancelot Andrewes The insides of a private diary.

In The Times Jonathan Sacks writes that The family is where we find passion, affection and companionship.

Also, Ruth Gledhill writes about her experience attending the Ship of Fools cyberchurch. Ruth’s article is here. Here is a quote:

It was an extraordinary experience, resembling a real church service and yet at the same time being completely different, akin to one of the “out of the body” dreams I used to have. Sitting in front of a computer screen, I quickly identified with the yellow-haired onscreen avatar, a sort of ecclesiastical Lara Croft that had been designed for me by the “creator”, Darrell of specialmoves, who was also in church.
Besides raising my arms and yodelling “Hallelujah!” I could kneel, cross myself, stand up and sit down, walk around, get up into the pulpit, heckle the bishop during his sermon and wander down to the crypt to chat and scrutinise the noticeboards.
The preacher was the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, who had been vested a bit too lowly for his liking.
Bishop Chartres is a princely, patriarchal figure who seems to hail from an earlier age. His nickname in ecumenical circles is “quiverful”, a psalmic reference to the four children he has with his wife Caroline. In real life, he is a man of steel ? the steel nib of a fountain pen.

The full text of his sermon can be read here.

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Thursday, 13 May 2004

Support for Dean

UPDATE Thursday 21 May
The increased signatures on this letter have made it into a news story, published on the web Wednesday, Clergy back gay dean in the Barnet and Potters Bar Times. (The St Albans diocese includes part of the London Borough of Barnet.)

This week in the Herts Advertiser, a local St Albans newspaper, there is a letter from 37 clergy of the diocese. The “original” of this letter appears here and now 20 May (21 June) shows 40 47 50 54 signatures.

SIR, - As 37 clergy in the Diocese of St Albans, from a variety of parishes and traditions, we wish to express our excitement and joy at the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans.
He is a noted teacher and theologian committed to the mission and growth of the church and will be a great asset not just to our Cathedral and Abbey church but also to the whole diocese.
We see nothing in his appointment, his lifestyle or his views that contradict scripture, tradition and reason, and hope that in the long run those who find the appointment hard will be able to engage in a sensible and rational discussion of the issue of homosexuality, which we do not see as one to impair the unity of our diocese.
We also wish to thank the Bishop of St Albans for his courage in allowing this appointment, to express our loyalty and support to him, and ask that others respect and honour his authority.
REV DUNCAN SWAN, REV JO SPREADBURY, REV HILARY DERHAM, REV JOHN HARMER, REV NIGEL JONES, REV CANON HALL SPEERS, REV PETER WADSWORTH, REV MICHAEL BURNS, REV MARK J. WILLIAMS, REV RICHARD WATSON, REV RORY REYNOLDS, REV JOHN K. WILLIAMS, REV DR. PAUL ANDREWS, REV ANNE-MARIE RENSHAW, REV MARK BONNEY, REV RICHARD PYKE, REV AUDREY ROSS, REV PETER BOLTON, REV PETER COTTON, REV CANON ERIC JAMES, REV CANON BILL RITSON, REV CANON JOHN TIBBS, REV SIMON MANLEY-COOPER, REV MARTIN WRIGHT, REV BRENDA TIPPING, REV CANON CHRISTINE FARRINGTON, REV GRAHAM NEWTON, REV ANNE LINDSAY, REV DAVID LINDSAY, REV CANON MELVYN BARNSLEY, REV MARGARET BREWSTER, REV CAROLINE DRURY, REV CANON ROBIN BROWN, REV CHAS BREWSTER, REV JANE BASS, REV JAMES REVELEY, REV GEOFFREY WHITE.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 13 May 2004 at 8:15 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Flood of Anglican news

First, the Telegraph has a further trial balloon about what the Eames commission might propose: Written constitution plan to avoid Church split.
Then Robin Eames speech to the Irish General Synod is here and it contains a section on the work of the commission.
Rowan Williams preached at this synod and his sermon is here.

Meanwhile Jane Williams spoke to the Mothers’ Union and this was reported in the Times, Telegraph and Guardian. These three accounts of the same speech are interesting for their differences. Here is part of Ruth Gledhill’s report:

Mrs Williams, who has two children and is a theologian in her own right, teaching part-time at Trinity College, Bristol, was giving an address at the Mothers’ Union in Westminster to mark the International Year of the Family.
In the lecture, her first since Dr Rowan Williams became Archbishop last year, she said the “family” was near the top of the agenda for the churches and described a “generalised anxiety” about the family.
“We have a faint if not very well substantiated belief that families are more fragile than they have ever been before,” she said. “There is a tendency towards a kind of romantic nostalgia, as there is about the Church, a tendency to believe there was once a time when families worked, and it was probably at the time when everybody went to church.”
Describing the rising expectations of family life, she said: “Our Western society has put intolerable pressures on the family by assuming that it should be all-sufficient and that it should be the basic carrier of Christianity.”
But she said that the task of being, not just a Christian family but any kind of stable family, became much harder “if the things that make families work are not valued or demonstrated in the society in which real families live.”
Mrs Williams continued: “Families can be left with the feeling that the salvation of society rests on their shoulders and that, if only they can get it right, then all will be well. But families are as prone to mistakes as any other corporate body.”
While acknowledging that family-based churches, where everything revolves around children and young mothers, can be vital for mission, she added: “They can often be deeply alienating for those many in our world who are not part of functioning families.”
She continued: “If we value families, we need to build societies in which families can flourish. And that means not putting too much pressure on families to be perfect. Families cannot build our society. Our society needs to build families.”

Oh yes and a while back (thanks KH), Emily Winsett a journalism student at Columbia University published Gene Robinson’s Consecration Recalls the Debate on Women’s Ordination. Other stuff of hers can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 May 2004 at 3:35 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Lyonsdown suspends parish share

UPDATE Revised Thursday 21 May
More on this can now be found at this website. More precisely, what is there is a copy of the letter sent by Mr Dobbie to the Bishop of St Albans, and another covering email note from Mr Dobbie to the general public. Some quotes from that below.

The Telegraph reports today that Holy Trinity Lyonsdown has said it will refuse to pay any money to the Diocese of St Albans.

In what is thought to be an unprecedented act, Holy Trinity church in Barnet, north London, has told the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, that it will not pay a penny of the £33,600 the diocese expects.
The Rev Charles Dobbie, the vicar, said that he blamed Bishop Herbert for approving the appointment of Dr John, the openly homosexual cleric who was forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading last summer.
Mr Dobbie, a member of the conservative evangelical Church Society, said he hoped that other churches, some of whom already withhold parts of their quotas, would follow Holy Trinity’s lead and pay nothing.
“We were shocked and grieved by the appointment of Jeffrey John last month,” he said. “We have decided to stand up and be counted.”
He added that he would not now expect the Church Commissioners to pay for his upkeep, and any extra money the parish held would go to a Christian charity ministering to homosexuals.
Church sources said that the decision would have little impact on central finances, though the position could change if a large number of parishes followed suit.

This parish, which serves a population of 6500 Barnet citizens, had in the year 2003 an electoral roll of 97 though Easter communicants totalled 77.

The story was reported in more detail later in the day by the Barnet and Potters Bar Times which had Church rebels over gay dean:

A conservative evangelical church in Barnet made history this week by refusing to pay its diocesan ‘tax’ in a rebellion against the appointment of an openly gay Dean of St Albans.
In what is thought to be an unprecedented step in the Diocese of St Albans, Holy Trinity Lyonsdown, a C of E church in Lyonsdown Road, New Barnet, is withholding its yearly quota of around £33,600 in protest against the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John, who was forced to stand down following a public outcry after his appointment as Bishop of Reading last year.
Canon John professes to live a celibate life, but as the new Dean of St Albans supports same-sex relationships.
The Rev Charles Dobbie, vicar of Holy Trinity, said the church unanimously agreed at a Parochial Church Council (PCC) meeting on Sunday not to pay a penny of the voluntary contribution.
Mr Dobbie said: “We have suspended the quota in its entirety with immediate effect and until further notice until the situation changes for the better.
“It is our expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy.
“We are just an ordinary parish church in the Church of England and we hope other churches will follow our lead.”
Because Anglicanism is an established church, Canon John’s appointment was decided by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert. Rev Dobbie said the church’s quarrel is not with Dr John, who has always been candid about his position, but rather with Bishop Herbert, who approved the appointment.
He also revealed the money that would have gone to the Diocese was being donated to a Christian charity ministering to homosexuals, the True Freedom Trust. The charity aims to support Christians who are gay to live a celibate life with the support of the church.
Bishop Herbert criticised Holy Trinity’s decision as ‘misdirected’ and one which would not help resolve different views.
He said: “Where honestly-held views are at variance, the action by Lyonsdown does nothing constructively to carry forward the discussion. We need to listen deeply to each other and not take precipitate action.
“As an action of protest, it is misdirected. I suggest that the way forward is now to work for greater understanding, whilst acknowledging our differences, rather than making public gestures of protest.”

The Diocese of St Albans issued the following statement today:

Statement on the decision of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown to suspend their parish share contribution.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert has noted and is saddened by the unilateral decision of the Revd Charles Dobbie and the Parochial Church Council of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown to suspend the payment of its parish share.

The Bishop comments:
‘I am deeply aware that there are strongly and sincerely held views about the appointment of Dr John as Dean of St Albans. There are many who welcome the appointment but some who find it distressing. In these circumstances, where honestly held views are at variance, the action by Lyonsdown does nothing constructively to carry forward the discussion that needs to continue between and amongst Christians and others. We need to listen deeply to each other and not take precipitate action.
Parishes in the Church of England are asked to make a payment, known in this diocese as the parish share, not to the Bishop, or even to the diocese of which they are a part, but as a contribution to the ministry and mission of the Church of England as a whole. Anglican churches throughout England receive the stipend for their clergy from the common source of these payments. The withholding of such funds can only place more pressure on other churches which continue to work hard to raise the requested payment for the good of the whole. As an action of protest, it is thus misdirected.
I suggest that the way forward is now to look to the ministry and mission to which all Christians in this diocese are called and to work for greater understanding, whilst acknowledging our differences, rather than by making public gestures of protest.’

From Mr Dobbie’s covering email:

Anticipating publicity, we have sought to make our stand (which reflects, as far as I can tell the wish of every member of our church which feels privileged to remain at the centre of historic mainstream Anglican orthodoxy) as principled as possible. To that end we have made clear to our diocese that we do not wish to receive any financial benefits from them at all with immediate effect. Allowing for this, we reckon that we will have about £5,500 left over from our quota which we intend to donate to True Freedom Trust - an evangelical Christian charity that works amongst homosexuals. We have thus sought to avoid any charges of profiteering or financial opportunism in our action.
In suspending our quota we have simply invoked (as a matter of conscience) an existing right to choose not to pay what is voluntary. I have confirmed with counsel that this is legally watertight and the diocese has no right of redress, retaliation or punishment against us. Indeed, I understand from legal advice that the quota system is “may be unlawful since it’s not made under the authority of parliament” - which is probably why it remains voluntary. I hope that other churches might follow suit and use their existing legitimate rights in this matter.

Mr Dobbie seems to have overlooked the fact that he currently lives rent-free in a house belonging to the diocese. To avoid receiving any financial benefit from the diocese, will he voluntarily move out?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 May 2004 at 10:05 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Reports from Sydney

Recently the Church Times published this report from Sydney by Humphrey Southern, The new Puritans down under.

This generated a number of letters claiming it was inaccurate, including one (published this week in the paper edition) by no less than Archbishop Jensen himself which I will link here when it is available electronically. Also, Mary Ann Sieghart wrote an article for The Times on 21 April which was based in part on this article, Anglicanism’s new holy warriors. Mary Ann said in part:

The fundamentalist Diocese of Sydney - and its outposts abroad - can now be seen as the Church of England’s militant tendency.
THINK OF SYDNEY and what springs to mind? A beautiful, cosmopolitan, liberal and laid-back city with a flourishing gay community? You would be only half-right. This wonderful Australian city now also plays host to the most narrow-minded, puritanical and zealous brand of Anglicanism, a new puritanism that is trying to establish itself over here.
Worried? You should be. These hardline fundamentalists are using all the tools of entryism familiar to students of the Labour Party in the 1980s. The diocese of Sydney - and its outposts abroad - can now be seen as the Church of England’s Militant Tendency.

Moore College has exported its New Testament lecturer, David Peterson, to become principal of Oak Hill Theological College in London, which is now producing fundamentalist clergy clones for conservative evangelical churches here. For English conservative evangelicals, Jensen has talismanic status. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that it was Jensen’s people who managed eventually to block the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. If the Anglican Church were to split over homosexuality, the hardliners would follow him as leader of the conservative wing.
Sydney’s militant Anglicanism is as exclusive as its political counterpart. Jensenism sees no role for the Church in society; it is there only for its members. And any straying from scriptural orthodoxy is swiftly stamped upon. When Professor Horsburgh dared to defend homosexuality in a synod committee, his views were described as “heresy”, “apostasy” and “defection to the enemy”. When he stood up to speak on another subject in the synod itself, he was hissed. The Sydney synod is no longer, as it should be, a forum for debate but, as Professor Horsburgh puts it, “a rally for the Diocesan Mission”.

More recent real life events in Sydney generated all this in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Parents in tears as choir’s 130 years of tradition wiped out
Once discarded, church fabric will be hard to replace
Go forth, muscular Christians

This older report also describes some of the history mentioned in the last item.

Anglican Media Sydney responded with this statement from the Rev Chris Moroney.

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Reports from Africa

The Lagos Vanguard reports Gay Controversy: Anglican Communion Vows to Resist Lobby which says in part:

DESPITE threat to the fabric of the Anglican Communion, the primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) has reiterated its resolve to uphold the traditional faith and practice of Anglicanism without compromising same under financial inducements from the West.
Speaking at the Bishop Vining Memorial Cathedral Church in Lagos, last week, CAPA president, Archbishop Peter Akinola who is the primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) confirmed that the African primates held a meeting in Kenya, at the end of which, they made recommendations to the Lambeth Commission on the way to resolve the logjam.

Archbishop Akinola who is also the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said the next step to the resolution of the crisis which has gravely polarised the Anglican Communion will be dependent on the response of ECUSA.
He also revealed that if there are no visible signs of repentance on the part of ECUSA, then CAPA will meet again to determine the next line of action, stressing that the African primates had resolved to reject future financial assistance from the unrepentant Episcopal Church.
“To hell with their money,” he said, adding “the Church in Nigeria gives financial assistance to several other churches without making much noise about it…because we believe it is Godly to support one another in the Body of Christ.”
The primate said: “Let them go to hell with their money. We do not need their money because we will not, on the altar of money mortgage our conscience, our faith and salvation.”

In another report from Nigeria, Newswatch reported what Ola Makinde, Methodist Archbishop of Lagos said on this:

Newswatch: What is your position on the issue of gay bishop?
Makinde: Well, the primate of Anglican Church, Archbishop Jasper Akinola had said the minds of all Nigerian Christians and all Christian’s leaders. Gay is never even discussed in African society. You don’t talk about it. Gay or Lesbianism, so it is a pervasion of Christianity and Christian culture. So it is in Nigeria or Africa, it is not acceptable. We were are waiting for a time we will go to World Council of Churches because we have World Council of Churches where all the Christians in the world will meet. Anytime, we see a self confessed Gay bishop or reverend we’ll withdraw. We will withdraw from World Council of Churches. It is incompatible with Christianity especially African Christianity and time has come now when we should go and re-christianise the white people. They brought Christianity here and they have perverted it. We must now go and re-christianise them. The leading church today is England, especially in London is established by a Nigerian. We must go there and re-christianise them.They need to be re-christianized. I am telling you. Christianity in Europe is gone and is secularised. It’s secularised more than you can think of and we cannot accept that. So the ordination of gay bishop or reverend is not even discussed in African culture. In Nigerian culture. It’s never mentioned and we don’t even want to. We are assuring you that we will never take it. We wouldn’t pervert Christianity at all.

This article also has sections on many other aspects of Nigerian church life.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 May 2004 at 10:09 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Anglicans in Ulster

The Belfast Telegraph has a report today Ulster & its Churches: How attitudes have been changing which is the first of two to summarise the findings of recent research undertaken by the Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive, known as ARK. The main source document is a pdf file available here.

Update
Here is part two of the Telegraph feature.

Here is the part of the Telegraph article about Anglicans in Northern Ireland:

CHURCH OF IRELAND

CHURCH ATTENDANCE
AROUND 14%-18% of the population claim membership of the Church of Ireland but, in common with the other denominations, regular church attendance has dropped in recent years. While 35% of respondents said in 1989 that they attended church every week, this had fallen to 30% in 2002.
However, the proportions who never attended church have remained strikingly unchanged over the period at around 18%.
The report reveals that there has been some decrease in the proportion of members who pray frequently but no increase in those who never pray. When it comes to involvement in activities or organisations connected with the Church, however, there has been a significant drop - from 17% to 7% - in those who took part nearly every week or more frequently. Those who never take part in church activities have risen by 3% to 43%.

IDENTITY
WHEN it comes to political allegiance Church of Ireland members have remained staunchly unionist at 69%-71% in the period 1989-2002. However their feelings of national identity have been less constant. In 1989, 65% considered themselves British but this had risen to 76% by 2002. This rise concealed several significant fluctuations.
In 1996, two years after the paramilitary ceasefires the proportion identifying themselves as British dropped to 58%. Three years later the figure had soared to 76%.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS
THERE has been a considerable liberalisation in Church of Ireland members’ views on mixed marriages over the years from 1989 to 2002. Figure 4 reveals that in 1989, 47% of Church of Ireland members said they would not mind a close relative marrying someone of a different religion. By 2002 this figure had increased to 66%. Correspondingly, the proportion who would mind a lot on this issue fell from 21% in 1989 to 13% in 2002.
The figures reveal that Church of Ireland members are more generally tolerant of mixed marriages than Presbyterians or the general Protestant population.
James Mehaffey, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, says the figures reflect the reconciling work of the Church. “The Church of Ireland is widely held to be a reconciling Church and has worked over the years to promote better inter-Church relations and increased ecumenical activity.”

MORALITY
ATTITUDES to pre-marital sex have become much more liberal during the 1990s. In 1989, 46% of respondents felt sex before marriage was always, or mostly always, wrong. By 1998 this figure had fallen to 27%. However, the vast majority do not condone extra-marital sex. In 1998, 84% said it was always, or almost always wrong, just a slight fall from the figure of 90% in 1989.
Church members have also become more liberal in their attitudes towards homosexuality. In 1989, 82% thought that sex between people of the same gender was always, or almost always, wrong. Indeed 79% thought it was always wrong. By 1998, those thinking it was always, or almost always, wrong had fallen to 67%.
Homosexuality is a topic of much debate within the Anglican Church, especially in relation to the ordination of openly gay clergy.
Bishop Mehaffey says that in spite of the softening in attitudes towards homosexuality it is clear that such debates will continue.
And he added: “It must be noted that a more liberal attitude toward homosexuality in general does not necessarily imply an increased acceptance of the appointment of openly gay clergy”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 May 2004 at 10:00 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 8 May 2004

British Saturday columns

AN Wilson has a review of Edward Norman’s book in The Tablet.
Anglican Difficulties: a new syllabus of errors
Snarling at the hand that fed him

The Guardian has Counting the cost of giving by John Newbury who asks Why should we give to those we do not know?

In his weekly Telegraph column, Christopher Howse discusses A prize for the best blasphemy.

The Times Credo column is by Stephen Plant, A dead church should not hold the living Church to ransom in which he discusses the threat of closure for a church building; some extracts:

THE local church I attend is threatened with closure. The property is in good order, the bank balance in credit, and there are no plans to build a ring road through its car park. But the congregation has simply shrunk to the extent that there are not enough people to do the work to keep it open or to fill the front rows at Sunday worship.

My church is situated in a densely populated area short on public buildings; it should be capable of sustaining the kind of community church its building is perfect for. Even if closure in these circumstances is the sensible thing to do, it will be difficult to see it as a shining gospel success.
I take seriously the sense of obligation to those whose energies and faith have been bound up in this local church. But a dead church cannot be allowed to hold the living Church to ransom. When I think it through I find that if we are to give my local church one last chance it must not be as a way to keep its past alive, but because of the fragile possibility that it might have a future as a community of faith and as a centre of service to its local community.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser asks
Does the brutality of Iraq make all forces like Saddam?
As bad as each other?

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Friday, 7 May 2004

Giddings on St Albans

I see that the “Anglican Mainstream” website has today removed the links from several web pages to wholly unauthorized copies of the St Albans diocesan arms still resident on the AM web server. I look forward to finding those links broken soon.

The site also published two new sets of complaints by Philip Giddings against:

A. the appointment of the new dean, and
B. the bishop of St Albans.

These are described by AM as “emerging issues”. But none of the points listed in part A have arisen since Saturday 17 April when AM issued this statement and raised not a whisper about them. So the description is false.

On the other hand, in part B Dr Giddings makes party political charges against the Labour government. This certainly is new territory for attacking a bishop.

By the way Dr Giddings fails to mention that two bishops spoke in support of the Civil Partnerships bill in the House of Lords, one of whom was his own Bishop of Oxford (the other was the Bishop of Peterborough).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 7 May 2004 at 10:36 PM GMT | TrackBack
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The Times on St Albans

The Times today has a report by Ruth Gledhill, that on the web is headlined Gay dean is backed with an early start, which asserts that:

THE installation of Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans has been brought forward by three months as a signal of the cathedral’s support for the celibate gay clergyman at the centre of the Church of England debate over homosexuality.
Opposition in the St Albans diocese to Dr John, currently canon theologian at Southwark, has been gathering force and evangelicals have been meeting to plan a strategy to force his withdrawal, as they did from Reading last year.
The move of the installation service at St Albans to July from October is an indication that liberals in the Anglican Church are no longer prepared to allow themselves to be held to ransom by their more conservative brethren.
Senior clergy in the St Albans diocese want to avoid a repetition of what happened in the Oxford diocese, where evangelicals mounted a successful international campaign against the appointment of Dr John, an open but abstinent homosexual, as Bishop of Reading. Dr John was persuaded to stand down by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The cathedral has published the text of a letter sent to the editor of the paper today:

Dear Editor,
Your report ‘Gay canon to thwart critics with early start,’ (Friday, May 7th) claims that the installation of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans had been “brought forward by three months as a sign of support at the cathedral.”
It is true that the Cathedral Chapter and the vast majority of the congregation have shown their support for the appointment and are looking forward to Dr John’s installation and ministry here. In addition, the Abbey has received numerous messages of support for Dr John since the appointment was announced.
A range of dates were considered when the Abbey, the Bishop of St Albans and Jeffrey John were available, and we chose the earliest date, as the Abbey community has been without a Dean since Christopher Lewis’ last Sunday in July 2003, before he left to be Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.
Cathedrals need Deans, and we are keen to have Dr John in this key role as soon as possible.
Yours faithfully,
Stephen Lake
The Revd Canon Stephen Lake, Sub Dean

Addition
The CEN was the only other journal to mention St Albans this week.

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Thursday, 6 May 2004

More local responses

See previous responses here including today’s St Albans Observer story.
The Herts Advertiser had this story Early July date for new Dean.

There are lots of letters to the editors about the new Dean of St Albans in both the local papers this week. Unfortunately only one paper has its letters on the web, but as many letters appear in both papers, it doesn’t matter so much. For seven days only, you can find links to all of them on this page

Among them was this:
Bigots’ response.

SIR, - Having learned of the proposed appointment of Jeffrey John as the Dean of St Albans, I was delighted to think that this man, who had suffered such despicable treatment last year resulting in his withdrawal from his appointment as the Bishop of Reading, should be coming to work in our city. However, not surprised but still extremely disappointed, I read in your newspaper, other local papers and the national press about the 40-strong band of “god-fearing folk” who under the collective of the St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship met and have publicly expressed dismay at his appointment.
What I find more sickening are the comments made by readers insinuating that because of his disclosed sexuality he would be a threat to our community, our young and to the church as a whole. Why do they really think that this man is a real threat, given his career to date, his achievements and his dedication to the Church? What grounds do they have to levy such insinuations?
Do the testimony of his peers, the likes of the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, Canon Stephen Lake and the Rt Rev Richard Inwood, count for nothing by way of endorsement for a man who would be a great asset to the Abbey and diocese of St Albans? I believe that these prejudicial thoughts and beliefs are borne out of blinkered bigotry that comes from the inability to, or wanting to comprehend and assimilate a new situation or concept when confronted with it. The scriptures will be quoted as shields and weapons to attack Jeffrey John. However won’t the scriptures also teach that concept of being a good Christian is the ability to show compassion and tolerance to all?
The use of the scriptures and their interpretation not only lead to persecution of individuals, as I believe is the case here, but also lead to conflict and wars as we are witnessing on a day-to-day basis.
With the types of attitudes expressed by what seems to be a small yet powerful contingent within the church, it does not take a rocket scientist to hazard a guess as to why congregations are on the decline. How many of the people in the fellowship cited above or those who are quick to spout unfounded vitriol through “letters to the editor”, have taken time out to contact Jeffrey John and air their grievances directly. Very few I guess. Let those without sin cast the first stone.

A couple of others are worthwhile:

Typical reaction (from a rabbit fancier)

New Dean (from the local Quaker Meeting)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 May 2004 at 9:21 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 5 May 2004

Communion news roundup

Robin Eames has issued a letter to the primates and moderators of the Anglican Communion about the work of what is now called The Lambeth Commission on Communion. This deserves a careful reading in full.

And there were two news stories in British papers about what the commission might recommend. One could spend too much time analysing these rumours. Better, I think, to ponder Dr Eames’ words.

The Times had Church may split into a federation over gay clergy

According to a source close to the Lambeth Commission, canon lawyers are preparing for its second meeting next month in Kanuga, North Carolina, by studying the set-up of the worldwide Lutheran church, which embraces wide degrees of theological and ecclesiological difference, to see if this model could be adapted to suit the Anglican Communion.
The source said: “The quality of the communion depends on how far the Western Church is willing to sacrifice its lesbian and gay members.” The source indicated: “The primates will be circulated with the recommendations late July.
“The sort of federation we can expect will probably mirror the Lutheran model, with full members, non-voters and observers, depending on what they?ve been up to.”

The Telegraph had Williams leads ‘star chamber’ to avert gay crisis

An all-powerful “star chamber”, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected to be created under proposals to avert the collapse of worldwide Anglicanism over homosexuality.
As part of a blueprint drawn up by advisers, Dr Rowan Williams will be granted significant new powers, though not sufficient to transform him into an Anglican “pope”.
The archbishop would preside over a final court of appeal, allowing him to exercise the “judgment of Solomon” over warring factions in the 70-million strong Church.
This would be resisted by liberals keen to preserve the autonomy of their provinces, the 38 individual churches of the Anglican communion.
But it could help appease conservatives furious that liberals defied the will of the majority by endorsing Anglicanism’s first openly homosexual bishop in America.

Last weekend, the BBC had a radio interview with Njongonkulu Ndungane. You can listen with Real Audio here, or you can read the transcript provided by “Anglican Mainstream” here. He said in part:

Interviewer: But having come from such totally different position on homosexuality, doesn’t it suggest that you have had to compromise a lot? You said that you have had to work together to strengthen the position of the Church in Africa on the issue of human sexuality. Given the vast majority of Anglican leaders in Africa opposed to Gene Robinson election opposed Jeffrey John, that seems a turn around on your part?
Archbishop: No I think you have to got to put things in perspective, I think that our church has said quite clearly that we said “no” to same sex unions and I think that is where we find commonality on that one aspect of that resolution. But, we go further than that we in the church of Southern Africa, in the sense we take the cognizance of the report of sixty bishops who met and talked about this matter, together with the clauses of that resolution which call for on going discussion, and listening to the voice of gay and lesbian people. So in a sense we are being faithful to the resolution of Lambeth, and it is our hope that we can go at in that kind of way.
Interviewer: So you stand by your position, you spoke in favor of Jeffrey John last year. Therefore you welcome Jeffrey John’s appointment as Dean of St. Albans, would you?
Archbishop: Well definitely I think that we have got to recognize that we are a communion with autonomous provinces that each of our provinces have got standards, they have constitutions and they have got canons governing the running of their churches. And therefore Jeffrey John’s appointment of Dean of St. Albans is in accordance with the criterion that is set up by the Church of England and that we, as part of the Communion, must accept the integrity of processes.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 May 2004 at 9:26 PM GMT | TrackBack
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St Albans local responses

From Watford, David Phillips has issued yet another press release on behalf of Church Society and sent a letter to Rowan Williams. All his St Albans-related missives can be downloaded from here but only as pdf files. It’s not clear why David persists in using this clumsy method, but for the convenience of TA readers, I reproduce the latest items in full below the fold.

And from Luton another newspaper story about Nicholas Bell appeared today. Canon Bell said:

“I convened a meeting of evangelical clergy and lay people throughout the diocese.
“It was without rancour and without vitriol and there was a high level of grace within the debate. But the crux of it was the issuing of the statement which registered our serious disquiet.
“If this appointment goes ahead it is pushing the Church of England in a certain direction which I am very unhappy about, towards the liberal view of the blessing of same sex relationships.”

Update
The latest St Albans Observer local newspaper report says Dean welcomed by congregation and reports on the support within the congregation (and again about the messages received from elsewhere) and then adds:

We have been asked to clarify a statement made last week which claimed that the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship represented 40 churches.
In fact 40 people, both clergy and laity, were present at the group’s meeting.
Our reporter was unable to confirm how many churches the fellowship represents.

An earlier St Albans report is here: Churches Rebel over Gay Dean.

The interesting thing about the DEF press release is that a majority of the 100+ members of it did not attend the meeting and have not expressed an opinion.

Full text of Church Society documents

Archbishop should demand Canon John’s resignation.
Statement from the Council of Church Society:

We the Council of Church Society are shocked and appalled by the recent appointment of Canon Jeffrey John to be Dean of St. Albans. Mr John’s open advocacy of same-sex sexual activity flies in the face of the clear teaching of the Bible and the Church of England and therefore ought to exclude him from ministerial office.

We are astonished that Archbishop Rowan Williams has apparently failed to oppose the appointment of a clergyman who so shamelessly flouts the teaching of Scripture that sexual activity should be confined to a man and a woman in marriage.

We therefore call on Archbishop Williams to urge Dr John to resign.

The text of a letter sent to the Archbishop is attached.

The Most Rev & Rt Hon
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
London
SE1 7JU

Dear Dr Williams,

We the Council of Church Society are profoundly shocked that you have permitted Dr Jeffrey John to be Dean of the Cathedral of St. Albans.

We had understood that after the appointment of Gene Robinson you had called for a moratorium on such appointments until the Lambeth Commission has conducted its work. We therefore see it as deeply hypocritical that you and the Bishop of St. Albans have failed to oppose the appointment as Dean of a man who openly advocates same-sex sexual activity. The clear teaching of both Scripture and the Church of England is that sexual activity should be confined to a man and a woman within marriage. Anyone who teaches to the contrary is clearly unfit for ministerial office in this Church. We therefore call on you to urge Dr John to resign.

Yours sincerely,

David Phillips (Revd)
on behalf of the Council of Church Society

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 May 2004 at 5:55 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: St Albans

Tuesday, 4 May 2004

Dean's installation

The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban has announced the date of the new dean’s installation:

4 May 2004
CATHEDRAL WELCOMES NEW DEAN AND ANNOUNCES DATE OF INSTALLATION
The St Albans Cathedral Chapter and congregation have welcomed the appointment of the new Dean, Canon Jeffrey John, currently serving at Southwark Cathedral, and are looking forward to his installation in July.
Canon Stephen Lake, Sub Dean and Acting Dean said: “Jeffrey John brings to the Abbey a track record of scholarship and preaching, and a commitment to mission. We look forward to his arrival and his new ministry.
“The support for Jeffrey John from the Cathedral Chapter and congregation is clear. The vast majority of the congregation have shown their support for the appointment and are looking forward to his installation and ministry here. In addition, the Abbey has received numerous messages of support for Dr John since the appointment was announced.
“Cathedrals need Deans. We have been without a Dean since Christopher Lewis’ last Sunday in July 2003, before he left to be Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. The Abbey community is keen to have our new Dean installed this summer, one year on.”
The Installation of the new Dean will take place on Friday 2nd July at 5 pm. Arrangements for the service are currently being finalized.

The BBC reported on this as follows:
Cathedral backing for gay cleric

Gay Church of England cleric Jeffrey John has been given the backing of St Albans Cathedral where he has been appointed as the new dean.
A group of evangelicals had called for Dr John to withdraw his acceptance.
But their hopes were dealt a blow on Tuesday when the cathedral’s chapter said it welcomed the appointment and had received messages of support.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 4 May 2004 at 1:54 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 1 May 2004

further St Albans reports

The Church Times reports St Albans gives its new dean a mixed welcome.

Dr John’s future congregation at St Albans Abbey reacted warmly when his appointment was announced officially on Sunday by the Sub-dean, Canon Stephen Lake. A larger than usual congregation responded with a spontaneous and prolonged round of applause.
Canon Lake said it was “perfectly reasonable” that some would be concerned about the appointment, but this should be accompanied by “a commitment to honour both the appointment by the Crown and the individual as a person”.

The only “mixed welcome” appears to be among diocesan evangelicals, many of whom are not participating in any protest. The article quotes some of them. But for those who are:

Speaking after Tuesday’s meeting, Canon Nick Bell, Vicar of St Mary’s, Luton, said it was too early to predict how each church would react. “But I only have to look at my own congregation, which is mixed with a lot of African members. They take a very strong view on this and are very upset. At the moment there is a whole variety of possibilities about what we might do, but we want to talk first to the Bishop.

And here is what Richard Inwood, Bishop of Bedford said to the Luton local newspaper:

“Because I take a traditional view of homosexuality, when the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading was announced I was unhappy.
“But the situation now is he is living a celibate life and I am content he is living in accordance with Christian morality.”

And nationally the moderate evangelical group Fulcrum issued this Fulcrum Statement on the Appointment of the Dean of St Albans which seems very moderate to me. It concludes:

The Church has always been a place of debate, conflict and generous disagreement. Although Evangelicals have always accepted that there will be occasions when they will have to oppose the views of some in senior office, this does not necessarily require opposing their appointment to such office. In relation to human sexuality Fulcrum is supportive of the House of Bishops’ report Some Issues in Human Sexuality and therefore disagrees with Jeffrey John’s personal interpretation of Scripture in this area. It is important that all those who hold senior office show respect for the church’s teaching even when they disagree with it, and Fulcrum therefore welcomes Jeffrey John’s commitment to uphold rather than campaign against the church’s official teaching and to live within its guidelines. We continue to pray for him and the new diocese in which he will serve as he prepares to take up his ministry.

The Church of England Newspaper predictably hypes the level of opposition:
Church on brink of split and repeats the erroneous claim that Jeffrey John preached on inclusiveness last Sunday, see here for explanation.

The CEN also carries a discussion about Establishment of the Church of England prompted by this appointment:
Brian McHenry Establishment: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Tim Bradshaw Establishment: why the system needs reform

Bradshaw starts out:

Establishment of the Church of England has become a hot topic again because of the Prime Minister’s appointment of the new Dean of St Albans, and the Dean’s evident determination to forward his own controversial ethical agenda from the outset of his ministry there.

which suggests he simply hasn’t read the transcript of the press conference, or listened to it on the radio, as there is not a shred of evidence in what was actually said there for this false accusation concerning Jeffrey John’s “agenda”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 May 2004 at 1:29 PM GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Saturday slots

As usual British newspapers carry faith-related columns on a Saturday.

The Independent has Faith & Reason: Muslim terrorists embrace a very secular heresy by a Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University, Abdal Hakim Murad.

The Telegraph has Christopher Howse discussing Bats, We’re bats to put up with it

The Guardian has May Day, money and morality by David Haslam.

The Times has Roderick Strange discussing Vocations, It is a risky business to have a commitment to something.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 May 2004 at 11:14 AM GMT | TrackBack
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