Thursday, 8 July 2004

CEN/AM attacks continue

Last week, the CEN published this feature article by Colin Russell:
St Albans - A Worm’s Eye View

This week, the CEN publishes a news story:
Evangelicals to shun Bishop of St Albans

As is customary when Nick Bell is involved, absolutely no names or even verifiable numbers are provided in support of any claim. I personally saw many evangelical clergy at the installation service though no doubt a few were absent.

Andrew Carey the author of that story now has his own blog here which contains his CEN column for the week that also discusses St Albans: The Church of England breaks trust.

And over at AM, one finds explicitly anonymous attacks like this one.

When dealing with Philip Giddings this is what one expects. He was after all responsible for the outright lies contained in the AM petition.

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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.

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Sunday programme report

Jane Little of the BBC reported for the Radio 4 Sunday programme on the Dean’s installation service last Friday and then interviewed Anthony Archer, Colin Slee and Philip Giddings about the process for appointment of deans. Listen here with Real Audio (7.5 minutes).
This report includes the remarks made by Jeffrey John during the service.

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Saturday, 3 July 2004

Paul Handley and the egg

The editor of the Church Times, Paul Handley, attended yesterday’s service and has written a detailed account of it for the CT website, headlined Jeffrey John and the egg

THERE WAS an egg lying smashed on the road beyond the west front of St Albans Abbey. For a journalist hurrying late to the installation of the Dr Jeffrey John, England’s first openly gay dean, it was worrying. What had I missed?

Read on….

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more reports on installation

Ruth Gledhill in The Times reports Gay dean calls for return to ‘normal service’.

THE new Dean of St Albans pleaded last night for “normal Christian service” in the Church of England to be resumed as soon as possible.

In an unscheduled intervention during his installation at the cathedral, after the 2,000-strong congregation had given him a two-minute standing ovation, Dr Jeffrey John said: “I want to say how grateful I am for the overwhelming warmth of your welcome and strength of support of all of you.”

In his first words after his installation by the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Rev Christopher Herbert, Dr John said: “Over the last year or so I have sometimes hardly recognised myself in some of the things that have been said about me. So, I would like to say what a huge privilege and joy it is for me to be here. This is where God hopes and intends me to be and this is now home for me. I hope that from this point on, normal Christian service can be resumed in my life and in the life of this place. ”

Stewart Payne in the Telegraph Gay dean is installed - to praise not protest

Applause, not protest, greeted the appointment of the homosexual cleric Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans last night as his bishop praised his bravery “on this great and courageous and hope-filled day”.

There was only muted dissent outside the Hertfordshire cathedral and none within.

Stephen Bates in the Guardian Gay cleric in bishop row takes up role of dean

Outside the cathedral a sole demonstrator bearing a banner railing about sodomites found himself surrounded by schoolboys asking him what the word meant.

Anglican Mainstream, a conservative pressure group, announced its “deep regret” about the appointment and the damage the group claimed it would inflict. “Parishes and ministers who cannot accept this deviation from orthodox Anglican teaching will sadly now need to consider the extent to which they can involve themselves in the structures of the diocese,” the group announced.

Such sentiments appeared to cut little ice among the multitude inside the cathedral as they sang such anthems as All Creatures of Our God and King, with its lines: “All ye that are of tender heart, forgiving others, take your part”.

The congregation represented a cross-section of modern Anglicanism: respectable, middle-class and middle-aged, verging towards the elderly. The very folk usually said to be least responsive to homosexuals in their midst.

One of the lesser ironies is that Dr John will now be entitled to call himself not just Reverend but Very Reverend.

Cahal Milmo in the Independent Gay dean installed at St Albans amid protests by conservatives

More than 2,000 people crowded into St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire, the shrine of England’s first Christian martyr, to witness Dr John take up his post.

Fears the ceremony would be marred by clashes between anti-fascist groups and the National Front, which had vowed to march on the cathedral, receded when the far-right group called off its action at the last moment.

Andrew Barrow Press Association Anglicans Asked to ‘Put Differences Aside’ (minor revision of earlier report)

The opinions of the “conservative pressure group” can be read in full here.

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Friday, 2 July 2004

Jeffrey John installed

Here is the sermon that was preached by the Bishop.

Reports on the installation of Jeffrey John as Dean and Rector of St Albans today:

Press Association Anglicans Asked to ‘Put Differences Aside’

BBC Three Counties Gay cleric installed as Dean of St Albans
Don’t miss the Photo Gallery on this page

—-
Update
Here also from BBC Three Counties is a 12 minute radio report of the service, Real Audio required.

And from the St Albans Observer another large photo gallery of the service that has many pictures taken from the West Gallery and from the Organ Loft.
—-

BBC Gay cleric installed at St Albans and Backlash over gay cleric move

Sky News Gay dean installed

Reuters Gay priest installed as Dean

Associated Press Gay Clergyman Appointed Cathedral Dean

ITV Gay priest installed in St Albans

Guardian Gay cleric installed amid protests

More no doubt in the Saturday broadsheets.

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morning radio interviews

The BBC Radio 4 morning programme Today had several interviews this morning about the events happening later in the day.

First, Robert Piggott who reports on Religious Affairs for the BBC talked about the background, listen here with Real Audio.

Second, interviews with Canon Stephen Lake, Sub Dean and Dr Philip Giddings listen here with Real Audio.

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2 July dawns

and the media coverage of events today has started.

BBC Three Counties Dr John to be installed this week includes a handy section listing “all you need to know about the installation service for Dr Jeffrey John”.

BBC News Gay cleric installed at St Albans. This currrently includes a link to the old video report from the day of the announcement of his appointment.

Independent Site of sacrifice and martyrdom, St Albans is to test the church faithful again with a gay dean (this story in the paper comes with a very nice photo of the Lady Chapel interior)

Press Association Martha Linden has Gay Priest Installed as Cathedral Dean

The Times has I should be a bishop, insists the gay dean

Sky News has GAY PRIEST IS NEW DEAN and GAY DEAN: DO YOU AGREE? which invites comments from the public.

Reuters has Gay priest to be installed as Dean

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Thursday, 1 July 2004

Church Society rants again

One of the most intriguing things about the ultra-conservative evangelicals of the CofE is that some groups do not acknowledge the existence of others. I can find no reference on the websites of either Church Society or Anglican Mainstream to the activities of the other organisation.

Today, Church Society issued a further press release about St Albans. As always, although they have a smart website they are apparently unable to render their press releases in html (very odd considering their general secretary’s profession prior to ordination) so I have done it for them below.

News Release
1 July 2004
4pm For immediate release.

St Albans appointment undermines the Church

The installation of Dr Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans marks a significant and regrettable step for the Church of England. It demonstrates that there are many who will not abide by the teaching of Scripture and will not stop until they have changed the teaching of the Church on sexual ethics.

All the evidence is that the liberalisation of the Church is destroying it. A liberal church, having abandoned the standards and message given by God in Scripture, has nothing to say to the world and no power to transform lives. Decline has been and will be the inevitable result.

Church Society and others have consistently argued that it is unacceptable for someone who teaches the acceptability of same sex sexual practice to be a minister in the Church of England.

The teaching of Holy Scripture is plain on this issue that sexual intercourse belongs solely within heterosexual marriage. This teaching has been consistently upheld by the Christian Church throughout history, it was reiterated by the General Synod in 1987 and by the Lambeth Bishops in 1998. The failure of many leaders to uphold this position today is undermining the credibility and mission of the Church of England.

This appointment flies in the face of the teaching of the Church.

The teaching of the Church of England is that homosexual practice falls short of God’s standards and should be met with a call to repentance (General Synod resolution of 1987). To appoint to a prominent position someone who, whilst claiming to be celibate, is apparently unrepentant for past behaviour and actually teaches the acceptability of such behaviour, destroys the Christian teaching on repentance. The Bishop of St. Albans and the Archbishop of Canterbury by agreeing to this appointment are themselves contravening the specific decisions of the Church in their desire to pursue their own agenda.

For further information please contact:
Revd David Phillips (01923-235111 / 07801-265049)
General Secretary and General Synod Representative for St. Alban’s Diocese
Revd George Curry (0191-273-4680 / 0775-287-2550) Chairman of Council

Church Society exists to uphold biblical teaching and to promote and defend the character of the Church of England as a reformed and national Church.

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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.

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Sunday, 27 June 2004

Bates interviewed

On this morning’s Radio 4 Sunday programme, Stephen Bates of the Guardian was interviewed by the BBC’s Edward Stourton about the forthcoming installation of a new Dean of St Albans.

Listen here with Real Audio.
It’s only 3.5 minutes, but it gives a very accurate summary of the matter.

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Wednesday, 23 June 2004

Philip Lovegrove resigns

“In the light of recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Dean of St Albans”, Philip Lovegrove, who has been chairman of the St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance since 1970, has resigned from that post, and also as an Honorary Lay Canon of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, which he became in 1998. He remains an elected member of the General Synod from St Albans diocese.

The Bishop of St Albans has issued a statement which can be read in full on the diocesan website.

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Sunday, 20 June 2004

St Albans synod reported on

As previously mentioned the full text of the presidential address is here.

The Church of England Newspaper carried Jeffrey John appointment defended which says:

The Bishop of St Albans defended his appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of the Abbey amid a chorus of complaints in the diocese over the appointment.
Addressing his diocesan Synod on Saturday Bishop Christopher Herbert apologised for causing hurt and dismay, but called on his critics to recognise that theirs was not the only legitimate interpretation of the Bible for a Christian to hold on homosexuality.
While the bishop firmly denied that he approved of same-sex blessings, he questioned what weight the Christian tradition should put on scripture, the Christian tradition, the language of psychology, understanding of genetics and culture in determining such issues.
He said that huge and important issues surrounding the question of homosexuality remained about which the church had not been able to come to an agreed conclusion.
But evangelicals in the diocese, representing two churches which have already withheld quota and others which are considering such a step, put strong questions to the bishop about the process of the appointment.

And the Church Times had Evangelicals will boycott Dean

MEMBERS of St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship (DEF) say they will boycott the installation of the Rt Revd Dr Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans next month because of his homosexuality.
Speaking on Wednesday, Canon Nick Bell said that his “conscience and integrity” would not allow him to attend, and that this was true of other DEF members. He said that there was a mood of “unhappy resignation”.
In his presidential address to the diocesan synod on Saturday, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, responded to criticism of his acceptance of Dr John’s appointment by the Crown. His intention had not been to hurt those opposed to Dr John’s views.
He urged patience in order to “bring greater mutual understanding and reconciliation. “I also ask that, just as I recognise the sincerity of Christian conviction which moves the hearts of those who criticise what I have done, so my own desire to be a disciple of Christ be recognised.”
Replying to a question, Bishop Herbert said he would not ask Dr John to stop speaking publicly on certain issues, particularly same-sex blessings, once he was Dean.
But he said: “I have absolutely no doubt, given the experienced pastor and teacher that he is, that Jeffrey is aware of the complex sensitivities that surround the debate about same-sex unions.”

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Wednesday, 16 June 2004

St Albans news

The St Albans diocesan synod met last Saturday. The diocesan website carries the presidential address and will no doubt have more reports in due course.
Neither Charles Dobbie nor Nick Bell bothered to attend. On the other hand Hugh Symes-Thompson not only attended, and asked a number of questions during the synod, but also distributed a flyer (which is reproduced in full here below the fold), and was thanked by Bishop Christopher for the courteous way in which he and Cranfield parish had expressed their disagreement.

The St Albans DEF released this week, via a third party, a letter they have sent to the Eames/Lambeth Commission.

A slightly odd story about the proposed National Front march appears in this week’s St Albans Review.

Cranfield Church Responds to Bishop’s move

At the May meeting of the PCC of St Peter & St Paul’s, Cranfield, the following motion was passed after considerable discussion: “In the light of the Bishop’s precipitate appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans this PCC agrees to suspend quota payments forthwith and urges continuing dialogue with the Diocese.”

The PCC was responding to a letter opposing the Bishops endorsement of the Dean-elect and signed by more than 20 members of the regular congregation urging it to take practical action. Many others, also unhappy with the situation, had spoken to the Rector. It was clear at the meeting that while there was considerable pressure for an urgent reaction there was a need for more information on how to relate the references to homosexuality in the Bible to our own day. Many of those present knew friends or relatives living in homosexual relationships. God loved people whatever their sexual orientation but this did not mean that every sort of sexual lifestyle is equally valid or that we could ignore what the bible teaches. The motion to suspend quota payments will send a strong message to the Diocese but it has no time condition so we can be flexible if circumstances change. It gives us space to consider the issues at greater depth so that we can plan a medium to long-term strategy - co-ordinated perhaps with other likeminded parishes.

The Anglican Church worldwide is now in turmoil over whether homosexual activity can be acceptable. Recently 18 Archbishops from provinces representing 55 million Anglicans, mostly from the ‘Global South’, demanded that the Episcopal Church of the USA be expelled if the appointment of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly practising homosexual, was not revoked. They said, “This deliberate disobedience of the revealed will of God in the holy scriptures is a flagrant departure from the consensual and clearly communicated mind and will of the Anglican Communion.” In St Albans the lines are not quite so clear-cut, yet they are part of a worrying trend. Canon Jeffrey John claims to be in a celibate relationship with a fellow Anglican priest. And he is to be a Cathedral Dean and not a Bishop. But he is a leading campaigner for the acceptance and blessing of homosexual relationships by the church, as shown by his recently reprinted booklet “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” and by the press conference at which his appointment was announced. The Bishop of St Albans is clearly signalling by this appointment that such teaching can be permitted. But while Christians should be tolerant of those who hold different views it is absurd that they should welcome those who undermine the Scriptures and Church.

It is a great pity that this divisive issue has been raised in our Diocese and that it may divert the energies of local Christians from more worthwhile and important matters. I (and the PCC) will be glad to hear your views on this matter — whether for or against - as we seek to determine what should happen next. We hope that we will be able to provide input for an informed discussion within the Church and village. In the meantime further information can be gleaned from the Diocesan website and that of Anglican Mainstream. Further if you wished to write to the Bishop, the Queen or the Prime Minister then I should certainly encourage you. It is a critical time for the Anglican Communion.

www.stalbans.anglican.org
www.anglican-mainstream.net

Hugh Symes-Thompson

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Wednesday, 9 June 2004

National Front protest

Updated Sunday 4 pm Today’s Observer had this In Brief squib:

‘Gay priest’ protest attacked

The National Front’s decision to organise a protest march against the appointment of a gay man as Dean of St Albans has come under fire from anti-fascist groups and gay rights organisations. Canon Jeffrey John, a gay but celibate priest, is due to become Dean on 2 July. The NF, which says up to 150 of its members will march on St Albans Cathedral in the next few days, says it is protesting at the ‘subversion’ of the church.

Updated Thursday 6 pm

The St Albans Observer website reports today that the far-right racist political party The National Front is going to stage a protest in St Albans. The National Front is a political movement based on the principle of Racial Nationalism.
***
Far-right to stage gay dean protest. Part of the story (which is not in the printed edition of the Observer, but rather in the sister paper the St Albans Review) reads:

FAR-RIGHT group the National Front is organising a protest march against the installation of a gay priest as Dean of St Albans.
Deputy chairman Bernard Franklin said the NF was aggrieved at the “subversion” of the Church of England and said up to 150 members would be taking action in protest at Canon Jeffrey John’s appointment.
Members will march to St Albans Abbey for the installation ceremony next month and distribute leaflets outside outlining their concerns at the “watering down of the Church’s message”.
He added: “As Christians we are concerned that the Church is failing as an institution.
“The pews are empty and what is preached now is more about being nice to each other than anything else. It’s meaningless in our view.
“We have nothing against Jeffrey John as a person and he is probably a nice enough bloke but the Church has been infiltrated and is being destroyed from within.”
The installation of Canon John takes place at 5pm on Friday, July 2. Hundreds of local dignitaries and clergymen will attend.
The Prime Minister’s secretary of appointments William Chapman will officially install Canon John as dean while the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, will induct him as Rector of the Parish.
The National Front has not yet confirmed where and when the march will start.
Police said they were not aware of the NF’s plans but said members of the public had a right to peaceful protest, hinting that the march would not be prevented.
Chief Inspector Jeff Taylor said: “If such an event does take place, the police would be required to ensure the event passes peacefully. The police role is to protect public safety and prevent a breach of the peace.”

The St Albans Review also carries an editorial comment:

Opposition to the appointment of gay priest Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans has come mostly from the Church of England’s own evangelical wing.
But this week the Review has learnt that the National Front has added its voice to the chorus of disapproval, adding an unsavoury element to an already polluted story.
Up to 150 members of the extremist movement intend to march to St Albans Abbey on July 2, the day of Canon John’s installation, to make their opposition felt.
These are the bare facts. The nature of the National Front’s opposition is less clear-cut.
It claims to have nothing against Canon John on a personal level but professes to be concerned at the way the Church of England has been infiltrated - like most other public institutions - by a shadowy cabal hell-bent on the destruction of nation states in favour of their own commercial interests.
It wants to see the Church restored to its supposed former glory with more emphasis on what it sees as the true message of Christianity.
Essentially it believes political correctness has diluted what is preached to the point where no-one is permitted to question the notion of racial and sexual tolerance.
The problem is that any legitimate concerns the movement has about the concepts of free speech and democracy are largely undercut by the utterly racist and extremist ideology it espouses.
Dismissing the National Front as an offensive fringe movement is too easy. Highlighting the intrinsic inaccuracies of their spurious and intolerant message is the more favourable course of action.

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DEF speaks

Today the St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship issued the statement reproduced below and the Diocesan Bishop issued a reply. To put this in context, the DEF previously issued two other statements, first this one and then this one.

DEF Statement
NEWS RELEASE
9th June 2004
10am for immediate release

St. Albans’ parishes prepare action plan.

An open meeting convened yesterday in St. Albans diocese considered a range of issues arising from the Diocesan Bishop’s support for the appointment of the new Dean of the Cathedral.

Over 70 clergy and laity were present and 17 others had sent indications of support. Thirty-seven parishes were represented.

Having received reports from a number of members who had recently met with the Bishop, considerable concern was expressed and in particular the following issues were discussed.

1. That the Bishop’s action has caused a breakdown of trust and divided the Diocese impinging upon the desire of the Bishop to be seen as a focus of unity.

2. The possibility of seeking alternative Episcopal oversight.

3. The ability of parishes to pay parish share (quota) in the light of lay giving being redirected and members leaving the Church of England.

Reports were received of PCCs considering withholding or suspending parish share commitments.

There was agreement that the grace and glory of the gospel of Christ is being undermined by the issues underlying this appointment.

The Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, which convened the meeting, was asked to take appropriate action to pursue the matters raised and to work with other evangelical organisations not least to reaffirm the traditional Christian teaching on marriage.

For further information, please contact:
Revd Canon Nick Bell, Vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church, Luton
Tel: 01582 721867, Email: nickbell@stmarysluton.org
Canon Mr Philip Lovegrove, OBE, Chairman of the St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance
Tel: 0207 448 4754, Home: 01462 481880, Email: philip.lovegrove@fiskeplc.com

Bishop’s response
Response by the Bishop of St Albans to the press statement entitled ‘St. Albans’ parishes prepare action plan’ issued on June 9th
9.6.2004

The Bishop of St Albans has noted the press release, dated 9th June, issued by the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship. As that press release has made clear, the Bishop has already met members of the DEF, collectively and individually. He continues to leave the door open and welcomes the opportunity for further dialogue to take place.

What is needed, however, is not simply a conversation between groups and the Diocesan Bishop but also conversations between clergy and laity in the diocese who hold, in sincerity, views about the appointment which differ one from another. Real dialogue is based upon respect and takes place best in an atmosphere of prayerful reflection and mutual charity.

Ends
Contact. Capt A Crooks, Bishop’s press officer. 01727 853305
Email: chaplain@stalbans.anglican.org

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Thursday, 3 June 2004

second parish protests

Update Tuesday 8 June
Further reports about this on the websites of BBC 3 Counties (local) radio and Anglia TV (regional commercial television).

The Bedfordshire parish of Cranfield is reported to have decided to withhold its £23,500 quota from the St Albans diocese. See Church leads protest from the Barnet Times this week.

The story is also reported by the Press Association Another Parish Stops Funds in Gay Cleric Protest

The parish which reported an electoral roll of 99 persons and 58 Easter communicants (out of a civil population of 3436) in the 2003 diocesan year bookis held in plurality with Hulcote and Salford (combined population 162, electoral roll 31, Easter communicants 15) by Hugh K. Symes-Thompson. He was a signatory of the letter to the Bishop of St Albans sent by Church Society on 11 May 2004 and available here as a pdf file (html version here).

The quota sum to be withheld by Cranfield is less than the amount paid by the diocese to cover the stipend, pension, and housing costs of the Rector.

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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.”

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Thursday, 20 May 2004

local papers roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 20 May 2004 at 1:58 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Telegraph spins again

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 May 2004 at 11:27 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Monday, 17 May 2004

Telegraph gnaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Standard quoted Mr Dobbie as saying:

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 May 2004 at 3:02 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Thursday, 13 May 2004

Support for Dean

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Lyonsdown suspends parish share

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Diocese of St Albans issued the following statement today:

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

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

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

From Mr Dobbie’s covering email:

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 May 2004 at 10:05 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Lyonsdown suspends parish share

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Diocese of St Albans issued the following statement today:

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

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

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

From Mr Dobbie’s covering email:

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 May 2004 at 10:05 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Friday, 7 May 2004

Giddings on St Albans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 6 May 2004

More local responses

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

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

Among them was this:
Bigots’ response.

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

A couple of others are worthwhile:

Typical reaction (from a rabbit fancier)

New Dean (from the local Quaker Meeting)

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

Communion news roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St Albans local responses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full text of Church Society documents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Dr Williams,

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

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

Yours sincerely,

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

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Tuesday, 4 May 2004

Dean's installation

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, 1 May 2004

further St Albans reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bradshaw starts out:

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

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

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Wednesday, 28 April 2004

More St Albans news

The St Albans Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship has issued a statement expressing “Serious Disquiet” following the appointment of Jeffrey John to be Dean of St Albans.
You can read the statement on the diocesan website. Below it is a note from the diocese explaining that The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert will be pleased to meet with diocesan clergy and official representatives of parishes who are concerned about the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, following his return from the diocesan pilgrimage (which concludes on 7 May).
The BBC has a report of all this here
and so does the Press Association here while
the Telegraph has Gay cleric faces new pressure to step down.

Meanwhile, “Anglican Mainstream” has created a St Albans page with links to many of the stories of the past few days.

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Monday, 26 April 2004

Notes not a sermon

In the Guardian today, Stephen Bates reports that Gay row dean attacks prejudice in church.

In a move likely to provoke renewed aggravation from conservative evangelicals, Canon Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, yesterday broke his silence in a sermon in which he reminded the Church of England that Jesus excluded no “untouchables” such as homosexuals from his special care.

But this is seriously misleading. Canon John is of course not yet Dean of St Albans. And what Stephen Bates is referring to is not a sermon that was delivered anywhere yesterday, but rather some sermon notes, prepared a while ago, and intended for use next June, as part of Inclusive Church Sunday, an observation being organised by inclusivechurch.net.

Update Tuesday
Similarly erroneous stories have been posted by The Times here
and also by OnReligion (thanks KH) here
Repeating the story doesn’t make it true. No such sermon was preached by Jeffrey John.

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Notes not a sermon

In the Guardian today, Stephen Bates reports that Gay row dean attacks prejudice in church.

In a move likely to provoke renewed aggravation from conservative evangelicals, Canon Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, yesterday broke his silence in a sermon in which he reminded the Church of England that Jesus excluded no “untouchables” such as homosexuals from his special care.

But this is seriously misleading. Canon John is of course not yet Dean of St Albans. And what Stephen Bates is referring to is not a sermon that was delivered anywhere yesterday, but rather some sermon notes, prepared a while ago, and intended for use next June, as part of Inclusive Church Sunday, an observation being organised by inclusivechurch.net.

Update Tuesday
Similarly erroneous stories have been posted by The Times here
and also by OnReligion (thanks KH) here
Repeating the story doesn’t make it true. No such sermon was preached by Jeffrey John.

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Sunday, 25 April 2004

godslots and more

Geoffrey Rowell in The Times
Let us liberate ourselves from the dark, demonic powers of evil. Here is an extract:

If the memory of the crusades is still a distorting one in the context of Christian-Muslim relations, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade still haunts memories and attitudes in the relationship of the Christian East to the Christian West, and colours the suspicion of many Orthodox Christians towards Christians of the West. Both Catholics and Pentecostals can be seen in very different ways as representative of the ancient aggression of the Latin West.
Eastern Christianity, which has never had the experience of either the Reformation or the Enlightenment has, at its best, a deep awareness of the cosmic dimension of redemption, and a sacramental understanding of the world. The Easter Liturgy, so central to Orthodox worship, proclaims Christ?s victory over death and His liberation of humanity from the imprisonment of the dark, demonic powers of evil. We are called into a new creation and a transfiguration of our life by the grace of Christ.
The healing of memories is necessary if the different traditions of the Christian churches are to find their true unity in Christ. We cannot ignore history, and we must learn to understand the histories of other traditions and communities. In so far as it is possible for a later generation to be penitent for what earlier generations did, Christians in the West need to remember that events can have a terrible afterlife and so be ready to acknowledge the scars and fault lines that have resulted from what happened in Constantinople 800 years ago this month.
If the risen Christ appeared to His disciples still bearing the wounds of His passion, but transfigured, we can surely believe that the wounds of history may by humility, penitence and grace be transfigured in the same way. The peace of the world and the unity of its peoples depend in the end on this Easter reality.

Judith Maltby in the Guardian
What women want reflects on the progress still to be made in the CofE:

…Officially, Anglicans continue to constrain the ministry of women clergy. Terms like “provisionality” and “in reception” are used of our orders, and the church endorses employment discrimination on the basis of sex that it would condemn in any secular employer. In the midst of all this, women priests must not, of course, give anything other than complete loyalty and commitment back to the church.
We continue to exclude women from the church’s most authoritative body, the House of Bishops, although it is clear that we are not awash with talent in the episcopate. Tellingly, Canon Jeffrey John’s welcome appointment as dean of St Albans has been characterised as “compensation” for a bishopric, whereas a deanery is the highest office to which a woman may be called in the Church of England.
Most disastrously, however, we provide “flying bishops”, with “untainted hands”, for those who cannot tolerate sacramental contact with a bishop who ordains women. What does this provision reveal about what the Church of England, as an institution, thinks of women as a source of pollution? How, too, is this model being applied to other issues of conscience? Those who object to the “bishops of choice” model as a way of dealing with disputes over sexuality must ask themselves why it is bearable, or desirable, in dealing with the debate over gender. I, for one, would like to see a bit more anger from my own “liberal side” about the treatment of women, as well as of gay men.
Why do women priests put up with it? Opponents like to see us as fuelled by something rather wicked called “secular feminism”, which, I suppose, means owning property and having the vote. But on the contrary, the vocations of the vast majority of women priests have been fed from deep within the life of the church. A doctoral study of the 1994 ordinations revealed that the single largest group defined themselves as evangelical, something worth remembering as the word has become, to many, synonymous with “reactionary”.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph
What’s all this about Rapture?

It sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Indeed, a bestselling series of 10 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins, starting with Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days (1995), has sold in almost Harry Potter-ish millions.
Yet the Left Behind publishing phenomenon reflects the remarkable fact that many - perhaps eight million - in the United States really believe The Rapture is coming, probably soon. Makes sense, they say, what with this terrible world violence and Israel surrounded by hostile nations.

Guardian For God’s sake The strong influence of the Christian right on US policy will only increase if George Bush wins a second term, says Philip James

The influence of the Christian right on the Bush White House is self-evident. As well as George Bush, cabinet members Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft and Don Evans all consider themselves to be born again.

The administration is acutely aware of the power of the Christian voting block in the US. Gallup surveys consistently count 46% of the population as being self-described born again Christians, the bulk of whom live in middle America.
It is a stunning statistic, and one that escapes the attention of the chattering classes who populate the much less devout coastal strips.
Many of these churchgoers voted for Bush in 2000, and Carl Rove is determined that all of them should do the same this year. The latest data should put a spring in his step - Bush’s job approval among grassroots Christian social conservatives hovers between 92% and 96%.

The Times At your service visits St Nicholas, Brighton.

Labyrinths are to be found in religious traditions all over the world. Many take the form of a large circle, with a single path leading you through the four quadrants to the centre. They became an established part of the Catholic Church during the crusades, when pilgrimage to the Holy Land was dangerous, and people needed another way of honouring their vows.

By coincidence, I just visited Amiens Cathedral, which has a genuine medieval labyrinth built into the tiling of the floor of the nave.

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press review

Andrew Brown’s regular weekly Press column in the Church Times discusses how the British broadsheets covered the St Albans story. As this isn’t on the web for another 2 weeks, I summarise it below.

Update 8 May
The full text of Andrew Brown’s press column of two weeks ago is now available here.

But first, Andrew’s own blog draws attention to the Diary column in the Guardian on Friday, which began a new feature Behind the Barking Letter, with this:

A new Diary feature is inspired by a robust missive from one Rev Justin Hughes, sent to our colleague Steve Bates and concerning gay Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John. With “Behind the Barking Letter”, then, we will attempt to bring you the people behind the poison, the personalities behind green ink.
There isn’t space, alas, to print Justin’s theological argument in full, but he explains Jeffrey is “one of Blair’s anus-lusting perverts… no better than a member of the vile cult of the dead woman, the pope religion… these vile creatures claim to be servants of God, when they actually serve your master, Satan …”
Having placed a call to the evangelical minister at his home in Bruton, Somerset, we begin. Thank you, Justin, for being the inaugural Behind the Barking Letter. Do outline your basic day. “My day-to-day life,” says his reverence personably, “wouldn’t be that different from yours.” Well, you say that … “I might do some street level evangelism.” Is that sandwich board work? “No, I carry a small battery-powered amplifier.” And how often, on an average day, does someone tell you you’re barking? “Quite a lot. I’ve been swung at by sodomites, I’ve had feminists shake their fists at me. Jesus tells you this’ll happen though.” What’s he like? “He can be like me. He’s lovely, but he can be firm. He told me off once.” What for? “Speaking against the wrong person.” And finally, how do you pay the bills? “I’m a rep for a medical equipment company.” Thanking you Justin, you’ve been most kind.

Andrew has published the full text of the letter sent to Stephen Bates, see Smashing Stereotypes

Now back to the CT press review.
After laughing at the gross ignorance of the CofE shown in the American quote (in Ruth Gledhill’s initial report):

This is an outrageous appointment. It is a backdoor attempt to make homosexuality mainstream in the Church of England.

he goes on to note how the opposing views of the Telegraph and Times on the one hand, and the Guardian and the Independent on the other, are all based on the same data, or rather lack of data:

if there is a gay clergyman there must be outrage; so phone around until you find it. This in itself makes an implicit judgement that the outrage must be significant, but it’s one that will be more quickly forgotten if it is wrong. Hyperbole is the natural key of a news report: when was the last time one saw real “fury” in the world? Yet even those journalists sent off to St Albans instead of Iraq find fury everywhere. Their readers, correspondingly, discount it, and remember instead the occasional shocking modulations into the key of common sense.

I will link the whole column here when it is released to the web (now done).

Most coverage of recent St Albans news is on the TA blog.

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press review

Andrew Brown’s regular weekly Press column in the Church Times discusses how the British broadsheets covered the St Albans story. As this isn’t on the web for another 2 weeks, I summarise it below.

Update 8 May
The full text of Andrew Brown’s press column of two weeks ago is now available here.

But first, Andrew’s own blog draws attention to the Diary column in the Guardian on Friday, which began a new feature Behind the Barking Letter, with this:

A new Diary feature is inspired by a robust missive from one Rev Justin Hughes, sent to our colleague Steve Bates and concerning gay Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John. With “Behind the Barking Letter”, then, we will attempt to bring you the people behind the poison, the personalities behind green ink.
There isn’t space, alas, to print Justin’s theological argument in full, but he explains Jeffrey is “one of Blair’s anus-lusting perverts… no better than a member of the vile cult of the dead woman, the pope religion… these vile creatures claim to be servants of God, when they actually serve your master, Satan …”
Having placed a call to the evangelical minister at his home in Bruton, Somerset, we begin. Thank you, Justin, for being the inaugural Behind the Barking Letter. Do outline your basic day. “My day-to-day life,” says his reverence personably, “wouldn’t be that different from yours.” Well, you say that … “I might do some street level evangelism.” Is that sandwich board work? “No, I carry a small battery-powered amplifier.” And how often, on an average day, does someone tell you you’re barking? “Quite a lot. I’ve been swung at by sodomites, I’ve had feminists shake their fists at me. Jesus tells you this’ll happen though.” What’s he like? “He can be like me. He’s lovely, but he can be firm. He told me off once.” What for? “Speaking against the wrong person.” And finally, how do you pay the bills? “I’m a rep for a medical equipment company.” Thanking you Justin, you’ve been most kind.

Andrew has published the full text of the letter sent to Stephen Bates, see Smashing Stereotypes

Now back to the CT press review.
After laughing at the gross ignorance of the CofE shown in the American quote (in Ruth Gledhill’s initial report):

This is an outrageous appointment. It is a backdoor attempt to make homosexuality mainstream in the Church of England.

he goes on to note how the opposing views of the Telegraph and Times on the one hand, and the Guardian and the Independent on the other, are all based on the same data, or rather lack of data:

if there is a gay clergyman there must be outrage; so phone around until you find it. This in itself makes an implicit judgement that the outrage must be significant, but it’s one that will be more quickly forgotten if it is wrong. Hyperbole is the natural key of a news report: when was the last time one saw real “fury” in the world? Yet even those journalists sent off to St Albans instead of Iraq find fury everywhere. Their readers, correspondingly, discount it, and remember instead the occasional shocking modulations into the key of common sense.

I will link the whole column here when it is released to the web (now done).

Most coverage of recent St Albans news is on the TA blog.

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Sunday, 18 April 2004

St Albans in the news

The BBC radio programme Sunday carries a 9.5 minute feature on the rumours about a new Dean of St Albans. Listen here with Real Audio. Interviews with people in St Albans, and also with David Banting, Colin Coward, and Kendall Harmon.
And in a separate radio interview the matter is discussed with Andrew Carey.

There is also material from St Albans in Saturday afternoon’s BBC Radio 4 PM news programme but this link won’t last beyond Monday afternoon. The segment starts about 20 minutes into the programme, and runs about 4 minutes.

The Independent also visited St Albans and reports Hostility disappears as gay canon is appointed Dean of St Albans. Archive copy of this available here.

Whereas the Telegraph thinks Fury as Church appoints gay canon new dean of St Albans. They only visited St Albans by telephone.

The Observer has No 10 drive to give gay priest top job.

“Anglican Mainstream”, which was originally formed to oppose the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading, has issued this statement. Note that the signatories include a leader of Reform.

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Friday, 16 April 2004

New Dean of St Albans

Canon Jeffrey John - pictured right - will be the new Dean of St Albans, Ruth Gledhill reports.
The Times Top job for gay cleric. Some excerpts:

DR JEFFREY JOHN, the gay canon forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading, is to be the next Dean of St Albans in an appointment that will generate shock waves throughout the Anglican Communion.
Conservative evangelicals in the Anglican Church, already on the verge of breaking up after the ordination of the gay bishop Gene Robinson in the US and the authorisation of same-sex blessings in Canada, condemned Dr John’s elevation as an “outrage” and predicted that it would take the Church a step closer to schism.
The Times has learnt that Downing Street plans to announce on Tuesday that Dr John, who is in a celibate relationship with his long-term partner, another priest, is to head the chapter at St Albans.

The cathedral has been without a Dean since the Very Rev Christopher Lewis moved to Christ Church, Oxford, last October. Liberals in the diocese have lobbied for months for Dr John, who many believe was treated unfairly over the Reading appointment and who is considered to have all the gifts needed to make an international impact as a preacher.

The initial response to Dr John’s appointment in the St Albans diocese was mixed. Christina Rees, a lay member of the General Synod, said: “He will be a very good Dean for St Albans. He is an excellent theologian and has very good pastoral and interpersonal skills. He will be warmly accepted and welcomed.”
Evangelicals in this country, however, greeted the appointment with caution. Anglican Mainstream, which promotes evangelicalism, said: “The biblical requirement for Christian leaders remains to uphold the Church’s teaching and fashion the life of their household in accordance with that.”

In a second Times article The parable of the two good priests - with one difference Mary Ann Sieghart writes:

OF ALL the priests in the Church of England, the one Jeffrey John most resembles is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Both men are Welsh, highly intelligent, gifted theologians, transparently good, doctrinally orthodox and socially liberal. Both believe strongly in stable, faithful, monogamous relationships.

So his elevation, at last, to the post of Dean of St Albans will have come as an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Dr John was under no illusions about the scale of opposition to a gay dean or bishop, notwithstanding the fact that his relationship of 27 years has long been celibate.
In other respects, Dr John has all the attributes of a church leader. As well as having “a brain the size of a planet”, in the words of a fellow priest, he is also hard-working and, perhaps unusually for a theologian, good at pastoral duties too. He was as popular with students when he served as Dean of Divinity at Brasenose and Magdalen colleges, Oxford, as he was as a Vicar at Holy Trinity, Eltham, where he doubled the number of worshippers.

In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports Gay displaced from bishopric given deanery as consolation prize.

Jeffrey John, the celibate gay clergyman at the heart of last year’s Church of England row over his appointment as a bishop, is to receive the consolation prize of being appointed dean of St Albans next week, the Guardian has been told.
Dr John, 53, an Oxford-trained theologian and canon of Southwark Cathedral, was forced to stand down from his appointment as suffragan bishop of Reading last July after protests by evangelicals.
His appointment to a deanery, one step down from a bishopric, may still be controversial to some church conservatives; but last summer his critics drew a distinction between the appropriateness of selecting a gay man to be a bishop, and selecting lesser clergy.

Dr John’s appointment to St Albans will be warmly greeted by liberal Anglicans.
Even evangelicals opposed to last year’s appointment conceded that he was in all other respects eminently qualified for a bishopric.

BBC report Gay cleric in line for senior job
Press Association report Gay Cleric to Take Up Senior Anglican Post - Report

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New Dean of St Albans

Canon Jeffrey John - pictured right - will be the new Dean of St Albans, Ruth Gledhill reports.
The Times Top job for gay cleric. Some excerpts:

DR JEFFREY JOHN, the gay canon forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading, is to be the next Dean of St Albans in an appointment that will generate shock waves throughout the Anglican Communion.
Conservative evangelicals in the Anglican Church, already on the verge of breaking up after the ordination of the gay bishop Gene Robinson in the US and the authorisation of same-sex blessings in Canada, condemned Dr John’s elevation as an “outrage” and predicted that it would take the Church a step closer to schism.
The Times has learnt that Downing Street plans to announce on Tuesday that Dr John, who is in a celibate relationship with his long-term partner, another priest, is to head the chapter at St Albans.

The cathedral has been without a Dean since the Very Rev Christopher Lewis moved to Christ Church, Oxford, last October. Liberals in the diocese have lobbied for months for Dr John, who many believe was treated unfairly over the Reading appointment and who is considered to have all the gifts needed to make an international impact as a preacher.

The initial response to Dr John’s appointment in the St Albans diocese was mixed. Christina Rees, a lay member of the General Synod, said: “He will be a very good Dean for St Albans. He is an excellent theologian and has very good pastoral and interpersonal skills. He will be warmly accepted and welcomed.”
Evangelicals in this country, however, greeted the appointment with caution. Anglican Mainstream, which promotes evangelicalism, said: “The biblical requirement for Christian leaders remains to uphold the Church’s teaching and fashion the life of their household in accordance with that.”

In a second Times article The parable of the two good priests - with one difference Mary Ann Sieghart writes:

OF ALL the priests in the Church of England, the one Jeffrey John most resembles is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Both men are Welsh, highly intelligent, gifted theologians, transparently good, doctrinally orthodox and socially liberal. Both believe strongly in stable, faithful, monogamous relationships.

So his elevation, at last, to the post of Dean of St Albans will have come as an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Dr John was under no illusions about the scale of opposition to a gay dean or bishop, notwithstanding the fact that his relationship of 27 years has long been celibate.
In other respects, Dr John has all the attributes of a church leader. As well as having “a brain the size of a planet”, in the words of a fellow priest, he is also hard-working and, perhaps unusually for a theologian, good at pastoral duties too. He was as popular with students when he served as Dean of Divinity at Brasenose and Magdalen colleges, Oxford, as he was as a Vicar at Holy Trinity, Eltham, where he doubled the number of worshippers.

In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports Gay displaced from bishopric given deanery as consolation prize.

Jeffrey John, the celibate gay clergyman at the heart of last year’s Church of England row over his appointment as a bishop, is to receive the consolation prize of being appointed dean of St Albans next week, the Guardian has been told.
Dr John, 53, an Oxford-trained theologian and canon of Southwark Cathedral, was forced to stand down from his appointment as suffragan bishop of Reading last July after protests by evangelicals.
His appointment to a deanery, one step down from a bishopric, may still be controversial to some church conservatives; but last summer his critics drew a distinction between the appropriateness of selecting a gay man to be a bishop, and selecting lesser clergy.

Dr John’s appointment to St Albans will be warmly greeted by liberal Anglicans.
Even evangelicals opposed to last year’s appointment conceded that he was in all other respects eminently qualified for a bishopric.

BBC report Gay cleric in line for senior job
Press Association report Gay Cleric to Take Up Senior Anglican Post - Report

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