Thinking Anglicans

Inclusive Church Sunday has announced plans to observe 20 June 2004 as Inclusive Church Sunday. Details of the plans can be found here.

The arrangements include an order of service for a liturgy are built into Common Worship Order One, with Eucharistic Prayer G.

There are also sermon notes prepared for inclusivechurch by Canon Jeffrey John.


Dean stories

Only the Telegraph could sustain the St Albans story into another Sunday.
Evangelicals threaten to ‘ruin’ C of E over gay canon which begins:

Evangelical Anglican churches are threatening the Church of England with financial ruin in protest at the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, a homosexual, as the Dean of St Albans Cathedral.

The BBC’s Sunday radio programme took a broader view, with:
Several cathedral Deans have been lively characters with a national profile. And colourful deans aren’t just the stuff of church history: as Christopher Landau has been finding out, even in Anthony Trollope’s fictional town of Barchester, controversy surrounded a dean’s appointment.
Listen (5m 31s – Real Audio)


new evo sexuality campaign

Anglican Mainstream the conservative evangelical campaign organisation has changed its mind about the acceptability of Jeffrey John’s appointment as a cathedral dean. (Earlier it had issued this statement.)

Yesterday, it issued a Press Release and a Full Text of Response.
Other extreme evangelical groups have also issued statements:
Church of England Evangelical Council
Church Society (Note: this is a pdf file; an html copy for TA readers is here.
Church Society has also issued a more detailed document, also as a pdf file, but similarly archived here.

As this campaign appears to be based on what was said in St Albans on Monday, here are the detailed links to transcripts of the event:

Statements made at press conference, Monday April 19th
Extracts from press conference: ‘gay marriages’

And for completeness, here is the letter sent by the Bishop of St Albans to all his clergy (including David Phillips) and the diocesan announcement of responses to the appointment from diocesan officials and others.


Dean of St Albans roundup

Since last Tuesday there have been further reports in the local St Albans papers, and in the church press, all listed below. Coverage of the story outside the UK has been very limited, consisting mainly of copies of the AP story linked earlier.

Also, we failed to list the Guardian’s leader comment from Tuesday, Evangelical veto which concludes with this:

The subdued reaction to Dr John’s appointment suggests that a sobering shame has descended on his opponents after the excitements of last year. That is welcome, if surprising: they had seemed shameless in the heat of the campaign against him. But it does not undo the damage done last year, when it was established that the Church of England is in the last analysis controlled by the large evangelical churches which consider themselves its paymasters.
No one can now be appointed a bishop against their veto, backed up by the threat of financial sanctions. Deans are immune to this kind of pressure. Their salaries are centrally paid and their appointment is made directly from arcane committees. Curiously, this is an argument in favour of the Church’s establishment, which is a mechanism for preserving diversity. The more democratic and congregational the Church becomes, the less tolerant it is likely to be. American churches, operating in a free religious market, tend to hold narrow and exclusive views, whether liberal or conservative. It is the civil war over homosexuality in the US church which is driving the break-up of Anglicanism. In the end, it may be the absurdity of a church which can take so seriously a job like bishop of Reading or dean of St Albans, which preserves it as an oasis of tolerance in a world where religion is increasingly important, and dangerous.

However, yesterday, “Anglican Mainstream” launched a new campaign against Jeffrey John’s appointment (see later report for details) which was reflected in two newspapers today:
Guardian Campaign begins against gay dean
Telegraph Evangelical backlash over gay dean



God for England and St George!

Today is St George’s Day. Articles about St George frequently begin with words such as ‘Little is known about St George’, and it is true. Probably he was a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He may have been a Palestinian or a Syrian, and he was martyred in about the year 304, during the persecution of Diocletian. If this is true, it means that this is the seventeen hundredth anniversary of his martyrdom — an anniversary which seems to have passed unnoticed, as did that of Agnes, martyred in Rome in January of about the same year. Agnes, though, has a shrine and feast day in Rome to keep her cult alive, but George seems to have gone somewhat out of favour. Even this morning’s Church Times carried an article suggesting he be replaced as England’s patron.

George is mostly remembered for the legends that came to be told about him, most famously his slaying of a dragon, and the consequent rescue of a virgin princess. George is said to have been martyred at Lydda, in Palestine, the place at which Perseus, in Greek mythology, defeated a sea-monster, and it seems likely that the legend has been transferred from the pagan hero to the Christian martyr.

This legend, however, serves us well as an allegory of aspects of the Christian faith. George, a soldier for Christ, puts on the whole armour of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, as Paul writes in Ephesians. Thus armed, he is ready to take action against the dragon, the representative of evil, a deed reminiscent of that of Michael, the archangel, in the great vision in the Book of Revelation. And he does this, not for great glory and honour, but to save the life of an innocent girl threatened by this evil, a girl who has no one else to protect her.

Modernists may mock, or may consider the legends to be sexist or sexual, but here is a parable, an allegory, of our Christian life — whatever our politics or churchmanship: to defend the weak against the onslaught of evil, and to help bring each person that we meet closer to the kingdom of God.

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Mel's Passion

I wasn’t going to see it. It wasn’t that I felt strongly about the movie, one way or the other, it was just not top of my list of must-do’s. It was only when I was alerted to the fact that The Passion of the Christ might be a subject at a dinner party that I thought I might give it a go.

I kept waiting for something to happen. That’s not to say that there was not plenty of action, far from it. I patiently sat and noted the various bits of the gospel stories which Gibson had pressed into service. I flinched a little at the initial bloodletting. Patiently I watched for the androgynous Devil character to develop into significance, but it never quite got there. By the time Caviezel’s Jesus fell a second time, I realised we were doing the stations of the cross, and I wearily ticked them off in my head as they passed across the screen.

At the end I was left with a big ‘so what?’ I didn’t know what Gibson wanted me to do with his tale; I was left with a surfeit of blood and carnage with nowhere to put it. It was beyond me why some of my colleagues had block-booked theatres, to use the movie to encourage people to faith.

The point about telling a Jesus story is that you do so to answer a question, or to raise one. Each of the gospel writers was telling their version of the Jesus story in such a way as to address a particular need of the community to whom they were writing. The question might be about who belongs in the Christian community? or who is my neighbour? Why should we take Jesus seriously? Either way the stories are written in such a way that invites a response. Gospel writers are not simply spinning a tale for the sake of it, they want you to take what they’ve written and do something with it.

The Gospel according to St Mel does none of this, unless having your nose rubbed in the brutality of first century Roman justice somehow makes you want to say your prayers. If the film was created to answer a question it was certainly lost on me.

Gospel writers and preachers know that there is no such thing as a plain vanilla Jesus story. That’s why the four gospels differ in the way that they do. Why they write and preach is because they recognise that people start with real-life questions, and so the story has to be told in such a way that speaks to the real-life situations of their hearers, and all of these are different. They shaped their material in the belief that God meets us where we are. So, don’t send me to a movie, tell me in your own words how you, a person like me, with problems and concerns like mine, has been changed by Jesus. If I can see that it is possible for me as well, then it’s news I can use, good news.


New Dean of St Albans

There are a few more articles in this morning’s newspapers, and the St Albans diocesan website has added a few extracts from yesterday’s press conference.



New Dean of St Albans – early evening update

Following this morning’s official announcement from Downing Street of Dr John’s appointment the St Albans diocesan website carries statements made at the press conference in St Albans, a number of responses to the appointment and a letter that the diocesan bishop has sent to the clergy.

Several online newspapers are already carrying articles written since the announcement, although, since the story was accurately leaked several days ago, they have little new to say.


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New Dean of St Albans

Last week’s ‘rumours’ about the appointment of a new Dean of St Albans have been confirmed this morning.

The press release from the Diocese of St Albans reads

It has been announced from 10 Downing Street today (Monday, April 19th) that the Queen has approved the nomination of The Revd Canon Dr Jeffrey John as the next Dean of St Albans.

Canon Jeffery John, who is also to be Rector of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans, is currently Chancellor and Canon Theologian of Southwark Cathedral. He succeeds the Very Revd Christopher Lewis, who became Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, last October, after nine years as Dean of St Albans.

The Bishop of St Albans will be writing to all clergy in the diocese today. The text of the letter will be placed on the diocesan website later today.

More information on the diocesan website.


Rowan Williams' Easter Sermon

The text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Sermon is below.

Canterbury Cathedral 11 April 2004

A good few years ago, I heard a distinguished American scholar of ancient history commenting on the proclamation of the resurrection as it would have been heard in the classical world. ‘If an educated Greek or Roman had been told that someone had been raised from the dead’, he said, ‘his first question would have been “How do you get him back into his grave again?”’. The point was that most of those who first heard the Easter gospel would have found it grotesque or even frightening. Resurrection was not a joyful sign of hope but an alarming oddity, something potentially very dangerous. The dead, if they survived at all, lived in their own world – a shadowy place, where they were condemned to a sort of half-life of yearning and sadness. So Vergil at least represents it in his great epic, unforgettably portraying the dead as ‘stretching out their hands in longing for the other side of the river’. But for them to return would have been terrifying and unnatural; the boundaries between worlds had to be preserved and protected.


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