Thinking Anglicans

Diarmaid MacCulloch radio interview

The Today programme this morning carried an interview with Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch (see here for review of his latest book).

The interview was not however about his book, but about the current debate on sexuality. In this interview DM noted that a paranoic hatred of homosexuals started in the 11th or 12th centuries and has continued to the present day, uniting the Pope and Ian Paisley. He compared the current dispute to the Reformation itself.

You can hear the whole interview, using Real Audio here.


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Robin Eames: What Price Unity?

The Archbishop of Armagh and Senior Primate of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Robin Eames, examines some of the questions currently facing the worldwide Anglican Communion prior to the forthcoming special meeting of Primates at Lambeth Palace.

Read What Price Unity from the Church of Ireland Gazette.

Part of what he says:
In the blitz of opinion and counter argument over the election to New Hampshire I believe we need to be clear what we are talking about.

This election undoubtedly challenges the Resolution 1.10 of the last Lambeth Conference. It is clearly in breach of the majority opinion of the bishops in 1998. It is clearly contrary to the view of a large number of Anglicans. But the question still remains: Is there a tangible manner within the structures of our Communion as present constituted to do more than express concern and criticism and adopt attitudes within our own Provinces towards those others with whom we disagree?

To put it plainly – if no constitutional or legal rules exist for what constitutes membership of the Anglican Communion there are no rules for expulsion of a member Church.


Some news about INCLUSIVECHURCH.NET is available on this page.
Key points from this release:

  • Over 5000 individual Christians, and many organisations and P.C.C.s have joined in signing the statement in the four weeks since Inclusive Church .net was launched.
  • On 15th September a small group of supporters met to consider this overwhelming response, and concluded that Inclusive Church was here to stay.
  • We will shortly be posting more information on the website for all those who have signed up to the Statement of Belief setting out our suggested plans for the future, and inviting comments and ideas.

Nigeria reacts to criticism

ACNS has published the full text of a letter, released on 22 September, from Archbishop Akinola to Archbishop Ndungane. The letter is in response to the report in the Guardian dated 8 September, which included an interview with Archbishop Ndungane.


NEAC still in the news

The Guardian report by Stephen Bates, Evangelicals side with church rebels says that senior evangelicals meeting in Blackpool ignored pleas for tolerance and patience from the archbishops of Canterbury and York yesterday to send a message of support to parishes in the US and Canada which have fallen out over the issue of blessings for same sex couples and the election of an openly gay bishop.

Both this report and Ruth Gledhill’s in The Times, Liberal tolerance of gays in Church ‘is just paganism’ quote these remarks of Gordon Wenham:

“(Paganism) is raising its head again. Other examples are religious pluralism, abolition of Sunday as universal rest day, abortion, cremation, easy divorce … we should not be intimidated by the charge of being old fashioned: it is the so-called liberals who are really taking us back to the dark ages.”

The Telegraph report by Jonathan Petre strikes a less negative note, Evangelicals ‘must learn from gays’ and reports that “they were also told to counter criticism that they lack compassion by listening to and learning from the experiences of homosexuals.”


Conflicts in ECUSA

The anatomy of schism: A battle of biblical tyranny discusses the current ECUSA difficulties from an American historical (and liberal) perspective.

Dr L William Countryman, professor of New Testament at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif. has written an essay entitled Dealing with Conflict as Anglicans which is available in pdf format and can be downloaded from here.

The views expressed in both of these are, I would judge, in conflict with much of what is being said at NEAC. What we in the CofE call Conservative Evangelicalism (see Graham Kings’ discussion) has until quite recently been unknown inside ECUSA.

There is one point made in the first article on which all can agree:
“The Internet has made all the difference,” says the Rev. John Kater, professor of ministry development at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. “Thirty years ago it would have taken African Christians weeks or months to even hear what happened at General Convention, and another six months to have a response. Now it’s done instantly. It’s much easier to organize because we have websites, chat rooms, and instant emails.”


David Hope bangs heads

The Archbishop of York has attracted plenty of newspaper attention this morning:
in The Times, Gay debate tearing heart out of Church, archbishop says
in the Telegraph, Infighting is wrecking Church’s image, says archbishop
in the Guardian, Evangelicals told to pipe down and listen
which also has Church report reinforces gay policy


More on NEAC

The BBC radio programme Sunday has a 7 minute audio report available here (Real Audio needed). Includes quotes from Francis Bridger (about Fulcrum) and from Christina Rees.

And here is the ACNS news release about Rowan Williams at NEAC.


Fulcrum: evangelical centre ground

The Church Times, in an article entitled Groups vie to represent Evangelical mainstream reports on the formation of Fulcrum, a new Evangelical grouping which “aims to give a voice to those who identify with Evangelicalism’s centre ground, but who feel that their views are not adequately heard in the public arena”.
Fulcrum has its own website here with more about its aims and objectives. This is well worth a read.
There are also two articles (in pdf format) of some interest.
One is a longer version of the article in this week’s Church Times by Graham Kings. Canal, River and Rapids: Contemporary Evangelicalism in the Church of England can be downloaded here.
The other is English Evangelicals and the Archbishop’s Theology by Andrew Goddard, downloadable here.


Reports from NEAC

Choose your medium:
The Telegraph says Evangelicals warn Williams on gay issue
The Times has Church is infected by sin, Williams tells evangelicals
The BBC says Evangelicals warm up in gay row
The Guardian says No room in the church: archbishop finds himself cast out by evangelicals together with ‘Most churches just want to help people’
NEAC itself offers A defining moment for Anglican evangelicals by Andrew Goddard, reproduced from the CEN.


Archbishop of Wales on how to conduct the same sex relations debate

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales is meeting this week. In his presidential address yesterday, the Archbishop of Wales (the Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan) outlined the background against which the same sex relations debate needs to be conducted within the Anglican communion in the months and years ahead. He addresses these five general issues

1. The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture
2. The nature of Anglicanism
3. Decision making within the Anglican Communion
4. The place of Lambeth Resolutions
5. The sexual issue in a wider context

and it’s all well worth reading.

There is a press release here and links to the full text here.

The British national newspapers do not appear to have covered this, but the icNetwork in North Wales has this story.


American money

The Observer carries a major news story today, headlined Anglicans face schism over gay row, and subtitled Conservative US bishops prepare to take on liberal British wing in bitter struggle for Church’s soul.

This article refers to money spent outside the USA by the American Anglican Council. In connection with this, an item I reported on 6 August in my personal blog under the heading of American Imperialism may be of interest as it mentions that some of this money is channelled through British institutions.

As usual, other news stories today are listed here.

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The FT reports on Anglican matters

Graham Bowley has written a long piece in the Financial Times, of all places, on our current controversies, under the title Jesus Loves Me which is well worth reading.
Later Note: this article was reposted by the FT on 15 September with major errors in the original fixed. Worth reading it again if you only saw the first version.
Further Note: on Saturday 19 September, the FT printed this letter commenting on the article from an American reader.


'Disciplining ECUSA'

The Church of England Newspaper reports, in an article Primates in no mood for US compromise that ‘about half of the Anglican primates are prepared to reject compromise solutions’ at the meeting of the primates at Lambeth in October. The primates, it is reported, will call for the Episcopal Church to overturn the election of Gene Robinson, and if it does not do so, to suspend its membership of the Communion, reduce it to observer status, and finally ‘expel’ it, setting up a new Anglican jurisdiction in its place.

It seems hard to determine who precisely can rule which Church is in communion with the See of Canterbury — but I imagine that in England it might require the agreement of the General Synod, whose agreement is certainly needed to bring a Church into communion with the See.

It seems that the running is still being made by the ultra-conservatives. Those desiring a more open, informed discussion — and an open, informed Church — need to ensure that this Gadarene rush is slowed.

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Irish bishops on Human Sexuality

The Church of Ireland bishops yesterday issued this pastoral letter on Human Sexuality.


Manchester Cathedral and LGCM: a petition

To sign the following letter, go here.

To: Manchester Cathedral Authorities

We regret the inhospitable action of Manchester Cathedral, in withdrawing permission for an act of worship for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, to be held at the Cathedral. We invite the Cathedral authorities to explain their action clearly, and to consider seriously the message that their action gives to lesbian and gay people.


To see a little of the background to this petition, go here and follow the links there.

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Science and Religion

This article in The Guardian last Thursday (4 September 2003) asks the question ‘why do so many scientists believe in God?’ Why not, you might reasonably answer, but the writer talks to a number of scientists who combine their profession with religious practice and belief.

Also discussed is the Science and Religion Forum, meeting this week in Birmingham.

To paraphrase one of those interviewed: doubt is important to both science and religion.


Lies, Damned Lies and Cost of Conscience

Subscribers to this month’s edition of New Directions not only get an article by Rowan Williams (considerably more nuanced than the soundbite versions that some national papers took up), they also get Robbie Low and Francis Gardom’s analysis of the research undertaken by Peter Brierley for Cost of Conscience last year. Brierley runs a pretty reputable outfit at Christian Research so it was no surprise when the media picked up on the selective release of statistics by Cost of Conscience last year that appeared to show low levels of assent among liberal Christians to the major doctrinal tenets of the Christian faith. The thesis of Cost of Conscience as presented in the newly released booklet is that those who they would categorise as “liberal” Christians have not only abandoned traditional patterns of worship and gender relationships but are now gently tiptoeing away from the creeds themselves.

We still don’t have the full range of answers to all the questions put by Christian Research. So the first caveat must be that those selected for publication maybe the ones which most strongly agree with the conclusion that Cost of Conscience are trying to direct us towards. But what of what we do have? Well, at the risk of being drummed out of the magic circle, let me show you how the trick is done. Those surveyed were asked to score their assent or dissent from a range of credal statements according to five categories. The first two are plain enough “definitely don’t believe” and “not sure I believe this”. It then gets more tricky. The remaining three categories are “mostly believe”, “believe but not sure I understand” and finally “believe without question”. Cost of Conscience (though probably not Dr Brierley) then makes the bold assertion that we can discount as inadequate all responses apart from “believe without question”. Only this response we’re told “implies a confidence to teach and preach the faith”.

At its most charitable, this must be seen as a deliberate attempt not to understand the way the non-conservative mind works. Not only is there the natural reluctance among many of us, given a range of replies to a question, to tick the boxes at the extreme ends, there is also a strong underlying principle many of us have that questioning is a basic part of belief. Few of us would want to accept the parody of our views that to question means not having sufficient certainty in order to preach and teach the faith. Indeed, we would press strongly the claim that it is precisely through our continuing search and struggle and engagement with the tradition that we gain the depth of faith essential if we are to preach the Good News and pastor the people of God. Cost of Conscience would, I’m sure, have me down as a liberal but I could actually affirm all of the doctrines on which they quizzed their respondents but to believe without question seems tantamount to a dereliction of my responsibility.

There are few sermons I can remember from over a quarter of a century ago but I know I will never forget Basil Hume preaching one night in Great St Mary’s Church Cambridge. At the time I was a young man struggling with his emerging sense of vocation. To hear this great Christian leader speaking of the central role his own doubts played in his faith was inspirational. On those grounds the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster himself clearly failed the Cost of Conscience test of orthodox belief. It didn’t seem to make his preaching any less powerful.

There’s a serious debate to be had about how the Church of England holds together its neo-conservative wing and the mainstream beliefs and experiences of most active church members. Honest research has a part to play in that and Dr Brierley and his team have a pretty honourable record down the years at providing it. What Cost of Conscience have released, however, is not the raw data which could have some value, but a processed, manipulated and twisted version of them sufficient to make even the most hardened government spin doctor blush. We have here not an analysis but a parody of the beliefs and integrity of the great majority of those clergy it is my privilege as a bishop to work with in the cause of the Gospel. A distortion beyond recognition that I would be failing in my pastoral responsibility for them not to defend them against.

On this reading, whilst the “Cost” is a matter of commercial confidence between Dr Brierley and those who commissioned him, we may conclude that the “Conscience” went west some time ago.


Surrounded by Prayer announces a service of prayer for an inclusive church on 15 October, the day when the Primates of the Anglican Communion will be meeting at Lambeth to discuss the consequences of the the election of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.



Manchester Cathedral refuses LGCM use of cathedral

The Manchester Cathedral Chapter, with the support of the Bishop’s Senior Staff, has reluctantly withdrawn its permission for LGCM to use Manchester Cathedral for a conference service on October 26th 2003. The press release says:
“It has done so in the light of sensitivities and timing in relation to the current debates in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.”

full text of cathedral press release here

Details of the conference here

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