Sunday, 3 October 2004

BBC Sunday programme

Two radio reports today:

Same sex blessings
The worldwide Anglican Communion finally gets to see the Eames Report this month. Named after Archbishop Robin Eames, who chaired the commission, it’s meant to chart a way forward out of the crisis over same sex blessings and the election of the practising homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson. Conservatives in Africa and around the world want The Commission to recommend throwing the Episcopal Church USA – or ECUSA – out of the Anglican Communion. And also to reject the man it endorsed as Bishop of New Hampshire. Many predict schism if the American Church isn’t called upon to “repent”. But as Jane Little reports from New Hampshire the break up is already happening. Listen here (9 minutes)

Women Bishops
The long standing row about whether women should be able to become Bishops in The Church of England, and whether one day there might be a woman Archbishop, is coming to a head. Next month the so called “Rochester Report” will be published but its contents have been widely leaked. It will apparently put forward seven options, from which Synod can choose. For Forward in Faith, the organisation which opposes the ordination of women as Bishops, or indeed as priests, there are only two options which they will outline in their own report, to be published next Friday. These are either to maintain the status quo where all Bishops are men, or set up an independent or free province of the Church for those who cannot accept women Bishops. Roger Bolton reports. Listen here (7 minutes)

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Sunday, 26 September 2004

Ripon on radio

The BBC Sunday programme talked to the people of Ripon, and others…

Last Sunday in Ripon Cathedral, The Bishop, John Packer, announced the suspension of the Dean, John Methuen. The Dean has protested his innocence. Although it isn’t clear what he is being accused of, there seems to be some concern about his allegedly autocratic style.
Interviews with members of the public in Ripon and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral in London, the Very Rev Colin Slee.
Listen (5m 24s) with RealAudio.

Yesterday, the Telegraph carried Suspension of Dean fails to silence whispering which contains a lot more background detail whispers.

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Friday, 24 September 2004

more on Ripon

The Church Times has this lovely picture and a report by Pat Ashworth
Dean of Ripon denies ‘conduct unbecoming’

The Church of England Newspaper has
Dean of Ripon to fight ‘autocratic’ charges

Earlier this week Leeds Today had this
Dean in cathedral row could be ‘defrocked’

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more on women bishops

Update for coverage of the report when published, see main TA blog here

See earlier report here.

The Church Times has a lengthy report by Rachel Harden , which lists
Seven options on women bishops

A chapter from a draft of the report lists seven options:
• maintaining the current status quo, whereby women priests cannot be made bishops;
• drawing up single-clause legislation to allow women to be bishops;
• allowing women priests to become diocesan bishops, but not archbishops;
• allowing women priests to become suffragan bishops, but barring them from diocesan posts and archbishoprics;
• allowing women to become bishops within a diocesan team, which would always include a male bishop;
• creating an extended form of episcopal oversight for those opposed to women bishops;
• establishing a third province within the Church of England for those opposed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 September 2004 at 8:54 AM GMT | TrackBack
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CofE on Terrorism

The Church of England has issued a statement Terrorism and Community Relations which is a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee from the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England. The press release says:

The threat of terrorism faces governments with the challenge of maintaining security without undermining human rights but some current counter-terrorist measures threaten to aggravate tensions between Muslims and other groups in British society, the Church of England has warned in a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee enquiry into the effects of counter-terrorism legislation on community relations.

This is partly due to legislation that creates a separate system, criticised by all-party groups, for indefinite detention of terrorist suspects who are not British nationals, says the submission from the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. It also points to other measures creating a sense of insecurity and stigmatisation among Muslims. Police, says the submission, should use powers of arrest and search even-handedly and media reporting should reflect more representative and responsible views from within Muslim communities.

The full text of the statement is available.

This has been reported:

Stephen Bates in the Guardian Anti-terror measures ‘alienate Muslims’

Bill Bowder in the Church Times C of E warning on terror law

The CT article has a useful link to the press release from the Institute of Race Relations concerning its recently published study which documents the facts in support of this (full IRR report available as a pdf file here).

Church of England Newspaper
Anti-terror laws harm Muslims, says Church
and also has a highly supportive editorial (text of this saved for posterity, below the fold as usual)

Church of England Newspaper
Editorial: The anti-terror laws

This week the nation has shared the indescribable trauma of the Bigley family as they await news of British hostage Kenneth Bigley. The rise in hostage-taking in Iraq is just one example of the unintended consequences of the high anxiety about terrorism post-9/11 and following the war in Iraq, lead us very often to seek someone to blame. For some it will be political leaders like Blair and Bush, for others, it is the policies of Israel while many more lay the blame entirely at the door of innocent Muslim communities.

Yet if we argue that terrorists are responsible for their actions we cannot then take steps to assign blame to the entire communities from which they come. Just as Muslims are primarily the victims of Islamist terrorism, so Muslims are indirectly the ‘victims’ of anti-terror laws which affect them disportionately. So argues the Church of England’s submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

The submission recognises the fine balance of maintaining security without undermining human rights, but argues that current counter-terrorists measures are aggravating tensions between Muslims and other groups in British society. It must however be pointed out that in any particular stop-and-search operations to identify terrorists those who are thought to be Muslim because of their ethnic identity are bound to be disproportionately affected.

The Church of England rightly has conducted a listening exercise for the past two years through the offices of Lambeth Palace. The anxieties of the Muslim community have been heard clearly in this exercise about the heavy-handed effects of the counter terrorist measures especially on non-British nationals, and about everyday problems faced such as stop-and-search policies as well as Islamophobia in British society. In any such listening exercise however, contradictory viewpoints from the communities involved will cancel each other out, and not all fears and concerns will be justified or well-founded.

In fact, since the terror attacks on 9/11 2001 the British public are probably better informed about Islam than ever before. They are more likely to know that not all Muslims are terrorists, despite the fact that terror groups claim to be mainstream in the interpretation of Islamic theology. And in fact, a great deal of sympathy for Muslim communities has followed the attacks, including many supportive measures undertaken by church and other community groups. Furthermore, Muslim leaders are increasingly demonstrating a renewed sense of responsibility in leading the communities to help police in identifying the terrorists who embed themselves in Muslim communities and those who recruit for terrorist groups. The Muslim community is signalling that it is moving away from the role of victim and recovering a confidence that arises from being an important part of British society.

The Church of England’s submission is a welcome support for another faith community in British life, but is in danger of portraying the diverse Muslim communities in Britain as helpless and in need of constant defence. In fact, robust as never before, Muslims in Britain are beginning to rise to the challenge of dealing with the specific problems of terror associated with extreme Islamist beliefs in concert with other faith groups and with the authorities.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 September 2004 at 7:52 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 21 September 2004

Who will be who in 2020

From the Guardian last Saturday:
Guardian Special The World in 2020

Ever wondered who will be holding down Britain’s top jobs - from Labour leader to Queen Vic licensee - in 2020? We canvassed expert opinion to bring you the definitive list. Just don’t hold us to it …

and the article included this:

Archbishop of Canterbury
Who? Canon Dr Judith Maltby
Current job Chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Age now 46

Nominated by Rev Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney, writer and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford

An awful lot would have to change in the Church of England before Judith Maltby could be enthroned in Canterbury: the church doesn’t currently allow women to be ordained as bishops. She would also be the first American to head the worldwide Anglican communion. She has denied any interest in becoming a bishop, but her admirers would be keen for her to change her mind. “She’s clever, she has a strong sense of social justice, and we need women in positions of power in the CofE,” says Giles Fraser.

(Thanks to Stephen for telling me about this)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 September 2004 at 12:39 PM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 20 September 2004

two unrelated news items

Stephen Bates reports in the Guardian
US bishops’ cash threat as split over gays widens

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is being warned that North American bishops will cut off funds from the Anglican church in Africa if they are disciplined for supporting the election of a gay bishop, in a row which threatens to split the worldwide church.

Update This story is generating a lot of comment from Americans, see for instance Money, sex and power by Doug LeBlanc which has lots of links to related material.

Ruth Gledhill reports in The Times
Carey fights for the palace Batman

THE former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, has spoken out in support of the intruders at Buckingham Palace, arguing that they were “right to draw attention” to their plight.

He said that the actions of the Fathers 4 Justice campaigners were born out of society’s “sad and sorry departure” from traditional marriage and the increasingly commonplace phenomenon of fatherless families. He also called for a radical rethink of the orthodox Christian understanding of marriage, which is based on St Paul’s dictum that “the man is the head of the woman”.

and the story concludes with this:

He said that the Church must also take responsibility for the situation, having for centuries assigned a submissive and compliant role to married women, which no longer bore relation to reality.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 September 2004 at 1:20 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Dean of Ripon suspended

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer has announced that the Dean of Ripon John Methuen has been ‘inhibited’ (the equivalent of being suspended on full pay) from his clerical duties following the laying of formal complaints against him under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure.

Under the Measure, formal complaints of ‘conduct unbecoming the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders’ are sent to an independent examiner who can either recommend their rejection or that the matters should be determined by means of trial in a Consistory Court. In a statement made to the Cathedral congregation today, Sunday September 19, Bishop John Packer says that while the Dean is clear that he has a full answer to the complaints, he has decided to inhibit the Dean under the Measure, while the legal process takes place, in order to eliminate, as far as possible, continued pressure and gossip.

Here is the official press release from the Diocese.

Press Association report: Dean Suspended in Church Probe
BBC Dean suspended in cathedral row
Telegraph Dean of Ripon suspended for ‘conduct unbecoming’
Guardian Dean suspended over ‘control freakery’

Update Here is the Yorkshire Post report by Michael Brown and Julie Hemmings Suspended dean faces ‘trial’ over conduct.

In a statement made to the cathedral congregation, Bishop Packer said:

“I regret to have to inform members of the Cathedral congregation that a number of formal complaints against the Dean of conduct unbecoming the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders have been laid before me under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure.

The Dean is clear that he has a full answer to the complaints.

However under the Measure, and to eliminate as far as possible continued pressure and gossip, I have decided to inhibit the Dean from the exercise of his office until such time as these matters are disposed of, either by a rejection of the complaints by an independent examiner, or by means of a trial in a Consistory Court.

Until that time the Dean will play no part in the life of the Cathedral and Diocese.

For the time being Canon Michael Glanville-Smith, as Senior Residentiary Canon, will take responsibility with his colleagues for the life and witness of the Cathedral. I ask for your prayers at this difficult time for Dean John and his family, and for all members of the Cathedral.”

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Sunday, 19 September 2004

women bishops?

Update for coverage of the report when published go here

Christopher Morgan in the Sunday Times reports that Women may be bishops but not archbishops. Here are two extracts that list the eight options:

The findings of a three-year inquiry headed by Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, this weekend drew accusations of misogyny after it emerged that three of its eight key options would deny women equal rights with men.

The options propose to allow women to become bishops but not archbishops of Canterbury or York; to deny them the chance to have their own dioceses; or to require them to be part of a team with at least one male bishop to chaperone them.

Of the five other proposals, one would see the church retain the status quo where women are allowed to be ordained only as priests or deacons. Three others anticipate a split in the church or exodus of male priests, while only one would give women the full rights to be appointed to every post in the church.

The report by Nazir-Ali, who was a leading contender for Archbishop of Canterbury two years ago, is an attempt to appease both the supporters of equality in the church and the traditionalist opponents of women bishops. However, this weekend it appeared unlikely to satisfy either camp as it does not come down in favour of any of the eight options.

… Of the three options that would entail a permanent junior role for women, one would allow women to be suffragan bishops but prevent them being a senior bishop in charge of one of the church’s 44 dioceses.

Another option would allow women to become diocesan bishops but not archbishops. This might satisfy the evangelical lobby who believe that within the church women should be under “male headship”. The report points out that this would “still entail the existence of a ‘glass ceiling’.”

Other possibilities could see the introduction of combined male-female teams of bishops in each diocese, or the division of the church to create a “male-only” province. This would provide a third, independent province, overlaying those of York and Canterbury and led by an archbishop catering for all who did not wish to be under a female prelate.

Nazir-Ali warns that if the church opts for straight equality for women bishops, this could mean traditionalists refusing to recognise them and leaving the church altogether. “This would be an extremely grave situation,” warns the report.

A final option would see priests opposed to women bishops being paid off to leave the church.

I’m not sure what’s so special here: for months now we have been told that the report does not make any recommendation but merely sets out the options. Now we have some data about the options listed. Only in the Church of England would it take three years to create a list of options…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 September 2004 at 12:48 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 18 September 2004

Saturday papers

Both The Times and the Telegraph report today that more young people in Britain believe in horoscopes than in the Bible.

Ruth Gledhill Horoscopes are new religion

Jonathan Petre The young put their faith in mysticism

Both The Times and the Guardian have columns by Rabbi Jonathan Romain (it is Jewish New Year): God, belief and action and The Bible is not a divine puzzle for our leisure time while the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times about Compassion has to coexist with a sense of human responsibility

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about St Theodore If anyone should be patron of racial harmony it is Theodore

and the Guardian has a report about another piece of Anglican history:
Defrocked rector was ‘unfairly vilified’

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Sunday, 12 September 2004

News on Sunday

The Observer has a report by Jamie Doward on Eames: Silence of gay bishops ‘will split Anglicans’.

There is also a report on the anniversary of “9/11” which leads with RW’s visit to Cairo, Christians ‘should show more respect’.

The Telegraph clearly disagrees with this idea, and reports on its own poll of clergy who found for them that Clergy vote Rowan Williams as ‘one of the least effective’ modern archbishops (read the story carefully to see what the questions and answers were).

And it carries an opinion column by Peter Mullen Don’t blame God, Dr Williams.

The same paper carries a news report, not by its religious affairs specialists, which says that Half of gay ‘marriages’ are conducted in church. This will be unwelcome reading to many conservatives.

And a story from yesterday that I missed:
Guardian Stephen Bates Churches should take yellow brick road to reaching people

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Saturday, 11 September 2004

CofE statistics reviewed

The Church Times has looked at the new statistics published on the web this week, and found the claim of 3 million a bit weak.

THE CLAIM was made this week that the size of the Anglican Church in England is “approaching three million”, rather than the often quoted figure of about one million.

The claim comes in the introduction to the latest set of statistics, for 2002, released by the Church of England’s research and statistics department on Tuesday. Its presentation is upbeat, despite the picture of widespread, measurable decline in almost every category.

Read the whole article C of E is three (or one) million strong which has the following useful table:

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Thursday, 9 September 2004

cornucopia in Guardian

Three religion stories:

Yesterday, Hywel Williams had an opinion column The trouble with George which is about George Carey. None of it is complimentary, here is a sample:

Never keen on his successor, Carey is as blunt as the present archbishop is opaque. Now he seems determined to give a voice to the church within the church, a movement that rejects not only liberal tolerance but also the church authority that once gave him a career. For the striking thing about the gay-phobic evangelicals of the US and Britain is that they are not really Episcopalians. They reserve the right to follow bishops they approve of and then to withdraw diocesan subscriptions if the local bishop fails to toe their line. They are, in effect, Congregationalists running their own churches and selecting their own theology.

Today, Stephen Bates reports on the new CofE statistics that were published yesterday (see Peter Owen’s announcement here).
Church counts its blessings. This report shows that credibility on this subject will not recover quickly from the past perceptions of statistical manipulation:

The church claimed yesterday that other statistics published this year, showing attendances continuing to decline well below 900,000, were wide of the mark and that a “more precise figure” showed an average of 1.7 million people attending church over the month (though only a million attending on Sundays).

and, a report on what Rowan Williams and others said at St Paul’s Cathedral:
UN ‘should listen to campaigners’.
Information about this series is available here.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2004

FiF comments on AM

“Anglican Mainstream” claims to have support from conservative catholics as well as evangelicals.

However, in the latest issue of the Forward in Faith magazine New Directions Geoffrey Kirk has this to say (you can read the whole article here):

Anglican Mainstream is a well-intentioned group of serious-minded Evangelicals. But it is a group which seems to have no tactical ability, strategical sense or basic ecclesiology. It claims fidelity to scripture as its salient principle – and yet many of its members have already departed from scripture in the matter of the remarriage of divorced persons and the ordination of women. In the first instance they are ignoring one of the most categorical dominical injunctions, and in the second they are setting aside Pauline texts arguably more comprehensive and definitive than those against homosexuality.

Mainstream has a lot of questions of answer. Why not, if a man’s sexual acts are more ecclesially significant than his expressed opinions, accept Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in the first place? Why refuse to receive the ministry of Christopher Herbert and not also refuse Richard Harries, Stephen Cotterell and Rowan Williams? Why was it more serious to appoint Dr John as Dean of St Alban’s than to appoint him as Canon Theologian of Southwark? And why was it more objectionable for him to be Dean of St Alban’s than for his self-appointed defender and advocate, Colin Slee, to be Dean of Southwark?

The English revisionists are, for the moment, very polite about all this. They have no need to be aggressive when they are winning so easily and so comprehensively. But American revisionists have begun, with great effect, to cast the same in the Evangelicals’ teeth. ‘You have already swallowed two things which scripture forbids and the tradition has comprehensively condemned,’ they point out. ‘Why are you gritting your teeth now at what is merely a consequential amendment?’

It is an accusation, of course, which implicitly suggests that, by making opposition to homosexual practice the cynosure of orthodoxy, Evangelical traditionalists are motivated more by homophobia than faithfulness to the Bible And, alas, it is an accusation which the incoherent behaviour of Anglican Mainstream and similar groups, makes it very difficult to refute.

In the same issue, Michael Heidt comments from America on the problems FiFNA has being part of what he refers to as NACDAC (with the final C standing for “congregations” rather than “parishes”). So perhaps these difficulties are not only an English issue.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 17 August 2004 at 9:30 PM GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Monday, 2 August 2004

Huge Hope press coverage

The morning newspapers just can’t get enough of it.
This picture comes from PA via The Times which runs four stories:
Archbishop stands aside to be a humble parish priest

Journey from palace to rural parish

Ascetic priest declined full pay

Rise of a reluctant archbishop

and a leading article On Ilkley Moor baht mitre

The Telegraph has two stories:
Archbishop seeks the simple parish life

From palace to pauper

and a leader comment with a similar title to the Times one: Ilkley Moor baht mitre

Two stories even in the Guardian
Archbishop of York to swap riverside palace for ministry in a local parish and

Father to 200 and no time for long walks

and again a leader comment A lesson to us all

The Independent has but one entry:
Archbishop of York quits for future as parish priest

And yesterday, Jane Little on the BBC Radio programme Sunday had this piece (Real Audio) about David Hope which includes an interview with Stephen Bates.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 2 August 2004 at 10:27 AM GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 1 August 2004

David Hope goes to Ilkley

Today, David Hope announced his resignation as Archbishop of York, to take effect from 28 February next year, and his plan to then become the Vicar of St Margaret’s Ilkley in West Yorkshire, in the Diocese of Bradford from early March 2005.

Here is the Diocese of York announcement.

Here is the Diocese of Bradford announcement.

The Press Association had Archbishop Returning to ‘Real Ministry’ of Parish Life
and the BBC had Archbishop of York to step down

The picture of him talking with some of his new parishioners comes from AP via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Here is a picture of the Norman Shaw church from the parish website, which sadly is a year out of date.

And if anybody reading this wonders where Ilkley is, the answer is here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 August 2004 at 9:14 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 30 July 2004

CT comments on Reform

Today, the Church Times carries a news report on the Reform statement discussed here earlier, Reform is ‘estranged’ in 11 dioceses, it declares, and also has a leader part of which comments directly on the matter:

Reform has issued a fresh statement that publicly declares impaired communion with bishops of named dioceses, and sets out its ominous intention of soliciting “adequate” episcopal ministry, and of requiring bishops to assent to three propositions in order to gain acceptance. This does seem, on the face of it, to take matters a step further. “We believe”, say its authors frankly, “it would be wrong to countenance delay and possible inaction.”

If this remains Reform’s considered view, then it will be obliged to act accordingly. But we wonder whether Reform is not in fact distancing itself from a large and fairly conservative constituency that would take an altogether more cautious line, and includes congregations no less thriving and zealous than those led by some of Reform’s supporters.

The appointment of Jeffrey John to the deanery of St Albans is one thing, and in many minds not at all the same thing as the elevation of Gene Robinson to the episcopate in New Hampshire. But there may well be an element of summer silliness not only in the timing of Reform’s statement, but in taking it as more than a message to the Lambeth Commission drafted in terms designed not to be ignored. Since it has set up a panel to offer Anglican leaders advice, Reform may also be willing to listen to the Commission’s advice when it comes.

The dioceses named by Reform are at least eleven because they mention

Hereford, Leicester, Newcastle, Ripon and Leeds, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Salisbury, Truro and Worcester [those who signed a letter in support of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading; of course the Bp of Hereford in question has since retired, has Reform noticed?]

Oxford and St Albans (whose diocesans have sought to promote Canon John to senior office)

some other dioceses where bishops have publicly supported the “gay-agenda” [an unknown further number]

and Canterbury, where the Archbishop holds that homosexual relationships can be compatible with Christian discipleship.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 July 2004 at 8:44 PM GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Reform paper in full

The full text of the paper published by Reform today and referenced in the adjacent news item can be found below the fold.

Update
The same paper can now also be found here and now even here on the Reform website!

REFORM
Ways Forward in the Present Crisis for the Church of England

“ … we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion.” (Statement from Anglican Primates, 16th October 2003)

The crisis that is upon us has been precipitated by some Episcopal churches in the USA and Canada approving certain same-sex relationships. However, that crisis is not simply about the consequences for the wider Anglican Communion. It has also brought to a head a crisis within our own Church of England. Although the Church of England has not itself yet taken any formal steps towards the approval of relationships involving same-sex intercourse, and while a number of bishops have courageously spoken out against such developments, it is clear that a significant number of our church leaders – both bishops and clergy – promote an outlook which is not substantially different from the one held by those who have provoked the present crisis in the USA and Canada. We believe this has happened because there has been a move away from trusting the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, and towards accommodating secular ideas of credal diversity; and also because both bishops and clergy have failed to “drive away” false doctrine. This diversity is demonstrated by a recent survey finding (Christian Research 1998) that 49% of clergy do not believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can be saved.

How should Church of England evangelicals respond to this crisis? Some believe we should wait for the Eames Commission to report, since this might make disciplinary action within the wider Anglican Communion possible and have helpful spin-off effects for the Church of England. While we acknowledge that the Primates have recognised the seriousness of the present position, most notably in their statement of October 2003, we are not confident that the present approach matches the urgency of problem we face. We believe it would be wrong to countenance delay and possible inaction in the face of such clear defiance of God’s Word by some of our leaders. This paper therefore outlines the case for action and has been prepared as a basis for consultation with members.

1. A fundamental issue

Sexual intercourse within same-sex relationships is not a matter for debate. Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 list this amongst various forms of sexual activity that, if they are lifestyle choices and not lapses subsequently confessed as wrong, will preclude people from entering the Kingdom of God. Clarity about this is therefore a salvation issue. What is at stake here is the very gospel of Christ, since if we will not accept the Bible’s definition of sin, it is difficult to explain which of God’s standards we intend to take seriously and on what basis; why salvation is needed; or what were the reasons for Christ’s propitiating sacrifice on the cross. We need to recognise this as a fundamental issue if we are ever to resolve the disunity that its emergence has caused. Jude 4 speaks of “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality”. Issues of immorality were fundamental then as they are for us now.

Some Christians believe that the issue of same-sex intercourse has become too charged. They are prepared to concede that the Bible could be interpreted as affirming the commitment of a faithful and exclusive same-sex relationship rather than condemning the sinfulness of any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. However, this is not compatible with serious biblical exegesis as Robert Gagnon has shown in his exhaustive study: ‘The Bible and Homosexuality (The Texts and the Hermeneutics)’. The recent discussion document from the House of Bishops Group on Issues in Human Sexuality itself reaches a not dissimilar conclusion: “ … the hermeneutical principles … and the consensus of biblical scholarship, still point us in the direction of the Church’s traditional reading of the biblical material.”

2. Discipline is needed

Canon A5 makes it clear that the whole church is under the authority of Scripture. Clergy are specifically charged by the Ordinal to “provide for the Lord’s family, to search for His children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations and to guide them through its confusions so that they may be saved through Christ for ever.” Under Canon C18, bishops have the duty of “driving away strange and erroneous opinions”. All of this implies discipline about what is taught in the church. We fully accept that this will mean engaging in a careful and gentle process pastorally with individuals as well as firmness where needed. However, there is no room for compromise in our teaching and necessary action. Our unity in the church is primarily confessional – ie we are united by what we believe, not by how much we are prepared to compromise.

The Bible says that special care should be taken to ensure that those with teaching roles in the church should avoid error and that believers should be on their guard against those who are ‘false’ teachers (eg 2 Peter 3:17). We are warned against tolerating teachers whose teaching leads to sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20) and urged to keep away from those who cause divisions by teaching contrary to apostolic teaching (Romans 16:17). Wherever we find such false teaching, whether among bishops, theologians, or even synods, we have no option but clearly to distance ourselves from it both by our teaching and by our practice.

3. We will not willingly secede

The authority of God’s Word lies at the heart of the Church of England’s confession. The Church of England is therefore a natural home for evangelicals and we will not willingly surrender it to a revisionist minority. It is this same commitment to God’s Word that aligns us with the mainstream majority in the worldwide Anglican Communion. We recognise that the Bible emphasizes the primacy of the local congregation, as does the Church of England, but this does not mean we are Congregationalist. We rejoice in the fact that we are a connectional church and thus look forward to the possibility of deepening our links with faithful brothers and sisters throughout the Communion and beyond.

We, therefore, see no reason why we should leave our church. However, we do believe it is incumbent on each congregation to stand firm in this current crisis and to safeguard their Anglican heritage. Our primary interest is not so much in the formal structures, as in our commitment to the Church of England ‘by law established’ and what that means doctrinally. Even so, we realise that maintaining that commitment may well involve action that others find uncongenial.

4. Continued gospel work is vital

The gospel remains the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Millions in this country are without Christ and perishing. The task of preaching the gospel is as urgent and, under God, as effective as ever. In the New Testament, Paul’s letters (eg 1 Thessalonians 2) show that in the face of much opposition, he persevered in preaching the gospel and training teachers. We must do the same even if their training and subsequent placement in full-time ministry prove controversial.

5. Principled action is required

The crisis facing us is not just that of doctrinal confusion over human sexuality, but a surrender of significant parts of the Church of England to a liberal unscriptural agenda, thus creating a huge gulf between those parts and what is at the heart of the Church of England’s confession. This has led to a serious decline: between 1989 and 1998, church attendance fell by nearly a quarter. “Slow death” is a situation not unknown in large secular corporations and industries. Management consultants identify three possible responses for those involved:

a) Peace and pay. This is where people maintain the status while hoping that the organisation will survive until their retirement when others can deal with the problem.

b) Active exit. In the church, this would mean leaving the ordained ministry or changing denomination.

c) Deep change. This is the only solution to “slow death”. It means caring enough to exercise the courage to confront issues. It can involve a) ‘breaking the rules’ (some of which may be strangling the organisation to death) – in the church this means not any, but principled irregularity; b) risking jobs; and c) driving forward into an uncertain and unplanned future.

6. Alternatives

Some evangelicals believe this is too gloomy an assessment and that other options are available. In practice these are:

a) Believing the issue will be resolved. In many cases, while people in this category may be avoiding wider engagement with the current controversy, their energies may be concentrated on actively furthering the gospel by outreach, church planting and internal growth. The drawback to this position is that it can be congregationalist in outlook. If we believe in a connectional church, we should act in the interests of others. Furthermore, as things currently stand, confidence in the ability of the church to resolve matters satisfactorily may be misplaced. As the February 2004 meeting of the General Synod demonstrated, many are now moved more by sentiment than consideration of the Biblical position.

b) Believing the issue is ‘important’ rather than ‘fundamental’. Many who believe this join with us by engaging in debate and working within the structures of the church in the hope of winning hearts and minds to the Biblical position. Many such would also support the 1998 Lambeth statement on Biblical authority and human sexuality. However, it is difficult to see how this approach can stop the general drift towards liberalism that is taking place in the churches of the Northern hemisphere. Support for Lambeth ’98 did not stop the consecration of Gene Robinson, or prevent the Bishop of Oxford proposing that Jeffrey John become a bishop.

By contrast, Reform regards the issue of homosexual relationships as fundamental. We do not believe that the scale of the present crisis can be adequately addressed through the processes of synodical government, although we still intend to participate. We believe the time has now come for churches and individuals to take a stand on this issue and to work for ‘deep change’ within the Church of England.

7. Initiatives For ‘Deep Change’

On 9th February 2004, 13 Primates from the global south issued a statement saying that by its actions ECUSA had separated itself from the rest of the Anglican Communion. The statement continued:

‘We ask you to join in our repentance for failing to be sufficiently forthright in adequately addressing this issue in the past, and we invite you to stand with us in a renewed struggle to uphold the received truth found in Jesus and His word.’

If we believe a fundamental crisis is upon us, we must act in a way that adequately addresses the issue. The time has now come to join our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the Anglican Communion who are having to decide where their communion lies, or what happens when there is ‘Impaired Communion’.

8. Impaired Communion

Impairment of communion is already a reality in the Church of England and within other Provinces of the Anglican Communion. ‘Impaired Communion’ is a term coined by the Lambeth Conference. It is a form of principled estrangement,where a church is no longer able to accept the ‘spiritual’ oversight of its bishop on principled biblical grounds. Impaired communion means a refusal to accept the bishop’s ministry in ‘sacred things’ (as distinct from ‘non-sacred things’ – the ‘temporal’ oversight, for example, in faculty matters). Nor is this an innovation. Under the liberal Bishop Barnes of Birmingham (1924-53) there was a serious impairment of communion in the Birmingham Diocese. Both Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical churches refused his spiritual ministry. When the Bishop then would not institute a man to St Mark’s, Washwood Heath, the Archbishop of Canterbury instituted him in Lambeth Palace Chapel on 7 July 1931. (A.Vidler, Scenes from a clerical life. ) More recently Anglo-Catholics have had serious ‘impairments’ over the ordination of women. For evangelicals the positive toleration of, or the teaching of, the rightness of sexual relationships outside marriage, including homosexual relationships however “stable”, is an ‘error too far’ (1 Cor 6.9-11; Rev 2.20-25). Nor is this a fixation with sexual sins. Were Bishops to teach (or tolerate the teaching) that theft, greed, alcohol abuse, slander or fraud (cf 1 Cor 6.10) were compatible with Christian discipleship (and on occasion to be celebrated), there would be a similar outcry and calls for alternative oversight.

9. Practical implications

The practical evidence of impaired communion may include the refusal to accept the bishop’s ministry in preaching, confirmation or ordination; non-attendance at certain diocesan meetings and services; or the re-routing of financial giving away from diocesan funds towards more orthodox uses.

Impaired communion is a reality in varying degrees in those dioceses whose bishops publicly supported the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading (Hereford, Leicester, Newcastle, Ripon and Leeds, St Edmunsbury and Ipswich, Salisbury, Truro and Worcester); in Oxford and St Albans, whose diocesans have sought to promote Canon John to senior office; and in some other dioceses where bishops have publicly supported the “gay-agenda”. Sadly, there are also problems in Canterbury, where the Archbishop holds that homosexual relationships can be compatible with Christian discipleship.

10. A simple way

Members of Reform, if they have not done so already, should seek to establish where their diocesan bishop stands on the issue of human sexuality. Where they are unable to hold to orthodox biblical teaching, churches should declare that they are in ‘impaired communion’ - such is the crisis in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The simplest way to discover where our bishops stand is to ask them whether the propositions that Reform agreed at its National Conference in October 2002 command their assent. The propositions were:

1) The received teaching of the church is that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony;

2) There is a need for appropriate discipline* within the church where there are sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony;
3) Only those should be ordained who themselves will teach, and seek to model in their own lives, the received teaching of the church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside holy (heterosexual) matrimony.

*“appropriate discipline” can be exercised by private discussion with the person concerned, by public denunciation of such behaviours when there is no repentance, and, extremely, by church legal action if judged “appropriate”.

11. Adequate Episcopal Oversight
As impaired communion can only be temporary, what is now being called in the Anglican Communion ‘Adequate Episcopal Oversight’ will, therefore, be sought during the absence of spiritual oversight. There will be appeals to bishops elsewhere in the Communion who, like the 13 Primates from the Global South, are willing to take a stand.

‘Impaired communion’ presents particular challenges for churches when it comes to proposing candidates for training to the ordained ministry and then subsequently placing them in title posts. This brings us to an important proposal: the establishment of a panel of reference.

12. Establishing a Panel of Reference for recognition of ministry within the wider church

Where a parish is in impaired communion with a Diocesan bishop, many of the normal diocesan legal and administrative arrangements will temporarily have to continue. However, when a parish in impaired communion wishes to put forward a candidate for training for the ordained ministry or to have a curate, new arrangements will be required. There will be difficulties in not being able to turn to the Diocesan bishop. We therefore propose the establishment of a panel of reference. Potential candidates could then be referred to this panel to evaluate their suitability for training. At the end of the training, the panel can advise those bishops willing to provide alternative oversight, on a candidate’s suitability for ordination.

We see a panel of reference as providing an essential form of accountability within the wider orthodox church in relation to the discernment of ministry, albeit on a temporary basis until the present doctrinal confusion is resolved. It will provide a degree of confidence that parishes and individuals are not taking advantage of the unusual situation of impaired communion to promote the personal interests of individuals who may be unsuitable for ordination while at the same time encouraging necessary action.

13. Implications for Reform

After a period of reflection and consultation which we believe demonstrates both a steadiness of purpose and a commitment to address the present crisis ,we now intend to present these matters to the National Conference where they can be discussed. Issues relating to impairment of communion and the establishing of a panel of reference can be considered as we seek to discern God’s will for the future.

July 2004

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 27 July 2004 at 8:59 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Reform wages war

Today’s issue of The Times has an article by Ruth Gledhill
Bishops face cash boycott for supporting gay priests which says in part:

Evangelicals in the Church of England are planning to boycott and withhold funds from bishops who support gay priests.

The plans, published yesterday, have been drawn up by Reform, the influential conservative evangelical grouping that represents up to a third of the 9,000 stipendiary clergy in the Established Church.

If the proposals are endorsed, as expected, at the Reform conference in October, evangelical parishes whose bishops support the liberal gay agenda will refuse to allow them into their churches to perform confirmations and other services. They will also channel funds away from the diocese and into Reform’s evangelical mission.

… The plans make clear the growing fears among evangelicals around the world that the Lambeth Commission, set up by Dr Williams to resolve the crisis, will fail adequately to discipline provinces such as the US and Canada, which have taken the lead on the gay issue.

I don’t understand the quoted figures, since clergy membership of Reform is generally held to be no more 5% of the total number of clergy.

There is also a squib about this in the Telegraph.

Again the “1700 members” number is quoted, but this is total membership claimed, and even if it were all clergy it would be nowhere near one third of the total.

The Reform press release is not yet on Reform’s own site, but can be read in full below the fold.

PRESS RELEASE FROM REFORM
REFORM CHARTS WAY AHEAD FOR EVANGELICALS IN CHURCH CRISIS

The present crisis in the Anglican Communion over whether or not to accept the Bible’s authority on matters of human sexuality now demands action in the Church of England, concludes a new paper from REFORM, the nationwide network of Anglican evangelicals.

The paper, written in preparation for its national conference in October, has been circulated to all 1700 members of REFORM today. It says that the same attitudes to the Bible that have caused splits in the Anglican Communion are now present within the Church of England. It argues that church unity must always be based on the Word of God – something the Church of England has always stood for. It therefore urges members to find out where their own bishops stand. If their bishops are unable to support the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality then parishes should act to express their ‘impaired communion’. In some cases this may involve churches changing the way they fund their own and others’ ministries, effectively by-passing their dioceses; refusing to invite their bishop to conduct confirmations; and seeking ‘oversight’ from other, biblically –faithful, bishops elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, as Primates from the Global South are already offering according to their Nassau Statement and submission to the Eames Commission.

The paper proposes that REFORM sets up a ‘Panel of Reference’ to act as a source of advice and support for churches in a state of ‘impaired communion’. The panel, made up of senior evangelical clergy, could also advise overseas bishops on the need for their involvement.

The paper is the result of months of consultation among evangelicals in the Church of England. Put together by a special working group of REFORM members, it has been extensively discussed at three regional conferences – in London, Sheffield and Exeter – during 2004. It will now be debated at the full national conference which takes place from 11th to 13th October.

Commenting on the paper, REFORM chairman David Banting said: “ We know that hopes for resolving the present crisis rest on the Eames Commission which will report the week after our conference. However, unless the Commission reaffirms our Anglican commitment to the Word of God by isolating the false teachers in the Episcopal Church of the USA and Canada, then the Anglican Communion will disintegrate. We cannot assume we are immune in the Church of England. Many of our bishops either endorse the liberal agenda or are allowing it to progress unchecked. We believe that evangelicals must act now to prevent disaster. We are not looking for uniformity – simply for all our members to take one step forward – whatever they judge that to be in their own dioceses; and we are hoping to set up instruments of support.

We are delighted that one of the leaders of the Anglican Primates of the Global South – Archbishop Greg Venables – is going to be with us at our conference in October and that we will also hear from Phillip Jensen, the Dean of Sydney Cathedral. We are looking forward to a conference that will help us set our sights on how to carry forward gospel work as Anglicans who wish to stay faithful to their Biblical heritage.”

Note To Editors

The full text of the paper ‘A way forward in the present crisis for the Church of England’ is attached to this press release. Further copies may be obtained from the REFORM office at PO Box 1183, Sheffield S10 3YA, or downloaded from the REFORM web site at www.reform.org.uk

For Further Information

Contact:
David Banting (chairman): 01708 342080
Rod Thomas (press officer): 01752 402771(office) or 07906 331110 (mobile) END

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 27 July 2004 at 8:57 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 25 July 2004

some news items

Top news today is that Rowan Williams will observe the third anniversary of 11 September, 2001 by speaking at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. This was reported today in the Sunday Times by Christopher Morgan.
Williams to praise Islam on Sept 11

Part of the report:

Rowan Williams has accepted an invitation to speak at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He will speak to his Muslim congregation of the common ground between Christianity and Islam with their shared inheritance as “children of Abraham”.

Al-Azhar is considered the most important religious university in the Muslim world and is attended by 90,000 students.

The university, founded in the 10th century, is also thought to be the oldest and contains the most prestigious school of law in Sunni Islam.

Muslim leaders say there is huge significance in the invitation. Zaki Badawi, founder of the Muslim College in London, said Williams’ address would strengthen the links between the two faiths. He said: “It is a very significant moment in the history of our two faiths and especially coming from a man of his stature and learning.

“This will cement the relationship between Christianity and Islam because he will point out those aspects which unite the two religions. The Muslims throughout the world feel beleaguered and a comforting word from Archbishop Williams will assure our people they are not alone.”

Williams will commit himself to extending Christian dialogue with Islam and stress his own belief in the need for a peaceful solution to the conflicts of the Middle East. He is expected to discuss the spiritual relationship that exists among the children of Abraham.

Earlier in the week, in the Telegraph Jonathan Petre reported under the silly headline Bishops plan his and hers Church about plans for dealing with women bishops. The essence of the story is that David Hope prefers an extension of the existing system for dealing with those who oppose women priests to the adoption of the “third province” approach:

Dr Hope is keen to encourage a compromise between die-hard traditionalists and middle-of-the-road Anglicans that will minimise the structural divisions within the Church.

The diehards are demanding a “third province”, a church-within-a-church with its own archbishop, bishops and training colleges operating in parallel with the remainder of the Church, but with no female clergy.

…But Dr Hope prefers a scheme which, rather than creating parallel structures, enshrines the rights of traditionalist parishes that could find themselves in dioceses headed by women bishops or liberals.

Under such a scheme, parishes opposed to women’s ordination would be able to reject the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop if they found them unacceptable.

Such parishes could choose to be ministered to by a like-minded traditionalist bishop, who could visit them, if necessary, from outside the diocese.

Parishes can already opt for “flying” bishops under provisions introduced for traditionalists when women were ordained priests 10 years ago.

At present, diocesan bishops retain their authority over their dioceses and operate a “gentleman’s agreement” that they will not block flying bishops from operating in their territory. Although this system has worked satisfactorily, Dr Hope fears it will come under such strain when women are consecrated as bishops that it will need bolstering. Critically, diocesan bishops would lose their right to block traditionalist bishops if parishes opt for them.

What is confusing about this news report is the suggested extension of the scheme to cover not only “traditionalist” parishes in dioceses that have women bishops, but also those that are in dioceses that have “liberal” bishops whatever that might mean in this context. Unless it relates directly to the issue of women bishops, this is outside the remit of the Rochester commission.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 July 2004 at 9:56 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 9 July 2004

Accepting Evangelicals

A new group has announced its existence:

Accepting Evangelicals

… is a new open network of Evangelical Christians who believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life, and the development of a positive Christian ethic for gay and lesbian people.

Accepting Evangelicals
… is open both to

people who believe that the Bible does not condemn loving, faithful same-sex relationships which are built on mutual commitment and self-giving love.

and to people who, although they do not personally hold this view are willing to accept the integrity of those who do.

The website is here.

One thing I notice on the membership page is this:

Confidential Membership [ is available] to those who fear that their public support would put them at risk of prejudice or discrimination.

How sad that this is necessary.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 July 2004 at 1:24 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Evangelical evisceration

On Monday, the Guardian carried a leader about the Dean of St Albans under this title.

Read it in full here.

The concluding paragraph says:

Dr John’s beliefs are reasonable, moderate, and right. To ask whether a good Christian can believe what he does is like asking whether the archbishop is an Anglican. But this is precisely the point that his opponents are trying to make. They don’t just think he’s wrong. They think that the church will be destroyed if it admits the possibility that he might be right. What they are trying to do is to put the matter beyond debate, and their chosen weapon may yet destroy the Church of England altogether. The institution is lumbering towards bankruptcy, and sustained entirely by voluntary contributions. Evangelical threats to withhold money from liberal bishops and their organisations will be popular. If enough take up this tactic, they will one day look around a wasteland and say that there is no such thing as a church: only individuals and their parishes.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 6 July 2004 at 1:50 PM GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 3 July 2004

church and politics

More on the archbishops’ letter to Tony Blair:

Church Times report Abuse hurts our integrity, say Primates

Guardian leader last Thursday in support History is on his side

The Times you may recall had a critical leader. Today Tom Wright has a critical letter, see below for text.

And in this connection, see also Bush poll campaign courts religious right in today’s Guardian.

From the Bishop of Durham

Sir, Though you raise interesting points on the archbishops’ letter to the Prime Minister (leading article, June 30; see also letters, July 1), I dispute your description of the “coded attack” on Christian Zionists as “a cheap shot”.

I believe their letter points with deadly accuracy to a phenomenon which few Americans would deny. It isn’t a matter of a few individuals who may or may not be sophisticated. Nor is it a matter of ignoring “the wider context of current US politics”. It is precisely within that context that the point is valid.

There is a close, well-documented alliance between the “dispensationalist” brand of fundamentalism, which sees the modern state of Israel as part of the necessary prelude to the Second Coming, and the present White House and its supporters. I think it unfortunate that these things seem opaque to those politicians (and journalists) in countries like our own who persist in thinking that religion can have nothing to do with politics.

Yours, etc,
TOM DUNELM,
Bishop of Durham,
Auckland Castle,
Co Durham DL14 7NR.
July 1.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 July 2004 at 11:01 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Thursday, 1 July 2004

evangelicals try blackmail

Today the Telegraph has a report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones that reports Money row over gay Dean could ruin Church.

Guidelines on how to protest against controversial appointments, such as the promotion tomorrow of Canon Jeffrey John, a homosexual, to be Dean of St Albans, have been drawn up by Anglican Mainstream, an influential network of orthodox churches.

The report is based primarily on the publication yesterday by “Anglican Mainstream” of this web page: Financial Options for Parishes.

Dr Philip Giddings, the “convenor” of “Anglican Mainstream” is quoted as saying:

“This is not blackmail. If parishes are sufficiently concerned about what a diocese is doing or not doing to contemplate this form of action we would expect there to be serious and meaningful conversation about the way forward.”

The AM web page says (emphasis added):

We have received a number of requests for advice on the range of financial options open to parishes wishing to take financial action, such as withholding some or all of their payments to the diocese, in response to unbiblical and unorthodox teaching. Anglican Mainstream does not advocate any of these particular options but recognizes that parishes are increasingly seeking advice in this area. We are therefore providing these Questions and Answers to help parishes think through the issues.

Update
And unsurprisingly, a similar report is in today’s CEN headlined Parishes plan to turn the financial screw. This article asserts that “Reform” represents 2000 parishes, which is rather a startling claim. Philip Giddings is quoted as saying:

“I have no doubt that a growing number of evangelical churches are considering their position. It is not the maverick churches, but the larger, more mainstream ones that have a track record of high involvement with church structures who are now feeling alienated.”

And the CEN also carries an open attack on the Bishop of St Albans in a feature entitled Trouble in St Albans: a worm’s-eye view.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 1 July 2004 at 7:05 AM GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 30 June 2004

John Henson interviewed

John Henson, editor of the book Good as New that indirectly caused the blogriot was interviewed today by Martin Reynolds. Part of that interview is reproduced below. The full interview will appear in the next issue of Lesbian and Gay Christian, and the material is © LGCM.

When shown the blog comments about the book, John Henson said:

For someone who is uncomfortable with the telephone, perhaps old-fashioned in preferring to look people in the face when I talk to them, the web and blogriots is a little beyond me. It seems all too easy to snipe at people and deprecate them, very little Good News - from our rendering of Philippians 2:

Don’t throw your weight about, or scheme to get your own way. Regard everyone else as someone to cherish. Spend your time seeking to other’s needs rather than your own.

MR - Tell me, John, about the history of this translation?

JH - The text has been published over the last 12 years in serial form. These little booklets have had a very wide circulation, used as a tool for evangelisation for people who would not read the Bible or grasp the language if they did.

One of the reasons we did that was to have feed-back on the work. We have had a lot, from a wide range of people, bishops and inmates of Dartmoor Prison, all have helped contribute to this rolling translation.

In some way, it was not my choice to do this, it had a momentum of its own - but others kept the pressure up on me when I was slacking otherwise it might never have been finished.

I said “finished” and that’s not quite true - the publishers make it clear that this continues to be a rolling translation, we are looking for people to contact us with improvements and comments, there will be a second and third editions and hopefully each will be enriched by those who have read it.

This version is:

An inclusive translation
A cultural translation
A contextual translation

any of these is likely to cause something of a controversy for those who love the KJ version, all three……….

MR - What do you think you have achieved with this translation?

JH - I think people will have a sporting chance to understand Romans and maybe even Hebrews! We also think that John Ch 1 is more accessible. We are pleased with 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 2, the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Someone commented Mark “reads like a novel” - I think Mark would be pleased about that.

Baptists will be over the moon at translating baptism as dip! (smile)

I think people have been told there is more about sex in the translation! I’m afraid they will be disappointed, but they may be gripped by the text all the same.

MR - Tell me about yourself?

I am a Baptist, a retired Minister (65) an Evangelical, teetotal, the son of a Baptist Minister. My only purpose, the thing that drives me is proclaiming the Good News. For the moment there seems to be a lot of emphasis on misery and hidden guilt in Evangelical circles, but that will pass, I see signs it has already had its day. I suppose I can be as bigoted as the next man, but I have chinks in my armour windows of opportunity for change. What frightens me is the people who cannot possibly be wrong, strangely, even after they have changed their mind!

MR - You say this is an inclusive translation - how do you understand that?

JH - Passages that have been used with a homophobic slant have been widened to include all forms of abuse - here the homophobic glasses have been taken off.Some people want a Bible to hit homosexuals on the head, while at the same time taking a relaxed view of say,…..the allied abuses in Iraq, they will find no comfort here.

MR - Rowan Williams has come in for some criticism for his foreword.

JH - Well I did see the Times article, atrocious piece, using the book to attack Dr Williams - I am responsible, if anyone should be criticised it should be me. It is a fair translation of the Greek, the idea put about that it advocates more sex is not true. All the early work on Romans was done by a Calvinistic Fundamentalist scholar.

As to the foreword, that was originally written for my book “The Other Temptation of Jesus” - that book used this translation for its Biblical passages. The publisher asked if he could use the same foreword and that was approved.

As the texts have been circulating for 12 years I’m not sure how much Dr Williams has read or used them. They have constantly been refined so I am not sure even if he saw the final work.

This is a piece of work aimed at primary evangelism, it is hardly surprising a bishop should approve it.

As to the omission of seven books and the inclusion of the Gospel of Thomas, that was my editorial choice. There were good reasons for that, even Luther wrote a “health warning” for Revelation, but this is not a completed work, its in progress, maybe it will come later. Those for whom the Canon of Scripture is a sacred cow will perhaps have had problems with the serialisation of the separate books, it is not an issue for me. This is a work for a 1st time reader, it has already moved people and changed their lives, it is achieving its goal. We can all be happy with that.

MR - A lot of people will buy this book just to pull it apart.

JH - I am looking forward to all constructive criticism, I hope they share it with me.

MR - Some people seem to want to burn it.

JH - People who burn books, burn people.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 June 2004 at 8:41 PM GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Archbishops Warn Blair

Today The Times published the full text of a letter sent privately to Tony Blair last Friday by the archbishops of both Canterbury and York, on behalf of all the bishops of the Church of England.

In The Times Ruth Gledhill has two stories: one on the front page Archbishops accuse Blair of double standards reports the content of the letter. Th other Blair floored by right and left from Church gives background on the House of Bishops meeting etc.
And The Times has a leader which comments editorially on the letter Epistle to Rowan.

Other news reports about the letter:
Press Association Archbishops Warn Blair over Iraq Prisoner Abuse (from Scotsman site)
and Archbishops condemn Iraq jail abuse (from Guardian site)
and Archbishops condemn Iraq jail abuse (from Telegraph site)

Reuters Archbishops attack Blair over Iraq abuse

BBC Archbishops slam Iraq jail abuse

ITV Archbishops warn Blair over Iraq

Sky CHURCH ATTACK ON BLAIR

From The Archbishops of Canterbury and York:

Dear Prime Minister,

During their annual meeting earlier this month, the bishops of the Church of England discussed recent developments in Iraq and the Middle East. It was the wish of those present that we should write to you to put on record a number of the points made during the discussion.

At the same time as we were meeting, the United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1546. We warmly welcome the clear international consensus this now expresses on the importance of the transfer of sovereignty to a transitional Iraqi government.

There are bound to be further testing times before elections can be held there and the future arrangements for governance established. Sustaining a wide measure of international support, under the auspices of the United Nations, should be a key objective during this period.

We believe that the priority now must be to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people to rebuild their own country after many years of oppression and hardship. The establishment and maintenance of the rule of law are clearly prerequisites for stability and eventual prosperity.

Yet, the credibility of coalition partners in advocating respect for the law and the peaceful resolution of disputes will, we fear, be undermined unless the necessary moral authority is clearly demonstrated at every level. It is all the more important and challenging as a task when murderous and arbitrary violence, which we condemn utterly, is being used against westerners and others in Iraq.

It is clear that the apparent breach of international law in relation to the treatment of Iraqi detainees has been deeply damaging. The appearance of double standards inevitably diminishes the credibility of Western governments with the people of Iraq and of the Islamic world more generally. More fundamentally still, there is a wider risk to our own integrity if we no longer experience a sense of moral shock at the enormity of what appears to have been inflicted on those who were in the custody of western security forces.

We welcome the assurances of the British and American authorities about their determination to establish the facts and bring those responsible to justice. Nevertheless, there remain serious questions over how such brutal and indecent behaviour could have come about.

Since September 11, 2001, the moral case for making counter-terrorism capabilities more effective has not been in doubt. This needs, however, to be achieved in a way that avoids any perception that the commitment of Western governments’ to internationally agreed standards on the treatment of detainees is diminished. Perceptions can be as important as the reality in terms of the signals which they send to members of the security forces about what constitutes acceptable conduct. We cannot afford to be other than tenacious in our commitment to the Geneva Convention and other relevant international agreements.

Among Muslim and Arab opinion another litmus test of our respect both for human rights and for international agreements is our stance on the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is of course a matter of historical record that UN Security Council Resolution 242 — the reference point for all attempts to provide a settlement since 1967 — was a British proposal. The terms of an eventual settlement must, ultimately, be for the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Nevertheless, British willingness down the years to respect the legitimate interests of both sides in the conflict has previously enabled our representatives, in partnership with others, to be accepted on both sides as honest brokers. It is vitally important that this position is not eroded.

International tensions have undoubtedly been exacerbated by attempts to cast many problems in crude terms of religious confrontation, most obviously between Muslims and Christians. In calling on the Government to take the necessary action to counter these perceptions we accept that we too have a part to play. Many of us have been working with Islamic leaders in our own communities, nationally and indeed internationally, to build greater trust and mutual understanding wherever they are threatened.

Within the wider Christian community we also have theological work to do to counter those interpretations of the Scriptures from outside the mainstream of the tradition which appear to have become increasingly influential in fostering an uncritical and one-sided approach to the future of the Holy Land.

The need for resolve and determination in the face of terrorism is not in doubt. Nor is the need to nurture greater understanding between religious communities and promote religious freedom. In our view the way forward is give a lead in showing that respect for human dignity, the rule of law and religious freedom are indivisible. As a new chapter opens in Iraq and as the search continues for an end to the present cycle of violence in the Middle East, we urge our Government to keep these principles at the heart of its own policy making.

†ROWAN CANTUAR

†DAVID EBOR

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 June 2004 at 8:57 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 28 June 2004

Gledhill on Conger

I reported yesterday what George Conger had said about Ruth Gledhill’s Times article that had caused the blogriot I described last Friday.

Today, Ruth Gledhill accepted Kendall Harmon’s invitation to respond and you can (nay should) read what she said in full here. A couple of excerpts dealing with the Lambeth Palace end:

…Sometimes beautiful stories just ride along the production line, like this one, and they almost construct themselves. They are so perfect that I wonder why some press officer or functionary - and there are enough of these at Lambeth Palace - hasn’t picked it up before it gets to me and binned it. That is the question George should be asking - why after all the hours of media courses, all the training and expense, no-one managed to see what an obvious and great (but clearly not entirely helpful to them) story this was.

…I really, really wasn’t taking pot shots at Rowan Williams. I adore him and think he is a wonderful archbishop, even if he does get lost in the poetry of his allusions sometimes - or at least lose the rest of us in them. My big, big, humungous plea for the Church of England is for his staff to see what his selling points are and capitalise on them. For goodness sake, the world would love an Archbishop who is a part-time Druid, who writes poetry, has a prophetic beard, can string several sentences together in one and peppers every paragraph with arcane references to City of God. They would love him if only his staff would let them. He is utterly brilliant and the perfect man for the job in the present age. They all need to lighten up a bit and let him go on radio and television more and charm everyone with his desert-like ascetic spirituality and his poetic take on the love of God. He could do it, he really could. I would like to think that their letting this book get out with his endorsement was actually a constructive attempt to begin doing just this, but somehow, I just don’t think so. I am afraid it probably slipped out on to my desk without them even knowing about it.

My own opinion remains unchanged: the most significant story here is the way internet blog readers responded to the report, rather than the report itself, and rather than the book or its foreword. But Ruth raises some other questions which may provoke comments from readers who have no interest in the bible paraphrase that started all this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 June 2004 at 8:11 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 27 June 2004

blogriot unquelled by Conger

The Revd George Conger, a well-known Anglican commentator with impeccable conservative credentials, has attempted to pour cold water on the blogriot among conservative American Anglican blogreaders.

titusonenine published his comments here. Part of what he said:

“For what it is worth …. this is a manufactured story. It is yellow journalism of the most egregious sort …. the journalistic equivalent of a drive by shooting.

Rowan Williams wrote a forward for a dynamic translation version of the Bible … a few years ago Williams wrote the forward of another book by the same author … and as a kindness and courtesy RW did it again.

Williams sought to encourage the project of attempting to make the Scriptures accessible to the non-Bible reading public. He wants to make the Bible part of the lives of the majority of Englishmen for whom it has no meaning …. and he is willing to commend projects that press the margins (some would say of good taste, or theological rigor).

He did not give his nihil obstat and imprimatur (which we don’t do in Anglicanism anyway). There was no attempt to suggest the book was free of doctrinal or moral error. Nor was there any indication that Williams agrees with the content, opinions or statements expressed.

The story was released in the Times on Wednesday. If you read the story with a critical eye, you see that the author did not speak to Williams or to Lambeth Palace. Nor did she speak to the author of the book. She took Williams’ general commendation at the beginning … and then set it up against a few hippy dippy passages : the implication being that Williams endorsed, or commended some sort of antinomian sexual ethic, coupled with a “with it” hipster language suitable for clerical hepcats circa 1965.

The article does not say when Williams wrote the commendation. It does not ask Williams what the commendation means. It does not ask the author what he thought the commendation means. Instead it plays on a psuedo-Roman notion that what Rowan Williams commends is nihal obstat (without error) and thus imprimatur (let it be printed).

Has this quelled the riot? At the time of writing, another 42 comments, some of which accuse Conger of being a “revisionist” himself. FWIW, I think George Conger’s analysis of this matter is entirely correct.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 3:02 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Good as New: Henson interviewed

From the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, Edward Stourton interviews John Henson.

NEW BIBLE
There’s a new translation of the Bible out – or, as it chooses to style itself, “A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures”. The Archbishop of Canterbury apparently likes it – he’s written the forward - traditionalists won’t. John the Baptist becomes John the Dipper, St Peter is given the nickname Rocky, and Jesus, instead of being the “Son of Man” is the “Complete Person”. I asked the translator, a retired Baptist minister called John Henson what he was trying to achieve.

Listen here with Real Audio.

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Friday, 25 June 2004

Good as New causes blogriot

Not sure how to categorise this item.

This week, The Times ran a story by Ruth Gledhill St Paul urges more copulation for couples in sexed-up Bible. A follow-up story appeared on the Ekklesia website Radical new translation makes Bible accessible to unchurched and on the BBC Canterbury backs updated Bible.

The Times article was picked up on titusonenine and reported here verbatim. This provoked an amazing 200+ comments in 2 days from outraged readers. So much so that Kendall Harmon contacted Lambeth Palace himself and reported further which so far has generated another 50 comments so far.

MCJ reported it this way and on the Free Republic site it generated three threads with 142 comments , 89 comments and 49 comments so far.

At first some of those commenting thought it simply must be a hoax. But then they found the book was on sale at CHP Bookshop and the publisher’s own website and even the publisher’s official registration with the Charity Commissioners. And they found that Rowan had previously endorsed another book by the same author. So they realized it was for real.

revised
The expressions of outrage continue. But, so far as I can determine, mostly in America. Not in the British newspapers certainly, not even in The Times where this one letter did appear.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 June 2004 at 11:07 PM GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 22 June 2004

fewer, better bishops

Earlier I reported on plans to cut the number of bishops: turkeys vote for Christmas?

Yesterday the Telegraph carried a report about the private member’s motion to be debated at the General Synod meeting in York next month.
Bishops face demand to halve their pay

Bishops are to be urged next month to give up nearly half their pay and live on the salaries of parish priests.
The General Synod in York is to debate a private member’s motion which argues that all clergy should earn the same, irrespective of their jobs.
If adopted, the measures would apply to all newly appointed bishops, who earn £33,930 a year, archdeacons on £27,660, deans earning £27,850 and even a few well paid parish clergy.
They would have their pay pegged back until they came into line with the average stipend of a parish priest, which stands at £18,480 a year.

But today, the Telegraph editorialises on behalf of Fewer, better bishops and this concludes with:

There is a very strong case for cutting the number of bishops, which has almost doubled over the past 100 years, while the numbers of church-goers and clergy have fallen. But those who remain should be paid more. In every profession, quality costs money. The Church needs fewer, better bishops.

I don’t often agree with the Telegraph.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 at 11:06 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 21 June 2004

disestablishment report

A think tank called New Politics Network has issued a report entitled The Church of England and the State.
A press release of 7 June is here: Church of England “would be freed” by reforming establishment, says new report.

The report, The Church of England and the State, argues that the present system of establishment should be reformed to create a greater degree of separation between the State and the Church of England. It holds that this is not disestablishment, as it proposes maintaining the Church’s status as the national church in England. The paper advocates removing political control over Church affairs, and allowing it the same degree of self-governance that the Church of Scotland has enjoyed since 1921.

Furthermore, the paper advocates the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords and any successor body on the grounds that they constitute an unfair and ineffective mechanism for the faith groups of the United Kingdom to influence political decision-making. In seeking to move to a more fair and equitable foundation, the paper advocates the creation of a United Kingdom Council of Faith, thus giving all faith groups political recognition and a fair mechanism through which their voice can be heard at Westminster, and in society as a whole.

A second press release dated 16 June, New Report Proposes Council of Faith as Alternative to Bishops in the Lords has provoked news reports today in both The Times and the Guardian but only the latter mentions that Bishop Colin Buchanan contributed a foreword to the report.

Guardian Bishop calls for end to link to state

A bishop today describes the Church of England’s established status as indefensible, in a pamphlet arguing that the church should lose its political ties to the state.

The Rt Rev Colin Buchanan, Bishop of Woolwich, says: “In this, as in so many other things, the Church of England prefers to live by fantasy rather than look coolly at the facts.”

The Times Support fades for Established Church

Today’s report, The Church of England and the State, indicates that this support may be fading. In a project headed by Iain McLean, Professor of Politics at Oxford University, researchers interviewed leading representatives from the Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal, Methodist, Quaker, Presbyterian and Baptist churches, as well as senior figures from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.

One third of the respondents favoured the present state of establishment, a third opposed it and a third had reservations about the present system. Opponents objected to the presence of bishops in the House of Lords and raised questions over the role of the Queen as Supreme Governor.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 June 2004 at 10:12 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 20 June 2004

Reading saga revisited

Update 24 June
Reading Chronicle Book’s revelations over gay cleric set to spark row

Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent of the Guardian has a new book coming out on 8 July, entitled A Church at War. This week, the Guardian printed an initial extract under the title Canon fodder and ran an accompanying “news” story, Williams twice agreed to appoint gay bishop. The story was then picked up by the Independent and others.

You need to read the whole extract to get the flavour of this book, which I expect will be required reading for everyone who attends the next General Synod session, which conveniently assembles at York on the day after publication (available from Amazon at 30% discount).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 10:28 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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turkeys vote for Christmas?

You may recall that the General Synod recently considered a report named A Measure for Measures which found general favour with the synod, and also another one Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ funds which was not at all well received. The former recommended setting up a revised Dioceses Commission with powers to propose changes in diocesan boundaries and to require each suffragan bishop vacancy to be reviewed before any new appointment is made. The latter proposed transfer of most funding for bishops from the Church Commissioners to the dioceses.

This week two papers reported that the House of Bishops was actually talking about doing something in response to all that. Extracts from both are below.

The Telegraph reported that Bishops may lose jobs to cut costs

The Church of England is scrutinising the role of bishops and other senior posts in a review which could result in swingeing cuts.
Senior figures are concerned that the hierarchy is top-heavy and some believe that as many as 35 top jobs should be shed, shaving millions of pounds off the Church’s annual budget.
Particularly vulnerable could be the Church’s 69 suffragan, or assistant, bishops, whose numbers have more than doubled in the past 100 years. The review is being undertaken by a top-level working group established at a private meeting of the House of Bishops in Liverpool last week.

A Church spokesman confirmed the existence of a bishops’ working group but said that there were currently “no plans” to axe any posts. One senior figure said: “The subject has to be tackled as a matter of urgency but obviously it will not be easy to bring about as there are so many vested interests.”
While bishops are unlikely to be sacked, their posts could be left unfilled when they retire or they could find their jobs merged with those of other senior clergy or shared with neighbouring dioceses.
Critics of the hierarchy point out that in 1900 there were 57 bishops (31 diocesan and 26 suffragan) and about 24,000 clergy.
While the bishops now number 110 (44 diocesan and 66 suffragan), there are only 9,000 full-time parish clergy, supplemented by 9,000 other clergy and licensed lay people.
The average annual cost of supporting a bishop’s ministry is now £160,000, taking the total annual bill to about £18 million.
The Church is already preparing to sell some of its ancient bishops’ palaces and houses, which include Auckland Castle in Durham and Rose Castle in Cumbria, as part of a cost-cutting review.

and the CEN had Plans for drastic cut in number of bishops

The number of bishops in the Church of England could be drastically reduced under plans to restructure its hierarchy.
At a meeting of the House of Bishops in Liverpool last week, a paper was discussed that proposed a mechanism for reorganising the areas of responsibility in dioceses across the country.
The paper, called Suffragan Bishops, follows on from the Diocesan Pastoral Measure, and is set to be discussed at regional level, as the Church looks at ways of saving money. There are now 113 diocesan and suffragan bishops, costing the Church Commissioners £13.8 million last year in covering stipends, pension contributions and staff salaries.
Up to a quarter of bishoprics could be cut, and the diocese of London has already held top-level talks to consider which area could do without a bishop.
The bishops are said to be split on the plans, but the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, is confident that the size of the House of Bishops will be contracted. “I think we will do it,” he said. “I would want to see a reduction. The system is crying out for change. Financial problems are driving this, but it would be very good to have clearer roles.”
Bishop Broadbent said that the role of archdeacons and bishops could overlap, and that a better structured Church would be more effective in mission: “We don’t want to proliferate roles. There are very few people in the pew who actually see what we do and form misconceptions.”

(I think he means that the many people who do not actually see what bishops do are the ones who form misconceptions.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2004 at 9:27 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Sunday, 13 June 2004

Pooter's book

A lot has been published about the Carey autobiography, what follows is selective.

Christopher Morgan reviews the actual book today in the Sunday Times
KNOW THE TRUTH: A Memoir by George Carey. Here’s how it starts:

In the 11 years of George Carey’s leadership, the Church of England lost more than a quarter of its worshippers, a catastrophic decline in attendance - the sharpest in the church’s history - that gets no mention here. Perhaps the truth is too embarrassing. Carey also fails to acknowledge some uncomfortable facts about himself. He seems unaware that his brother bishops believed he was ill-equipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Senior churchmen spent the 1990s cracking cruel jokes about him. “I like George, but he’d be out of his depth in a font” was one of the milder examples.

In the very same newspaper, the very same person reports Carey told: shut up about royals

A SENIOR Anglican bishop has told Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, to “keep his mouth shut” after he revealed details of conversations with the royal family.
David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, is the first prelate publicly to advise Carey to observe silence about his pastoral work and to accuse him of undermining the work of Rowan Williams, his successor. A number of bishops have privately said they are appalled at the revelations in his memoirs.

and columnist Atticus reports that

Ok, Carey’s not Kilroy … but he’s a bit of a killjoy
And now, an apology. I was very wrong to refer to George Carey not long ago as the Robert Kilroy-Silk of the Anglican Church. Especially as he is much more like the Church of England’s answer to Edward Heath: sulky, outspoken, and apparently dedicated to making life difficult for his successor. Why else would he have chosen Lambeth Palace for the launch of his memoirs tomorrow evening? Senior bishops, meeting last week in Liverpool, begged Archbishop Rowan Williams to intervene and cancel the event but he said it was too late. Can nobody rid him of this turbulent priest?

And that’s not all. Over in the Sunday Telegraph a related story is reported: Lord Carey faces complaint over Royal revelations

One lay member of the Church of England said yesterday that he would ask the Bishop of Southwark, who officiates over Lord Carey’s pastoral responsibilities, to investigate his comments.
It is the first time that a senior clergyman has been accused of breaching guidelines of confidentiality. If found to have broken the rules, Lord Carey could face censure. The draft of the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy were drawn up in 2000 and 2001 when Lord Carey headed the Church. He retired in 2002 and the guidelines were finally approved by Synod last year.
The complainant, a London barrister, said that he would write to the Bishop of Southwark tomorrow asking for an investigation. He said: “Carey has forfeited the right to a licence to officiate by breaching the guidelines as published by the Church of England last year - which applies to all priests, irrespective of their status.”

The Guidelines For The Professional Conduct of The Clergy state that members of the clergy should not pass on details of private conversations to third parties.
“What is said to clergy in confidence must be understood to be confidential at all times. Information may only be divulged with the other parties’ informed consent,” the guidelines read.
Neither Lord Carey nor the Bishop of Southwark would comment.

Earlier, The Times had reported Carey defends secret Camilla revelations while
Denise Robertson in the Teesside Journal had Shame on you, your lordship

It’s amazing what some people will do to publicise their books, but George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has struck a new low, coming out with a savage indictment of Diana, Princess of Wales, as his book hits the stands.

The Church Times reported I haven’t broken confidences, says Carey

Mr Pooter himself wrote a letter to the editor of The Times and said:

Lord Carey’s memoirs
From Lord Carey of Clifton
Sir, No pastoral confidence has been breached in my memoirs (letter, June 5). Astute readers will have observed in the extracts published by The Times that the “secret revelations” amounted merely to disclosing the location of one of my private meetings with Mrs Parker Bowles. The fact that such meetings had taken place was already in the public domain.
I also expressed my opinion that Mrs Parker Bowles was not the ogre depicted in the media at one time and is in fact a delightful lady, and my view that it was natural and right for her and Prince Charles to marry.
When the dust has settled, I hardly think that this is likely to cause offence or lead anyone to the conclusion that they cannot trust a priest to keep a confidence.
Yours faithfully,
GEORGE CAREY,
House of Lords.
June 7.

A piece about how the book was written appeared last week in the CEN An Archbishop’s journey By Andrew Carey

And in the Independent Terence Blacker wrote this (extracts from a column entitled Reverend Pooter and the Royal Family which is more about the Royals than Pooter)

Eagerly scattering soundbites as he goes, the man who once was Archbishop of Canterbury has this week provided a very useful insight into the Church and the Crown. Promoting his memoirs, he has also reminded us that the very contemporary disease of publicity-addiction is not restricted to the young, vain and pretty. Being only one of those things, Lord Carey has nonetheless found himself in the news with the help of some light indiscretions from his book, goosed up by a bit of headline-friendly opinionising.
Carey’s big story is that when, in 1991, the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was reported to be in trouble, he asked himself, “What can I do, and what ought I to do?” The answer that he came up with was that, since he was “the Royal Family’s parish priest” and because the future of the monarchy was in jeopardy, it would be irresponsible not to get involved.
With the hilarious self-importance of a Reverend Pooter, Carey then recounts how he had “conversations” with each of the unhappy couple, bringing pastoral help and a Christian perspective to the problem. Although he disapproved of the fact that they had both committed adultery, he bravely decided that speaking out would have been “a betrayal of my pastoral duty”.
No such problem seems to have occurred to him when it came to writing the book, which includes some low-grade gossip about the Prince (“more sinned against than sinning”) and “the darker side” of Princess Diana.
Years later - what a surprise - he was “dragged into the controversy” involving Camilla Parker-Bowles when, after the death of Princess Diana, he blabbed to a journalist that a constitutional crisis would be caused if Charles remarried. “I knew with a sinking heart that this was the news that would speed round the world”.
As recently as 2002 - coincidentally the moment when he must have been writing his memoirs - Carey “began to worry about Mrs Parker-Bowles” and wrote to her suggesting that they meet. The royal girl-friend agreed on the condition that the meeting was strictly private. Sure enough, here it is, reproduced in the strict privacy of his lordship’s memoirs.
This Carey version of priestly duty, which seems to involve meddling in an unhappy marriage, prating about his Christian perspective and then serving up privileged information for a book, should perhaps come as no surprise. It is the autobiographical money-shot, the ecclesiastical equivalent of Glenn Hoddle revealing what went on in the World Cup dressing room with the England football squad, or of Jordan sharing with her public details of how she took the virginity of Gareth Gates.
The Church will worry little about Carey’s book: Rowan Williams, who has already proved to be considerably brighter yet less puffed up than his predecessor, has helped the Church of England recover a degree of seriousness and moral authority…..

And finally, the Sunday Telegraph a week ago had this profile

Once, Dr Carey was lampooned as among the dullest of the Anglican archbishops; today, there are few controversies in which one cannot glimpse his clerical hand performing a vigorous stirring motion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 June 2004 at 2:46 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 3 June 2004

Lambeth denies Times claim

Update Friday
The Telegraph repeats its denial of the claim in the Times Charles ‘has not discussed marriage to Camilla with archbishop’

In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports that Lambeth Palace quashes royal marriage rumours.
In the Telegraph Jonathan Petre and Richard Alleyne say that Williams ‘has not approved Charles wedding’.

This refers to the report in The Times by Ruth Gledhill and Andrew Pierce that Church says Charles can marry and also reported secondhand by Reuters.
Update Reuters has now issued a story that reports the denial: Archbishop denies approved royal wedding

The Telegraph says:

Lambeth Palace denied last night speculation that the Archbishop of Canterbury had sanctioned the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles.
A spokesman said claims by The Times that Dr Rowan Williams had dropped his objections to the union after secret talks with Prince Charles were untrue.

Stephen Bates’ report includes:

A source very close to the archbishop denied that he had changed his mind or offered the couple any prospect of a church marriage in the immediate or long-term future.
Other Lambeth Palace sources speculated that the newspaper may be disappointed at the lack of publicity given to its serialisation of the memoirs of Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who yesterday disclosed in an interview with the paper that he had offered the couple private counselling and hoped that they would marry.

Meanwhile, the Guardian also editorialized about what George Carey said yesterday, in Affairs of state.

That makes it all the more cruel and contemptible that “traditionalists” like Lord Carey demand that homosexual Christians live up to stricter standards than straight ones. The only justification for this double standard is not theological, but political: gay Christians, unlike divorced ones, or women, are a minority whom it is safe to persecute. A storm of international evangelical hatred will break over the Anglican Church of Canada if it decides this week to sanction the blessing of gay relationships; and the present Archbishop, Rowan Williams, will be pressured to disown the Canadians in order to preserve “the unity of the communion”. But this unity does not exist, any more than the communion does. There is only a loose federation of churches, which cannot agree on liturgy, doctrine, or even whether women can be priests or bishops. It would be wicked and absurd to make homosexuality the touchstone of orthodoxy, however much this would gratify the noisy bigotry of some African churches.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 3 June 2004 at 7:13 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 2 June 2004

George Carey interview

The Times today has a long interview with the former archbishop.
Just marry Camilla now, Charles by Robert Crampton
This is also reported as a news story co-authored by Ruth Gledhill as The natural thing is to marry, says Carey

The interview covers a range of subjects other than the one indicated by the headlines. One interesting section is copied below.

But if somebody is a homosexual and a Christian, and they feel called to become a priest in the Church of England, then he believes they should either abstain from sex or find something else to do. “That’s why,” he continues, “I think Jeffrey John is quite wrong. He’s now become Dean of St Albans. I would not have accepted that.”

Jeffrey John, it will be remembered, is the former canon theologian of Southwark cathedral who was peruaded to withdraw from his new position as suffragan bishop of Reading last summer. He is also openly gay. “Rowan Williams had a choice in that matter,” says Carey, “and if the State said ‘take it or leave it’ (the Prime Minister rather than the Archbishop appoints deans) that is the moment when disestablishment kicks in.

He must have said, ‘Yes, I go along with that’.” Carey then almost immediately backtracks. “It may or may not have gone before Rowan. In my case I always saw these appointments and, much as I like Jeffrey John as a person, I could never have given my assent.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 June 2004 at 8:01 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).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 May 2004 at 12:43 PM GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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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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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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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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Thursday, 15 January 2004

other news

It seems the CEN was wrong to report previously that Zambia had broken communion with the Church of England. However, as Zambia is only part (along with Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe) of the Province of Central Africa, it’s unclear to me what it would mean if they had. Zambia and Botswana have broken communion with ECUSA, but as I have noted previously, no formal official statement from the province has yet been seen. Curiously, the same is true of Rwanda which acts as a “host” so to speak to the AMiA. The CEN does report on the defection of a South Carolina parish to that body.

Meanwhile in The Times Ruth Gledhill reported on the episcopal housing review. You can download the report yourself here (Word format).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 15 January 2004 at 11:48 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 10 January 2004

Saturday newspapers

The Guardian interviewed Geoffrey Kirk, national secretary of Forward in Faith, and some others, about the threat of schism in the CofE over women bishops, A traditional revolutionary. I was interested in the statistics claimed by FiF:

…the organisation claims to have 7,000 members, including 1,000 clergy. Fr Kirk is particularly proud of the “amazing” number of women members - “ballpark 4,000”.

The Guardian also has an article by Michael Nazir-Ali entitled The Cross and the Crescent about whether Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.

The Times reports that Tory leader Michael Howard’s son is training to become an Anglican priest, Howard’s son to be Anglican priest. I’m not sure this is newsworthy.

Yesterday, The Times printed an extract from a forthcoming book by Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities, Passion and patience, liberalism and sexuality: what makes an Anglican?. An extract from this extract appears below, and another one is here.

In the Telegraph Christopher Howse discusses “new styles of church life” in his weekly Sacred Mysteries column. He refers to recent Church Times articles that are not yet online. I will provide links to those articles when they are.

extract from Anglican Identities by Rowan Williams
Anglicans have always been cautious about laying too much stress on formulae over and above the classical creeds; and that has proved both a strength and a weakness. A strength because it has at best focused attention on the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy in a way that allows people to “inhabit” this tradition without too much defensive anxiety about contemporary battles; a weakness because this makes rather a lot depend on the capacity of individual theologians and teachers to orchestrate the central themes of the tradition in a satisfactory way at times when the lack of external norms and boundaries has become a serious worry.
It is not true that there is no distinctive Anglican doctrine. But the discovery of it may require some patience in reading and attending to a number of historical strands, in order to watch the way in which distinctiveness shows itself.
There is in the Anglican identity a strong element of awareness of the tragic, of the dark night and the frustration of theory and order by the strangeness of God’s work.
God does not belong in a limited area of human life; but one implication of this is that we do not find or identify God with ease. He may be encountered in any area of psychological experience or of political challenge. To recognise Him in these unexpected places we need, most certainly, a discipline of scriptural thinking, informed by all the resources that can be summoned in the intellectual sphere, and an inhabiting of the doctrinal tradition that reminds us again and again of what we are for as creators and as adopted children.

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Friday, 9 January 2004

Broadbent bites conservatives

The Church Times carries a report, Conservative groups ‘two-faced’ says bishop.

Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, and a card-carrying evangelical (he signed the letter of the Nine Bishops last June) has written a letter to all the bishops who attended NEAC, criticising severely two notes which were sent to him anonymously. These documents are the minutes from a “post-mortem” meeting of the NEAC4 steering group, and a paper from a separate meeting of representatives from the Church Society, the Fellowship of Word and Spirit, and Reform.

The documents attack Rowan Williams, David Hope, James Jones, and “Open Evangelicals” most particularly Fulcrum. See full article for details. It describes what Broadbent said as follows:

Bishop Broadbent wrote to all the bishops who attended NEAC4, describing the two documents as “inflammatory”. “The document is explicit in asserting what Reform et al have always denied - that there has been a deliberate attempt by the right wing to take over,” he writes.
The ultra-conservatives believed the bishops were the enemy. “These are, of course, the same people who write and speak to us telling us how much they respect us when we make a stand for what they believe in. In reality, they are two-faced and show themselves to be completely untrustworthy.”
He concludes: “It would seem to me that there is little to be sanguine about in relation to the climate of Evangelical Anglicanism post-NEAC4. Whatever sense of unity we may feel across the spectrum, it is clearly not reciprocated.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 January 2004 at 11:19 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 7 January 2004

bishops come and go

Suffragan bishops never used to get this kind of national attention. The Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent all reported on the appointment of a new Bishop of Reading. “He is a liberal Anglo-Catholic, and no less radical in his beliefs than Dr John” says Ruth Gledhill. “Anglican Mainstream, the evangelical group formed to campaign against Canon John, said it was “delighted” by the appointment” says Jonathan Petre.

Meanwhile in Australia, Peter Carnley has announced he is retiring in May 2005. Reports on ABC, in The Age, The Australian and also this commentary, and his hometown paper, The West Australian.

Update Thursday morning
Clergy must speak out: Carnley in The Australian
Anglicans face change of direction from ninemsn

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 January 2004 at 10:50 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 6 January 2004

Busy Tuesday

Stephen Cottrell, currently Vice Dean of Peterborough was nominated as the new candidate to be Bishop of Reading today, and this apparently pleased absolutely everybody, even those most opposed to the previous nomination, and the previous nominee.

Earlier in the day, the Guardian had reported on the women bishops story from yesterday’s Telegraph, All-male enclave ‘would split C of E’ and also on an unusual religious event in Lincolnshire, Special church services bless road gritting crews.
Meanwhile, The Times reported on the plans of the Museum of London to rebury 17,000 skeletons, Museum bones ‘should have a Christian burial’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 6 January 2004 at 11:10 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 5 January 2004

new year news

The Church of England gets the year off to a good start :-)

First, a story about “new” legislation, Sex case vicars will be tried in new, secret courts turns out to be about the latest draft of the Code of Conduct (already mentioned by Peter Owen) to support the Clergy Discipline Measure. Really very old news except apparently to the legal correspondent of the Independent.

Slightly more to the point was the CEN story Bishops plan heresy courts for unruly clergy about a new report from an episcopal working group chaired by Peter Forster about proposals to reform the handling of the cases excluded from that measure, i.e. doctrine and ritual. But I seriously doubt the bishops are panting to prosecute clergy for not wearing robes.

Really much more important is Jonathan Petre’s story in the Telegraph about the draft report from the other episcopal working group chaired by Michael Nazir-Ali on women bishops. Church’s ‘third way’ on women bishops and the accompanying editorial Church’s third way.

But the best piece of writing about Anglican matters was a major article by Michael Massing in Sunday’s New York Times magazine, Bishop Lee’s Choice.

Update
The Anglican Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued a statement of condemnation of homosexuality etc. This was one of the statements that was previously missing. It’s dated 20 Dec 03.

The Moonie newspaper, the Washington Times has this article about blogs and episcopalians, Episcopalians grapple on Web.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 5 January 2004 at 6:44 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 November 2003

CofE response on civil partnerships

On Friday, it was announced by the DTI that a bill to provide for civil partnerships will be brought forward soon (it is expected to be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech). It was also reported that 74% of organisations and 84% of individuals supported the proposals.
The full DTI report on the consultation is available to download in either pdf format here or Microsoft Word format here.

Here are the salient points relating to responses from religious organisations.

2.13 Of those representing nationally-based religious groups:
53% (9 responses) supported the principle of a civil partnership scheme;
47% (8 responses) opposed, or did not offer an opinion on, the principle of a civil partnership scheme;
For example, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Salvation Army, the Methodist Church and others.

2.14 Of those representing individual religious groups and congregations:
15% (3 responses) supported the principle of a civil partnership scheme;
85% (17 responses) opposed the principle of a civil partnership scheme.
These were largely Baptist, Evangelical, Free and Congregational churches.

Religious concerns
3.10 A number of people commented on the proposals on religious grounds. Some felt that any legal recognition of same-sex couples was contrary to the teachings of the Bible and other religious texts. Some said “holy matrimony is not the same as a homosexual liaison” and it would be “deeply offensive to Christians to equate the two”.
“As a Baptist Minister, I cannot see how gay relationships can possibly be equated to marriage. Marriage is a unique institution because it allows for the possibility of children being conceived and nurtured. In marriage, a man and a woman make an exclusive commitment to each other. Whilst I recognise that this does not always work out in practice, no comparable situation can ever apply with homosexual couples.”
3.11 Others made it clear that they felt civil partnerships were entirely compatible with their religious beliefs.
“As a Church of England priest, I warmly and wholeheartedly endorse the proposals for Civil Partnership registration for lesbian and gay couples. Justice for all is one of the central Christian teachings, and at the heart of the Bible. Lesbian and gay people who have made a commitment in a relationship deserve the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who marry.”
3.12 Others said that religious organisations should be free to choose whether their faith should allow or forbid same-sex registrations.

The DTI says:
It is not for the Government to interfere in matters that are clearly for religious groups to decide for themselves. These are decisions best left to individual faiths. The registration of a civil partnership would be a purely civil process and involves no religious element.

Below is the full response that the Archbishops’ Council sent to the Department of Trade and Industry on behalf of the Church of England on 30 September. The original is downloadable here in Microsoft Word format. The DTI’s original invitation to consult is a pdf document that can be downloaded here.

CIVIL PARTNERSHIP
Church of England Response to DTI Consultation Document

1. The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Consultation Document which the Government issued on 30 June.

Background

2. The Church’s approach to ethical issues is founded on Holy Scripture, interpreted in the light of Tradition and Reason. As our knowledge and understanding of the world and the mysteries of humanity grow, so we are called to engage prayerfully and thoughtfully both with new issues and with other issues which, though familiar, may need to be explored afresh. This is a process requiring great wisdom and patience, not least on moral and ethical issues at a time when views in our society have been in considerable flux.

3. It has always been the teaching of the Church of England that marriage - that is, faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationships between a man and a woman - is central to the stability and health of human society. In our view it continues to provide the best context for the raising of children. For that reason it warrants a special position within the social and legislative framework of our society. We remain committed to this principle of marriage and to a unified recognition of its meaning by the law of our country.

4. Sexual activity outside marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual has, of course, been known throughout recorded history. Nevertheless, the almost universal Christian tradition has been to regard it as a falling short of God’s purposes for human beings. That remains the declared position of the Church of England, though there is a continuing internal debate over the acceptability of sexually active relationships between gay and lesbian people who are in faithful and committed partnerships. A discussion document providing a comprehensive guide to that debate will be published by the House of Bishops in November.

5. Alongside this approach to sexual ethics, the Church also attaches high importance to the promotion of social justice and the safeguarding of human rights. As a result the Church has, on occasions, taken a positive view of particular legislative changes where there has been a need to remedy injustices in our diverse society, even where the result may have been to facilitate developments about which the Church has had particular concerns given its doctrine and teaching. An example would be the law relating to divorce.

6. It is with these two key considerations in mind that the Archbishops’ Council has approached the Government’s proposals: the need to do nothing to devalue or undermine marriage and the family; and the importance of using the law of the land to promote justice and human rights.

What we welcome

7. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the distinctive place of marriage in the law of our country and the need to preserve it. We note that the consultation document states at para 1.3 that “it is a matter of public record that the Government has no plans to introduce same-sex marriage”.

8. We support the Government’s wish to encourage long-term stable relationships as being more in the interests of society as a whole than a culture of transient or promiscuous relationships. Fair treatment for such relationships within a framework of legal rights and safeguards may well help to promote this objective.

9. We also endorse the Government’s intention to recognise the rights of individuals within same sex relationships in relation to such matters as protection from domestic violence, the registration of a death and inheritance matters including tenancy succession. The law no longer reflects current social patterns and needs amendment to remedy injustice.

10. The consultation document, including in the foreword by the Minister of State, Jacqui Smith, refers to the importance of securing culture change through legislation. If this means the promotion of greater mutual acceptance of others, the embracing of diversity within our society and the repudiation of homophobia then we agree. Society is stronger and more harmonious if we each respect the decisions which adults make about the ordering of their own lives so long as those decisions are not clearly to the detriment of others.

What we question

11. If, however, culture change means the promotion of the view that it is discriminatory to distinguish between marriage and same sex relationships, then it is not clear what the Government’s declared recognition of the distinctive place of marriage means in substance. We believe that it is in the interests of society for marriage to continue to enjoy a unique status. We seriously question whether there will in practice be a sufficient distinction in law between marriage and registered same-sex partnerships if the proposals outlined in the consultation paper are implemented.

12. Secondly, there is an ambiguity at the heart of the Government’s proposals about the nature of the proposed partnerships and about what precisely the couple are promising to be to each other. This is reflected in the shifting language in the document between “gay, lesbian and bisexual” couples in some places and “same sex partnerships” (potentially a wider category) in others. In a matter of this kind clarity is crucial.

13. The extremely close parallel between the new arrangements and the legal framework for marriage is likely to deter some people who might otherwise register - for example those who choose to share a home with others for a substantial period and may wish to benefit from the new partnership provisions in relation to successor tenancy rights but are not homosexual. Conversely, gay and lesbian couples will receive less protection than they might expect from a legal framework so akin to marriage - no apparent protection against sexual infidelity within a supposedly exclusive relationship, no equivalent to a nullity process should a sexual relationship be wilfully refused, no specific provision for dissolution on grounds of refusal to live together.

14. We would urge the Government to be clearer and more consistent over what it is trying to achieve. Is the primary aim to remedy injustice and create some new legal rights and safeguards for those who are not married but who may wish to share important parts of their lives with each other, whether or not within a sexual relationship? If so, the logical approach would be to remove the prohibited degrees of relationship, thereby enabling, say, two brothers or two sisters to access the new set of rights. Indeed, if this is the primary aim it could be argued that they should not be confined to same-sex couples.

15. If, on the other hand, the Government’s primary aim is to confer rights on gay and lesbian people in long-term, committed relationships, the logic would be for the legal framework to acknowledge the sexual nature of the relationship. The hybrid nature of the present proposals is a recipe for confusion.

16. We are also concerned about what the document says in relation to the treatment of children. In particular we have reservations about the use of the problematic phrase “children of the partnership” in paragraph 8.3, presumably to refer to the children of one party who are being brought up by a parent and their partner. It is very important that the difference in role and status of actual biological or adoptive parents and those parents’ partners (whether spouses, registered partners or unregistered partners of either sex) should not be blurred. Members of registered partnerships should not have greater rights or responsibilities towards the children of their registered partners than husbands or wives have over their spouse’s children.

Conclusion

17. We shall want to look particularly carefully at the details of the new legislation to see evidence of the Government’s assurance that it “has no plans to introduce same-sex marriage”. As they stand these proposals risk being seen as introducing a form of same-sex marriage with almost all of the same rights as marriage. We accept that there are issues of social justice which need to be addressed in the light of changing patterns of relationship in our society. We believe that it would be possible and indeed right to do so, consistently with safeguarding the special position of marriage. While accepting the case for conferring some new rights on adults who wish to share important parts of their lives with each other, we have significant concerns about the proposed new partnership arrangements and the uneasy compromise they appear to represent.

18. A schedule of more detailed points is attached.
30 September 2003

Archbishops’ Council
Church House
Great Smith Street
LONDON
SW1P 3NZ

ANNEX

1 Paragraphs 1.4 and 2.8 We recognize the force of the arguments against including opposite-sex couples in the proposed scheme of registration. Any such approach would risk confusing the role and position of marriage. We would urge the Government not to be ambivalent about marriage but to support the function and purpose it has in society and to encourage cohabitants to consider it. There is, nevertheless, a need for specific measures to address the considerable hardship suffered by some cohabitants after relationship breakdown or death of a partner.

2. Paragraph 3.2 We are doubtful whether it is prudent to allow those who are not yet adults to enter into this long-term legal commitment. We recognize that any notion of different ages for marriage and for same-sex partnerships is contentious and raises questions of justice and human rights. Nevertheless we do not see it as axiomatic that the minimum age for this new form of partnership simply has to mirror that for marriage. In addition the issues here are rather different than in relation to the age of heterosexual and homosexual consent. We note that a number of countries, including in the EU, do impose a qualifying or minimum cohabiting period before partnerships can be registered. While we do not press for that, the case for setting a minimum age limit of 18 merits further consideration.

3. Paragraph 3.3 We suggest that the definition of “exclusivity” has to be clearly explained to avoid problems of ambiguity (see para 12).

4. Paragraph 4 Under the proposals in the consultation paper the signing of the register of same sex partnerships is the act by which the partnership comes into effect. There is some concern here about the privileging of the act of writing over that of speaking, which may cause problems for the less literate or those with learning difficulties.

5. Paragraph 4.13 Marriage attracts certain rights, privileges and responsibilities because of its public nature. Whilst we recognize the very real threat of homophobic violence, we agree with the Government that civil partnerships could not work without the public nature of the registration. It cannot be kept private. Those who enter into such legal arrangements have to be willing for the fact of them to be on the public record.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 November 2003 at 2:56 PM GMT
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