Thinking Anglicans

women bishops in England

On Tuesday the long-awaited Rochester report will be published.

During October, Forward in Faith published its own proposals concerning the establishment of a “third province”, in a book entitled Consecrated Women? And those supporting women bishops also published a book The Call for Women Bishops.

The Church Times of 15 October covered this in some detail:
Forward in Faith offers third-province Measure
FiF rejects team option
Press on with women vote
CT editorial Contemplating a new province
The CT also published an extract from the first book A case not made.

The following week, the CT published an extract from the second book Forget pork pies.
There were also letters to the editor and a report of the FiF National Assembly, Be ready for ‘holy disobedience’, FiF told.

Today’s newspapers have several articles about the issue:

Observer Gaby Hinsliff and Jamie Doward Hewitt gives backing for female bishops

Sunday Times Christopher Morgan Anglicans told to accept women bishops or leave

TRADITIONALIST Anglicans have been warned by a senior bishop that they should consider leaving the Church of England if it backs the ordination of women bishops.

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury and a supporter of change, said it would be impossible to make special arrangements to cater for members opposed to women leading dioceses. Traditionalists would have to decide whether to accept women bishops or leave the church if they could not.

…Stancliffe said: “If this (ordaining women bishops) is the mind of the church, people will be faced with a choice whether to stay or leave. The present arrangements (of no-go areas for women priests) will no longer be able to hold.”

He believes that all the legislation to allow women bishops will be in place by 2008, with the first ordinations happening soon afterwards.

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African bishops comment

ACNS carries a statement from the meeting of Anglican bishops in Africa.

The bishops welcome the Windsor Report, but they explicitly do not express any regret for the actions of some of then in ministering to congregations in other dioceses:

However, we reject the moral equivalence drawn between those who have initiated the crisis and those of us in the Global South who have responded to cries for help from beleaguered friends. To call on us to “express regret” and reassert our commitment to the Communion is offensive in light of our earlier statements. If the Episcopal Church USA had not willfully “torn the fabric of our communion at its deepest level” our actions would not have been necessary.

The statement concludes:

We are committed to the future life of the Anglican Communion, one that is rooted in truth and charity, and faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Homo floresiensis

Writing about the news, this week, of the discovery of a previously unknown human species, dubbed Homo floresiensis, Desmond Morris includes this provocative comment:

[T]he existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil simply to test our faith.

This seems to me to be something of a non sequitur, but presumably Morris is referring to the more fundamentalist versions of religious faith, and whether his inclusion of all religion in the comment is deliberate or accidental, it is surely the case that the existence of other human species is something that most Christians have almost taken for granted over the last hundred or so years.

As Morris notes, the intriguing question is whether the newly-discover species would be able to communicate with us in a spoken language:

When it comes down to it, being able to talk is really what defines humanity

and Christians should have little problem with that either. Speech enables us to communicate; speech enables us to think and to apply our brains to complex problem-solving; speech enables us to tell the truth and to lie, to influence and mislead. In short, it is language which separates us from other creatures — in this world, creatures which can speak are creatures which have, in the parable of the book of Genesis, fallen.

Scientific discoveries such as this should indeed be another nail in the coffin of fundamentalist religion, but sadly I suspect that those who deny the possibility of evolution will deny the logic of this discovery too.

That we should accept and even welcome the obvious conclusions about our ancestry does not seem a big thing to me. The message of kingdom of God, proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth, is neither strengthened nor weakened by such news — it is true regardless.

Update 1 November

Morris’s article referred to above has drawn a lot of comment on the BBC website. The BBC has also published this response by David Wilkinson, lecturer in theology and science at Durham University, and council member of the Evangelical Alliance


meeting of African bishops

This week sees a meeting of African Anglican bishops in Nigeria.

The BBC provides a preview of the meeting.

The Scotsman has a PA report under the headline African Anglicans May Breakaway in Gay Row

From Nigeria, Lagos’s Daily Champion also has a preview, Africa’s Anglican Bishops’ Meeting Starts ‘Morrow

Due principally to the threat from homosexual-ism among their Western brethren, Anglican bishops in Africa seeking to eke out a separate identity for themselves, converge on Lagos tomorrow for a continental conference on burning issues in the church.

Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, is quoted as saying:

“We send our men to theological school abroad but we have discovered that there are a lot of unwholesome things that happen,”

Akinola, who was flanked by the church’s primates in Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and some Southern African countries disclosed that the African bishops will fashion out ways by setting up a theological educational centre to help train her clerics.

“We will come up with the road map for the development of African Theological Centres of Excellence that are accessible and affordable with comprehensive and realistic curricula,” he remarked.

The Daily Champion report also says:

Only recently Rev. Akinola demanded an unreserved apology from the 50 bishops in the church who attended Robinson’s ordination.

However, Robinson’s ordination was a fall-out of the 2002 Lamberth conference in the USA which formally approved of gay ordination.

though perhaps this is the sort of inaccuracy which any journalist might fall into.


the Church press gets in on the act – 2

Today’s paper edition of Church Times has about ten pages devoted to the Windsor Report. Just three of the many articles are on the free part of the paper’s website.

There’s an overview news article Windsor report proposes new Covenant for Anglicans, a report Furious Akinola slams report about one person who is not happy, and More or less our last chance, says Eames, an interview with the chair of the Commission.


'Fireproofing the House'

N T Wright, Bishop of Durham, was a member of the Eames Commission which wrote the Windsor report. In an interview Anglican Report is ‘Fireproofing the House’ by Douglas LeBlanc in Christianity Today he talks about how the Commission went about its work, what happened behind the scenes, whether the report should have been tougher, and why it’s critical of some conservative bishops. Finally he discusses his ‘best case scenario’ for the Anglican Communion.

[We’re] working out what it means to be the Anglican Communion for the 21st century. We’re looking way ahead of current crises and we’re saying we’d like to set up and see a framework which will enable us to be faithful, wise Anglicans in communion with one another in 20 years’ time, in a way which will mean we don’t have to have this kind of crisis again. It’s hugely expensive getting all the people together and having all the extra meetings.


the Church press gets in on the act

Friday’s Church of England Newspaper, already available on its website, has plenty of coverage in its news section, with summaries of the report itself, and how it has been received by various groups.

There is comment from Andrew Carey, who gives his opinion on the likely sucess of the Eames Commission.

And don’t miss Ruth Gledhill’s comments starting with her experience of trying to ask ECUSA PB Frank Griswold a question.


a history of debate

Thinking Anglicans writer Tom Ambrose gives his first thoughts on the Windsor Report:

Reading the foreword to the report, I feel that a greater sense of perspective is needed. The Church has always faced controversy, and to single out the issue of the ordination of women as the only point of disagreement prior to issues about homosexuality is singularly unfortunate. The great hymn ‘The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord’ was written at a time of particularly bitter disagreement in the 19th century, when a split in the church seemed almost inevitable. The arguments of those days were more closely related to doctrine than any of the current problems.

The report acknowledges that the teaching of the church is based on scripture, tradition and reason. We cannot take these in isolation, and assume that the passages in the Bible which refer to homosexual activity can simply be quoted as being incontrovertible and uncontroversial. To do that would be to lapse into fundamentalism.

There are still Christians today who might think that looking for Noah’s Ark is a legitimate way of ‘proving’ scripture. Some attempt to demonstrate, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that the world was made in six days. Some people deny that evolution could take place. Their motivation is largely to demonstrate the inerrancy of scripture, and hence its right to be regarded as the only test for Christian belief and teaching.

The issues about creation are not trivial. They underlie all that we understand about God’s work, and hence have a bearing on issues regarding our redemption. Reading the scriptures in isolation is not enough, for insights are available to us today which were not known in biblical times.

Views on homosexuality have changed massively in recent years. When I was an undergraduate, a fellow student was sent down after being convicted of having sex with another man. Today, discrimination against homosexual people is outlawed in most European countries (though the churches have asked to opt out!)

But we are not going to assume that there will be uniformity across the globe in the way that societies regard what they may see as sexual offences. Where people can be put to death for adultery, sexual activity between people of the same sex will always be frowned upon.

In Britain, we expect people of all faiths to observe the law which says marriages must be monogamous. In other countries, it may be permitted for men to take more than one wife. Similarly, in countries where homosexual activity is frowned upon, it would not be understood if Christians campaigned for greater tolerance. The reaction would be as uncomprehending as the reaction might be here if Muslims demanded the right to polygamy.

In such a world, there is no going back on the decision to consecrate Gene Robinson in the USA, and no going forward in Uganda or Pakistan to the acceptance of gay clergy. The responses from ECUSA and from other parts of the Anglican Communion have underlined this. It would be naïve to assume that a consensus can be achieved. In all of this, the one redeeming feature may be that it accepts that there are differences of opinion which are genuinely held by Christian people.


the next step: please read the report before acting

The Primates Standing Committee has issued a statement in which they explain what they hope will be the next step, following publication of the Windsor Report. The meat of the statement is the creation of a sub-committee of Primates to try and ensure that everyone reads the report:

We welcome this report as a comprehensive presentation of the tradition and practice of the Anglican Communion. There is much in this report which is challenging, but it points us in a sound direction for the resolution of current tensions. It is an invitation to the entire Communion to reflect on our life together. We are conscious of the concerns of those groups whose expectations have not been met, but we are very encouraged by the broad welcome and support that the report has received from many throughout the Communion.


We have established a Reception Reference Group … which will be charged with receiving and co-ordinating initial responses to the Windsor Report in preparation for the Primates’ Meeting [in February 2005] … We hope that all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion … will join in a conversation with this reception group. In particular, the Reception Reference Group will wish to engage as much as possible with the 78 million members of our forty-four churches, and will explore ways of doing this effectively.


a small cheer

Thinking Anglicans writer David Walker offers a first view on the Windsor Report.

Twenty four hours into reading and reflecting on the Windsor Report I guess I feel ready to give it a small but heartfelt cheer.

I say small, not because it doesn’t agree completely with my own position — I wouldn’t expect it to — but because its publication means once again that some of my fellow Christians will experience its words as licensing a rejection of their deepest selves and beliefs. No matter how lightly we tread, we are treading on people’s souls, and that should always be done with both reluctance and genuine sadness.

But I am cheered.

I’m cheered firstly because a group as diverse as the Commission has been able to sign up, unanimously, to a report that offers a middle way between papal centralism and unfettered localism. I pray that the members of the Commission will each now take responsibility for holding those whose views they represent to the process it sets out.

I’m cheered because homosexuality is recognised as only one presenting problem. The Report notes that the work of engaging with it as an issue is still at an early stage. Rather than seek to answer the questions posed by sexuality (which was never its brief) Windsor maps out structures that will be (must be) equally important in holding any other local church to account should it seek to develop in ways that are both novel and unacceptable to the wider Communion. It is particularly timely in setting a context in which the response to any moves towards Lay Presidency at the Eucharist must be formed. I pray however that the Report will in itself forestall any such moves.

I’m cheered because the Report works hard to be even handed in the criticism it offers to those who have offended the wider Communion — whether it be through participating in a consecration, authorising a public rite or usurping another province or bishop’s proper authority. There is one small lapse in the logic in this respect. All are called to express their regret; all are called to desist from repeating the offending action; but curiously only the first two appear to be invited to withdraw from unspecified church councils until they do so. In practice this may be a moot point if expressions of regret come quickly and from all sides. I pray that they will do so.

I’m cheered because there is the opportunity for Anglicans of all types to spend the next few years working on what unites us rather than divides us. Formulating a Covenant and bolstering our Instruments of Unity may not be as exciting for the media as a battle over sexuality, but it’s where I would much rather be.

Where division occurs, the Report is clear that we go forward by using our time-honoured structures. The provision for those who feel alienated from their parent diocese or province is to be worked at together across the divisions. Any extended oversight is to be a last resort, and is described as “conditional”, “temporary” and “delegated”” — much closer to the Resolution C route familiar and largely accepted (or at least tolerated) in England than a formal separation. In particular the proposals set out by ECUSA are commended as “entirely reasonable”. All of this would seem directly applicable to the present Church of England debate about the ordination of Women to the Episcopate. Indeed it would be contradictory were the C of E to endorse Windsor but follow a very different route over this specific issue.

Finally, I am glad to note that the Report retains its even-handedness over dissent. The proposals offered are just as applicable to a liberal minority in a conservative diocese or province as they are to a conservative minority in a more liberal setting. There can be no monopoly over conscientious dissent, and the Report leaves us with a framework that will continue to allow the prophetic tradition to operate within the church in whichever direction the Spirit may take it.

A cheer then, not of triumph for one cause or another in a deeply divided debate, but for a way forward that uses Anglican structures and polity to address an Anglican problem. And that offers us all a way of remaining authentically Anglican.


Thumbs down from Nigeria

ACNS has published a statement from the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. You need to read this short statement in full, but here are some brief extracts:

After an initial reading it is clear to me that the report falls far short of the prescription needed for this current crisis. It fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers.


We have been asked to express regret for our actions and “affirm our desire to remain in the Communion”. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.

The Times reports this under the headline Archbishop tells US Anglicans to repent

Meanwhile, the print edition of today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Archbishop Akinola has flown back to Nigeria instead of staying in London to attend a meeting of the Primates Standing Committee in London. He is reported to have told Lambeth Palace that he was too busy preparing for a meeting of African Anglicans to stay in London. This story does not seem to appear in the online editions of today’s papers.


Dean Jensen says comments taken out of context

UPDATE (Thursday 21 October at 11:20pm BST)
The full text of Dean Jensen’s speech to “the forum” (actually Sydney Synod) on 19 October refered to below is available on the Sydney Anglicans website.

A week ago we linked to an article in The Guardian headlined “Evangelicals call Williams a prostitute” which reported on remarks made by Dean Phillip Jensen of Sydney at the annual conference of Reform. Reform was later reported to have apologised for the remarks.

The Sydney Morning Herald, in an article headlined “Sorry, says Jensen, but Anglicans are at war” reports today:

The brother of the Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen used the forum to deny he had damned the Archbishop of Canterbury as an intellectual and theological prostitute last week.

He also denied calling Kings College Chapel in Cambridge a “temple to paganism”.

While admitting loose expressions, confused meanings and the odd slips of the tongue, Mr Jensen apologised for the “great and unnecessary alarm” the headlines had caused.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says “Dean Jensen says comments taken out of context”.

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Tuesday News – Overseas

As well as the UK articles on the Windsor report listed in the article below, there are hundreds more in newspapers around the world. I have linked a small selection of them below.

Do remember, when reading them, that newspapers are much more interested in gay bishops and same-sex blessings than they are in bishops who intervene in other bishops’ dioceses.

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
Unity under pressure as Anglicans digest gay report
Anglicans chart a difficult course
Anglican report slams US over gay bishop
Anglican head welcomes Windsor report
Anglicans move to avoid split

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Sorry, says Jensen, but Anglicans are at war
Anglican report slams US over gay bishop
Anglican head welcomes Windsor report
Anglicans demand apology from US
Anglicans prefer split to false, forced unity

Kerala Next (India)
UK ; Gay supporters respond to ban on clergy
US ; Gay bishop unapologetic on same-sex blessings

The Guardian (Lagos, Nigeria)
Anglican Church demands apology over U.S. gay bishop

The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya)
Anglican Church Demands Apology Over Gay Bishop

The Standard (Nairobi, Kenya)
Anglicans deal major blow to gay priests

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)
Anglican prelates unrepentant

Canada.Com (Toronto, Canada)
Anglican commission’s report criticizes Canadian church over same-sex blessings

CTV (Canada)
Canadian, U.S. Anglicans criticized in report

The Boston Globe (USA)
Anglican panel seeks a halt on gay bishops

The New York Times (USA)
Church Is Rebuked Over Gay Unions and a Gay Bishop

Christian Science Monitor (Boston MA, USA)
Anglican effort to avert schism

The Washington Post (USA)
Anglicans Chide U.S. Church on Gay Bishop

Kansas City Star (USA)
Panel seeks Anglican accord (an Associated Press report)

The Post and Courier (Charleston SC, USA)
Anglican panel warns church over gay bishop

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Morning news

After the rush of yesterday, and now that people have had a chance to read the report we hope to see some slightly more considered comment.

But real understanding will take a little longer. As The Archbishop of Canterbury comments:

I hope that everyone with the well being of our Communion at heart will now take time to study the report — and to pray and reflect upon its proposals which, as the Commission has made clear, offer neither easy nor simple solutions to real and demanding challenges. If we are serious about meeting those challenges, as I know we are, then we have to do all we can to continue to travel this road together.

That is what we intend to do, and as usual we will continue to point to a range of other commentators, as well as adding our thoughts.

Other coverage this morning includes:

The Anglican Communion had a relatively minor crisis as new consciousness about homosexuality struggled to be born in the face of ancient prejudice. This commission has taken this minor crisis and turned it into a major revolution that will move Anglicanism toward the literal-mindedness that now threatens not just Christianity, but religious systems all over the world.

Dr Robin Eames, charged with averting schism in the Anglican Communion, has come up with a new liturgical gesture. The primates and churches who have split the communion are to apologise to one another – but with their fingers crossed.

The prospects that the report would find a compromise for the 78 million-strong worldwide communion looked bleak last night as factions began to digest its findings. One senior primate told the Guardian: “It’s very, very black, very grim. We are hell-bent on division. It’s all down to the grace of Almighty God now.”

Robin Eames may see his commission’s report into the Church’s stance on homosexuality as part of the Anglican Communion’s “pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation”, but it is unlikely that the two opposing sides in this ill-tempered dispute will share that optimism. And it is unlikely that yesterday’s report will prevent hostilities flaring up again, since it fails to address the fundamental issues behind this crisis of Anglicanism.


the Network has 'strong concerns'

The Anglican Communion Network and American Anglican Council, groupings of conservative Episcopalians in the USA, have expressed their ‘strong concerns’ that the report calls ‘only for the Episcopal Church USA to “express regret”’ and that it fails ‘to recommend direct discipline of ECUSA’. They cannot support ‘unity at the expense of truth’.

Read their statement here.


reaction from New Westminster

The Canadian diocese of New Westminster also featured in the Windsor Report, after its decision to authorize a rite for the blessing of a same-sex couple. Tonight, Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster issued a statement regretting ‘the consequence of our actions’.

Read the statement by following the link below.



What the Windsor Report said — an overview

Whilst we encourage everyone to read the Windsor Report in full, for the benefit of readers we provide this short overview of its main features, with thanks to TA reader, the Revd Roger Stokes.

For a fuller summary this page at Beliefnet is worth reading.

We also like Dave Walker’s lighter summary.

Follow the link on the next line to read Roger’s overview.



More comments on Windsor

Comment from interested parties has begun to arrive. I will continuing adding the latest reports at the end of this article, rather than add new articles. Some news stories are also listed below in the article ‘At the hour’.

ACNS carries an exchange of letters between the report’s chairman, Archbishop Robin Eames, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Dr Williams writes:

You are not offering the Communion any easy solutions now … You have called us to behave in a maturely Christian way so as to become the Church God wants us to be … You have given all of us work to do and you do not suggest any short cuts … That you have been able to offer the communion a unanimous report gives me great encouragement that the process you have been through as a group may help set a pattern for the Communion itself in the demanding journey that lies ahead.

The Revd David Phillips of the Church Society is reported as commenting

I am pretty disappointed with this, I was expecting something much more definite and clear. My impression overall was that it was very ambiguous. It is toothless. It says what matters most of all it to stick together, we just need to stick together – unity is seen as more important than truth.

There is not yet any comment on the Church Society website.

The same report in The Scotsman quotes Martin Reynolds of the Lesbian Gay and Christian Movement:

The tenor of the document is itself conciliatory — this is a document we can work with, this is a Church we want to continue to be a part of.

Again, there is no comment yet on the LGCM website.

InclusiveChurch comments

We are pleased that the Commission has not recommended the suspension or expulsion of the Episcopal Church USA from the Anglican Communion, or called for Bishop Gene Robinson to resign. We note that the report does not ask for repentance from the Episcopal Church, and we welcome the desire for reconciliation contained within it. suggests that the report ‘has failed to appease either liberals or traditionalists’.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, quoted in Johannesburg’s Mail and Guardian described the report as “a rich gift of a deep theological and spiritual reflection on the nature of the common life of God’s people” which offers “a ‘win-win’ opportunity” that must be “grasped with both hands.”

The BBC now has a further story: Anglicans buy time in same sex row which covers some of the reaction to the report publication.

More nuanced stories are now appearing, for example this AP story headlined Episcopal right disappointed by report which includes:

An Anglican panel studying the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church failed to give American conservatives what they sought Monday: punishment for church leaders and quick recognition for the network of dissenting congregations.


“We have strong concerns about the fact that they call only for the Episcopal Church USA to ‘express regret’ and fail to recommend direct discipline,” said the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council.


ECUSA reaction

The Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold has issued some preliminary reflections on the Windsor Report. He begins:

I write to you from London where I am attending a meeting of the Primates’ Standing Committee. I have had a matter of hours to review the Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, thus I will now offer only some preliminary observations. It will take considerable time to reflect upon the Report, which consists of some 100 pages.

Read the rest of his comments in full by clicking the following link



at the hour

12 noon, and the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, is published. Unless their website is swamped you can read the report online at the Anglican Communion Office.

If their site is overwhelmed (and it appears to be at the moment) then we have a copy of the pdf version here


There’s already quite a lot of reportage of this story, most of which seems to lead on the request for an apology from ECUSA. Journalists have perhaps not yet had time to fully digest the Report, or to note the more subtle aspects. Stories include: