Thinking Anglicans

a little Scottish Episcopal history

David McCarthy has been quoted as saying:

“We see ourselves as being in the long-standing tradition of Scottish Episcopalianism…”

Today’s Glasgow Herald has this letter to the editor hidden away (see next page link at the bottom, go to page 3):

The congregation of St Silas Church, Glasgow, are in dispute with their Scottish Episcopal Bishops. It would appear history repeats itself. St Silas was opened in November, 1864, by a group of dissenters: Mr George Burns, Mr William Frederick Burnley and Sir Archibald Campbell – ”all being men of peace, though prepared, at considerable self-sacrifice, to contend for the maintenance of the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England, felt it better to set aside their interest in St Jude’s and built St Silas Church”.

At that time the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church were intent on changing the protestant nature of the 36 39 articles of religion of the Church of England, to embrace Tractarianism and the Oxford Anglo-Catholic movement.

St Silas was readmitted to the fold under the concordat of 1906. In 1987, St Silas became a private chapel within the Scottish Episcopal Church.

John McPhail, 23 Lochlibo Crescent, Barrhead.

You can read about the history of the English Episcopal Church in Scotland in Gavin White’s book The Scottish Episcopal Church, A New History.

By the way, as the link is currently broken on the official SEC site, here is the correct URL for the 24 Feb news item on that site: The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev Bruce Cameron, shares his initial reflection on the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion.


archbishop writes to British political leaders

A Lambeth Palace press release says:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has issued a pre-election open letter, urging party leaders to avoid political campaigns based on the exploitation of fear.

Dr Williams argues that although negative campaign strategies may make headlines they do not determine the outcome of elections and that politicians should focus instead on offering long-term solutions to deep-rooted challenges.

Dr Williams goes on to identify four such issues: the environment, international development and the arms trade, youth and family policy, and criminal justice reform.

The letter can be read in full here.

Update The BBC has a report which includes a link to a video clip including an interview with RW.
The Church Times has a report on its website, not in the paper edition: Campaign fairly, Archbishop tells party leaders
Stephen Bates in the Guardian has Fear must not be a campaign tool, says Williams
and there is also Attacks on Tory politics of fear
Jonathan Petre interprets the letter a different way in the Telegraph Archbishop says make marriage election issue
The Independent had Archbishop warns party leaders not to exploit voters’ fears.


Scotland: an update

David McCarthy of St Silas Church in Glasgow is indefatigible in his efforts to make a big issue of all this.

He has created a website at to promote the conservative cause. This contains the text of a press release, and also the text of an email sent to the bishops. Both are in PDF format on that site, but can be found in accessible format below the fold here.
The following further press coverage has resulted:

Scotsman Backing for gay priests could split Scottish Episcopals
Glasgow Evening Times Church split threat over gay priests
Glasgow Herald Retract gay minister stance, church urged
BBC Scotland Church divides over gay priests
Guardian Gay issue divides Scottish Anglicans

Meanwhile, over at a press release says:

Members of Changing Attitude Scotland are surprised that the small, new grouping calling itself the “Scottish Anglican Network” have spent so much time o­n Easter Day debating homosexuality. Most of the Scottish Episcopal Church spent the day rejoicing in the news of Christ’s Resurrection.

The statement of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s bishops of 4 March 2005 does not represent a new innovation – it simply states what has always been the case.

Referring to the Bishops’ Statement, the Convener of Changing Attitude Scotland, the Rev Kelvin Holdsworth said,

“There has been a huge expression of support for the Scottish Bishops from within Scotland and all around the world. It is a joy and a delight that the Bishops have spoken warmly of their gay clergy colleagues. In making their statement, the Bishops have witnessed to a generous orthodoxy which is the norm for the Scottish Episcopal Church. The good news of Easter is for everyone in the church – gay or straight.”

“The Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have called for discussion amongst those with different views. Those who are calling for the Bishops to withdraw their statement appear to be frightened of that discussion taking place. Members of Changing Attitude Scotland are looking forward to engaging in the dialogue which the bishops propose. We particularly enjoy discussing the authority of scripture and the ways in which we understand the Bible to be consonant with the view that gay people in relationships can live open godly lives within the Christian faith.”

Anyone moved to write to any of the Scottish bishops about all this will find all their contact details here.



women bishops – study programme

The Church of England has published a Study Programme, see this press release:
Women Bishops in the Church of England? Study Programme published on the web..

The downloadable material mentioned is in fact an MS Word file. An accessible copy of the same material is now available here.

The material includes a chart which shows the process that is likely to be followed to achieve the objective:

The timing of the various stages outlined in this table is necessarily contingent on the outcome of Synod motions etc. At the time of writing in March 2005 stages A & B have passed and stage C is likely to be reached in July 2005. The House of Bishops expects that moving from D to P would take at least four years (not least because 18 months would need to be allowed for the referral to dioceses outlined in J & K).


weekend news items

The Guardian published this Rowan Williams profile by Stephen Bates on Good Friday.

…With the American and Canadian churches invited to withdraw from international meetings last month until they had repented of their liberal line in appointing an openly gay bishop and blessing same-sex partnerships (and they may yet decline to do this); with the Scottish Episcopal Church saying it is happy with its gay clergy; and with internecine fighting breaking out again in the Church of England, there is little fellowship, brotherhood or charity to go round.

When 35 of the 38 Anglican primates – archbishops and presiding bishops – met in Northern Ireland a month ago under Dr Williams’s chairmanship to deal with the fissures caused by the gay issue, the Archbishop of Canterbury struggled to win respect.

When he mildly remonstrated with some of his colleagues for leaving the meeting to confer with American conservative episcopalians lobbying outside, he was essentially told to mind his own business. When he pleaded with the primates to attend a communion service that he was conducting at the end of the meeting, 14 did not turn up.

One fellow primate heard others saying that the Archbishop of Canterbury would “do what we tell him to”…

Saturday’s Washington Post carried A Tainted Easter Message by Colbert King.

…Last week Bishop Tembo suspended all activities with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. He withdrew his request for $352,941 to support his HIV-AIDS program, including money for orphans’ education, and he postponed the visit of the medical team. What, pray tell, could have led the bishop to refuse this help for people in need?

In every large organization, there’s always that 5 percent who never get the word. The Anglican Communion is no exception. In a March 8 “Dear Friends” letter, Bishop Tembo said he had just learned the week before that the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania had voted “yes” to the election of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The election, by the way, took place two years ago.

Asserting that the South Rwenzori Diocese “upholds the Holy Scriptures as the true word of God,” and implying that the Pennsylvanian diocese — by supporting a gay bishop — does not, Bishop Tembo proclaimed the two dioceses to be in “theological conflict,” thus leading him to reject all ties to his brothers and sisters in Christ living in and around Harrisburg.

Apparently it matters less to the good Bishop Tembo — who does not have AIDS — that it is the suffering men, women and children in his diocese who may pay with their lives for his action, not the Central Pennsylvania Diocese. What’s more, Bishop Tembo and his wife, Dorothy Nzerebende, are the proud parents of five children who don’t have to fend for themselves. So when he turns down money for the education of orphans, it’s no skin off the teeth of his kids.

Yes, Kasese has only 15 trained physicians to treat more than 500,000 residents. Which, however, is better? Thumbing one’s nose at Episcopalians in the United States or bringing more doctors into the midst of Kasese’s human suffering? Bishop Tembo made it known where he stands.

All this he did in the name of God.

Sadly, Bishop Tembo is being cheered by conservative Episcopalians in this country. Some of them believe that the Episcopal Church of the United States, by consecrating a gay bishop, is, as one of them put it on a conservative Web site, “sending people to hell by the boatload, by presenting a false gospel.” Thus, the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s money is tainted.

So here we are this Easter, the day that Bishop Michael Creighton of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania described in this month’s message as representing “the victory of God’s love and life.” What a victory. What an Easter moment.

Sunday’s Telegraph had Traditional songs beat the ‘happy clappers’ hands down in search for Britain’s best hymns.


Easter weekend roundup

Two columns from Saturday’s The Times

Geoffrey Rowell on Story which transforms both living and dying

…The Christian Church dares to proclaim that here, in this life and this death, we encounter God, the source and the sustainer of all life and being, emptying Himself, coming down to the lowest part of our need. Today, Holy Saturday, is the most paradoxical day of the Christian year, a day when indeed God is dead. In love He chooses freely to know our dying, and Christian devotion and imagination speak of Christ descending to the place of the departed, shattering the imprisoning gates and chains and bars of Hades. Tomorrow, Easter Day, the nothingness of today explodes into a fullness of life, which is a new creation, blowing history open. The horizon of our human life is no longer death, but risen life in Christ.

This is the overarching story, “the one story only which will prove worth your telling”; for it is the story of the God who made us, and loved us, and in thirsting love has re-made us. Easter is indeed about the resurrection of Christ — which is neither a descent from or denial of the cross, nor a resurrection of relics, but a new creation, a transfiguration of human life and history. Easter touches us with eternal life, and the Lord who breathes on His disciples on the first Easter evening, is the Lord who is still the Lord and Giver of life, making of His Church an Easter people. This indeed is a love and a life which will never let us down and will never let us go, an overarching story which transforms both our living and our dying. “Christ is risen and the demons” — the dark, imprisoning powers of every kind — “are indeed fallen!”

Richard Harries on From cold, rolled stone to blood-streaked man

…The Christian West gradually lost its earlier reluctance to depict Jesus rising from the tomb. And there have been some very remarkable depictions, not least Piero della Francesca’s mural in the town museum in Sansepolcro. Aldous Huxley described it, without qualification, as “the best picture in the world”. For him it expressed the humanist ideal. He saw in the Christ figure, with its beautiful, muscled body, like a Greek athlete, a Resurrection of classical reality. More haunting than this is the resurrected Christ by Bramantino, now in Madrid. This Christ, still partially swathed in his white winding sheet and bathed in moonlight, has an unearthly pallor, except for the wounds and eyes, bloodshot with tears, staring directly at the viewer. This is a Christ that still bears the marks of death. By contrast, as Huxley observed, Piero’s Christ looks all set to live a fully human life on the human stage.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, 20th-century Christian art was dominated by depictions of Christ tortured on the cross. There is of course the sheer difficulty of depicting the resurrected Christ in a way that is not crass and literalistic. No less significant is our scepticism about any suggestion of a happy ending. Iris Murdoch once wrote that “all that consoles is fake” summing up the attitude of a culture soaked in Freud. Some of the most successful depictions focus on the relationship of the risen Christ with one of His followers, as in Graham Sutherland’s Noli Me Tangere in Chichester Cathedral. Equally good is the supper at Emmaus by Ceri Richards, above the altar at St Edmund Hall in Oxford. It is a fine picture, and avoids over-literalism by having Christ at the table against the background of a great cross of yellow light, emerging from it but not fully tangible. One of the disciples looks startled, the other slow and sceptical…

The Guardian on Saturday had Geza Vermes give his view of the passion chronology in Death in the afternoon.

In the Telegraph Christopher Howse had Embracing in a watery grave.

Paul Handley wrote in the Independent about The Christian gift is to convert despair into humour

…The oddness of today takes on a greater significance if we adopt the argument of those who say that, in essence, we live permanently in Holy Saturday. We are sinful, and yet saved; saved, yet sinful. The act that rescued us from evil has taken place, and yet evil persists, and we are caught up in it. On a spiritual level (whatever that is), we must confront our complicity in the murder of Christ. The biblical record suggests that Jesus allowed himself to hope that death was not inevitable. After all, a palm-waving crowd had cheered him into Jerusalem when he arrived to confront the religious authorities. We have seen plenty of examples from Eastern Europe in recent months of the power that can be wielded by an unarmed opposition leader if he has the active support of the masses. But, although the orange-waving crowds took courage from each other, the decision to camp out in a draughty square had to be taken by each frightened individual. And this is us. We are not, as a rule, the psychopaths who bang in the nails; we are members of the crowd of followers who stand around and watch the tragedy unfold.

Our sins aren’t even bold, or Faustian. We are simply the ones who melt away; who, when Jesus is taken, suddenly find other things that need our attention. Freedom Square, the Martyrs’ Square are empty, when all that was needed to turn tragedy to triumph was our presence.

Living in Holy Saturday is to live with this raw knowledge of ourselves. We work hard, partly to distract ourselves, partly because we feel the need to atone. And yet, as we work, a miracle is happening, has happened (tenses have little meaning here). The more we know ourselves, the more we know ourselves to be forgiven. The Christian gift is this: to turn despair into humour. In classical theatre, the technical definition of a tragedy is a drama in which the hero dies. If he doesn’t, then it’s a comedy. Because the resurrection has happened/will happen, we are living in a unique, divine comedy. Instead of being depressed about our failings, we are invited to see them as absurd, comic; and to laugh at ourselves is to accept forgiveness…

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Rowan Williams: Good Friday and Easter

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered the Good Friday Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4
Audio recording (3 minutes – Real Audio required) and Transcript is now available.

The archbishop’s Easter Message to the Anglican Communion

The full text of his Easter sermon is below the fold. And is now available on his own website.

This report from the BBC links to a video clip of part of the sermon (Real Player required)



An Easter beginning

I had a sudden flashback to my childhood, this week. I was standing in front of a schoolteacher, defending myself against an accusation of wrongdoing. There was no point in denial, so I tried to throw the blame, “I only did what Michael was doing”, I bleated. The riposte was instant; no doubt she had used it many times before. “Would you follow him into his grave as quickly?”

Three of the four gospel accounts of Easter morning place someone inside Jesus’ tomb. Matthew and Luke tell us the women enter; John says that it is Peter followed by the beloved disciple. Only Mark has the entire action take place outside. It’s traditional to use these passages to illustrate the emptiness of the grave and to contrast Jesus’ absence from his burial place with his appearances elsewhere over the hours and days that follow.

I’ve no problem with any of that, but it feels as though there is another dimension that has got squeezed out of the picture. Matthew, Mark and John all tell us that the visitors to the tomb hurry or even run away. There is a dynamism, vitality and urgency here that we too easily overlook. Luke expresses the same thing slightly differently by having the first resurrection appearance being to two disciples on a journey to Emmaus.

If we have made the most of these last few days of Holy Week we will indeed have followed Jesus into his grave. And now we need to follow him as quickly out of it! Ironically of course this is the moment when many clergy and laypeople heave a great sigh of relief that the rush of services has come to an end and head off for a few days well earned rest. I’m not begrudging anyone their holidays, but simply noting that whatever momentum we have built up over the previous week will, if we are not alert to the danger, have dissipated by the time we emerge from our post-Easter break.

Whether it is full or empty, the grave is too obvious and natural an ending place. It imparts an inaccurate sense of finality to the Easter story. For the disciples it isn’t the end but the beginning. A new relationship with Jesus beckons them forward. As Matthew puts it, Christ is “going on ahead of them to Galilee”. And Galilee itself is no safe place of rest. It is border country; where unpredictable encounters are always likely; where Jewish traditions vie with outside influences; where the Good News they bring will have to engage seriously with cultures and lifestyles outside of their own.

As they hurry along their journey they will encounter Jesus on the way, in both likely and unlikely places. Their meetings will strengthen them and revive them. So my prayer for us all this Easter Day is that we who have followed Jesus into his grave will continue to follow him out and onwards. And that such rest as we take from our labours will not cost us the momentum that Holy Week has granted us.

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Facing Good Friday

Our Lent group this year was partly based on the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. In the first session we watched the sequence where the protagonist spends his first night in prison, and one of the other new arrivals is beaten so badly that he dies. It’s an intentionally shocking sequence (though comparatively mild by contemporary cinematic standards) and it provoked a discussion about watching violence. Not suprisingly, given the constituency of Lent groups, a number of people said that would not have chosen to watch it, that normally they shy away from portrayals of any sort of violence.

The depictions are there in abundance, whether fictional or the real thing in news coverage. But we have an option, we can decide not to look, to cocoon ourselves, knowing but not knowing. Films come with category labels, TV programmes are shown before or after ‘the divide’, and the reliable characters telling us about today’s news will warn us when there might be something too nasty to watch: yesterday, the warning came in the context of a report on vivisection.

I’m one of the opters-out. Every time I go to a performance of ‘King Lear’, I look away during the blinding of Gloucester; I scarcely ever go to films which I know to be bloodthirsty; I salve my conscience by paying my subscription to Amnesty International, but I can rarely bring myself to read the stories which come in its magazine.

And then Holy Week brings me up short. From Palm Sunday, with its reading of the passion, through to Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross, I am compelled to look, to follow the story of betrayal, and torture, and death. I can remember, as a teenager, hearing Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and wanting to stop listening, but needing to go on.

A year on from the opening of Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’, I still have questions about its particular theology, its way of telling the story, and its implicit claim to a physical suffering beyond that of other human beings, just as I did when it first came out. But on reflection, I respect the need to make us accept the reality of suffering.

Tomorrow I will find my mind filled, as it is every year, by unwanted, undesired images of the world’s major and minor cruelties. Tomorrow, I cannot tuck myself inside the cocoon of film-ratings and warnings to the viewer. Tomorrow, I must look, and know that there will be no easy comfort; for that we must wait.


more about Canada and the USA

We carried our own correspondent’s account of a recent Toronto meeting. Now the Diocese of Toronto has published this account by Carolyn Purden. Here’s a portion:

The Primate painted a picture of deep division at the gathering in Northern Ireland. Among the 38 Primates attending the gathering, a group of about a dozen from the global South shunned the North Americans (Archbishop Hutchison and Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.).

These Primates, who were primarily from Africa and Latin America (the Southern Cone), petitioned the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, not to hold a daily eucharist at the gathering. When the eucharist was held with a chaplain presiding, they would not attend. When the Archbishop of Canterbury invited all to attend the final eucharist at which he would preside, they refused to attend.

The same group was also involved in leaking information from the Primates’ sessions, which are held “in camera,” to the media. The final report of the meeting was released a day early because an earlier and erroneous version had appeared in the press.

Archbishop Hutchison spoke with anger and passion about these same bishops who, without notice, suddenly abandoned the Primates’ meeting for an afternoon and evening. “The Archbishop of Canterbury left the chair,” he said. “The Africans had decided to meet off site and had taken others with them.” The 16 bishops remaining had received no prior notice from Archbishop Williams or the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion that this was taking place. “It seemed our agenda was hijacked and put in the hands of others,” the Primate said.

Today Bill Bowder in the Church Times reports that English can’t throw stones – Hutchison:

THE CANADIAN PRIMATE, the Most Revd Andrew Hutchison, has suggested that the blessing of same-sex relationships is much more prevalent in England than in Canada.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Hutchison said: “There are many priests conducting same-sex blessings sub rosa with the full knowledge of the bishops, but without any sanctions. This is going on in the Church of England, unannounced, all the time.

“I know of one report from one bishop in England that this is now done in 14 dioceses. From a report by the English House of Bishops, it is quite clear that they know this.

“For the Church of England to do any posturing about Canada being out of order is frankly ridiculous.”

By contrast, he said, “In Canada, if a priest gives an informal blessing, and I know of two instances, that priest is disciplined by his bishop immediately. That does not happen in England, where you have a much bigger problem. A little transparency would be helpful.”

This story also reports the opinions of Nigel McCulloch on the ECUSA HoB:

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, attended the US House of Bishops’ meeting in Texas ( News, 18 March). He said this week that he was “realistically optimistic” about the chances that the Anglican Communion would hold together.

He said that the US bishops had been “stunned” by the Primates’ reaction in February. He said he had received a standing ovation, after telling the bishops of the seriousness of the issue. “I said that this decision would have its knock-on effect on other churches, including the Church of England.”

Bishop McCulloch felt that the US bishops at their meeting had a very deep sense of communion with Anglicans across the world. “They also valued their sense of personal communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

The bishops’ agreement not to consecrate any more bishops for 18 months was “a costly thing”, he said.


more on Scotland

The Scottish Episcopal Church has itself issued a press release Statement regarding today’s media reports – 23rd March 2005.

There has today been wide reporting of a statement issued by the College of Bishops in response to the Anglican Communion’s Windsor Report and the meeting of the Anglican Primates in February. Press interest has focused on one small part of the overall statement.

The statement was in fact issued on 4 March. It acknowledges the difficulties currently faced by the Anglican Communion and expresses the Bishops’ commitment to work to preserve the unity of the Communion. In particular, the Bishops commit themselves to facilitating discussion “across difference”, recognising that within the Scottish Episcopal Church there are both those of gay and lesbian orientation and those whose theology and stance would be critical of attitudes to sexuality other than abstinence outside marriage. The Bishops “rejoice in both” and express the hope that the energy of both groups can be harnessed to serve the Church and the proclamation of the gospel.

In referring to the fact that there is no current bar to ordination for someone who might be in a close relationship with a member of the same sex, the Bishops were simply stating the present position as it applies in Scotland where, unlike some other provinces, no motion discouraging such ordinations has ever been passed by our General Synod. Consequently, the statement earlier this month does not represent any change in policy on the part of the Bishops.

The Glasgow Herald continues with Split in Anglican community over gay priests.

The Scotsman has Evangelicals warn of ‘battle for Church’s soul’ in gay row.

Cedric Pulford of ENI filed Anglican bishops in Scotland say gays not barred from priesthood.

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph has Scottish bishops declare support for gay priests.

Ruth Gledhill in The Times has Scottish bishops risk split by supporting gay priests and there is a second article ‘I feel proud of my Church today’.

In the Guardian Stephen Bates has Scottish church reignites gay row which follows a late afternoon report on the website yesterday: Scottish church declares support for gay priests.

The CEN reported Scots on collision course with Communion.


Scotland in the news

There’s a flurry of reports about the Scottish Episcopal Church. These relate to a statement by its College of Bishops that was published on 4 March. It was belatedly reported here on 16 March.

Yesterday, the first newspaper report was in the Herald and late last night the Scottish Press Association caught up.

Today we have all these:
BBC Scottish church backs gay priests and Can Anglican rift be resolved? (public comments invited) and Church risks censure over gay priests by Robert Pigott

The Times Scottish bishops back gay clergy and Timeline: gay clergy row and Ruth Gledhill on Analysis: Anglican disarray.

Telegraph Scottish church gives backing to gay priests

Press Association via the Independent Gays can be priests, say Scottish bishops (this is a fuller report than earlier versions by Jude Sheerin)

Reuters Scottish church backs gay priests

And here is the radio segment ( 7.5 minutes Real Audio required) from the BBC Today Programme in which

The Bishop of Aberdeen, Bruce Cameron, and the Rector of St Silas, Glasgow, Reverend David McCarthy, discuss homosexuals becoming priests.

Here also is an earlier radio report on the same programme by Robert Pigott (2 minutes)

Here is a later Scottish Press Association report Scottish Stance on Gay Priests Divides Church


Uganda report

Following up on the interview with Henry Orombi mentioned in the previous item, the Guardian reports today that African bishop spurns Aids cash from pro-gay diocese. This involves the Diocese of South Rwenzori and Bishop Jackson Nzerebende Tembo.

The letter referenced in the article is here.

Correspondents on the US website were divided over whether the bishop’s action was in accordance with Christian principles.

But that’s not all.

You will recall what Henry Orombi said recently in No debate on gays, says Orombi

By Jude Etyang and Jude Katende

THE Church of Uganda (COU) yesterday announced that it upholds the biblical position on sexuality, with no room for homosexuality.

The Archbishop of the COU, Henry Luke Orombi, ruled out any debate with homosexuals, saying they either repent and adopt the biblical teaching of sex or go their way.

“I do not think there is a debate. When God gives his word, you either take it or leave it. We either agree with God or go our own way,” Orombi told journalists he called to brief on the Anglican leaders’ meeting which resolved to suspend the American and Canadian Churches from the Anglican communion because of consecrating gay Church leaders.

Orombi said, “The Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The Episcopal Church of America hasn’t followed the biblical teachings on sexuality and that’s why we’re against them.”

Then New Vision carried this letter Church Should Listen to Homosexuals

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

On March 1 your paper reported that the Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi likened the views of both proponents and opponents of homosexuality to views of any other people and said the Church could only find a solution by listening to them.

Let the Church of Uganda follow the Archbishop’s vision. The Church should listen to the silenced, perplexed, intimidated, abused and marginalised homosexuals in our midst. They are not only in institutions of learning but are everywhere (though in minority) rubbing shoulders with the heterosexuals.

Dialoguing with them is in agreement with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And today, we have Church Warns Bishop Senyonjo of Arraignment:

Jude Etyang

THE Church of Uganda will arraign gay sympathiser Bishop Christopher Senyonjo before the provincial tribunal if he continues to ask the church to soften its position on homosexuality.

The Provincial Secretary Church of Uganda, the Rev. Aaron Mwesigye Kafundizeki, sounded the warning after Senyonjo wrote in the New Vision saying, “the Church should listen to the silenced, perplexed, intimidated, abused and marginalised homosexuals.”

Senyonjo suggested that the church should have dialogue with homosexuals.

“Bishop Senyonjo and company will soon face a Church of Uganda Provincial tribunal if he continues to provoke the Church of Uganda leadership and the entire Anglican Communion,” Kafundizeki said.

According to titusonenine on Thursday, this story has been denied by Church of Uganda Provincial Secretary, the Rev. Aaron Mwesigye Kafundizeki who issued this statement:

In the 21st March 2005 issue of The New Vision newspaper (p. 3), reporter Jude Etyang incorrectly reported that the Church of Uganda “will arraign gay sympathiser Bishop Christopher Senyonjo before the provincial tribunal if he continues to ask the church to soften its position on homosexuality.” The Church of Uganda has not initiated any ecclesiastical discipline against Senyonjo and calls upon The New Vision to publicly apologize to the Church of Uganda and Senyonjo for implying that it has.

The Church of Uganda continues to be distressed that a retired bishop, namely, Christopher Senyonjo, persists in openly misrepresenting the teachings of Scripture. In so doing, he is misleading the public on the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the historic teaching of the church on human sexuality that the Church of Uganda upholds. When he speaks, he speaks only for himself, and has no authority to speak on behalf of the church.

On human sexuality, the Bible is very clear and, as Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi has previously stated, the good news that we in the Church of Uganda joyfully proclaim is this: “Sexual intimacy is reserved for a husband and wife in a lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage. We are committed to offering the gospel to those struggling with homosexuality. For us in Uganda pastoral care means leading people into the fully transformed life that Jesus promises to those who call upon his name.”


views around the Communion

Each of these articles deserves reading in full.

Beliefnet’s Deborah Caldwell has an interview with Frank Griswold which you can read at The Battle Rages On.

In some of the Episcopal Church-related blogs you were quoted last week as singling out six Americans for having “detrimentally influenced” church proceedings. What did you say?

What I said was that there were notices put on the tables in Ireland describing “acts of oppression” within the Episcopal church that were highly inaccurate and I got up and said, “This kind of information is untrue. It’s taking facts and slanting things from a particular perspective. And I said, ‘In scripture Jesus tells us the devil is the father of lies, and lying is his nature.’” Therefore this kind of material is really evil. And I said my sense is—and I didn’t assign it to any particular people—I feel that there is evil pressing on this meeting. And I said that any one of us can be caught in patterns of evil. Any one of us can misrepresent things to our own advantage.

I repeated it last week in Texas to the House of Bishops when I described my participation in the primates meeting. And I said there were several Americans in the hotel in Newry, including [Pittsburgh Bishop Robert William] Duncan—but I made no connection between those people and the piece of paper I was describing, and the misrepresentations on it…

Do you think the liberal movement within the Anglican Communion will win this battle?

Yes. When I look at the history of the church, I can see all kinds of dreadful moments when something was trying to happen, and it was just too much for the system at that moment. I look at Galileo. Teachings that supposedly were heretical and contrary to what everyone “knew was true” over time shifted or reversed themselves—and our truth was enlarged.

The other thing I would say is, if I may quote Jesus in the Gospel of John: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; however, when the spirit of truth comes, the spirit will take from what is mine and reveal it to you.” This says to me that the truth in some way is always unfolding and being enlarged.

I find it curious that with no strain or difficulty we accept the fact that we’re learning more about the world we live in; we’re learning more about the human person—physiology, psychology, all of it. Why is it that we can expand our consciousness in every area other than sexuality, but when we come to sexuality everything has to be fully revealed and contained in scripture by one particular reading? You might ask why God didn’t just tell us in the beginning? For some reason God didn’t, and we have to grow into truth. And I think we’re always growing into truth. I look at the ordination of women in the Episcopal tradition; that was a break if you looked at it in terms of the past, but if you accept truth as organic and ongoing then you can say, “This is an enlargement of our understanding of ministry rather than a hideous break with what has been.”

Anglicans Online has an article by Pierre Whalon entitled The Ghost of Bishop Pike, Revisited.

…Furthermore, we are talking about the General Convention. Our system of government looks like the American secular politics we are so familiar with, but in fact, it differs significantly. The Constitution of the United States calls for a strong central government, while the Episcopal Church Constitution explicitly prevents one. We are a confederation of dioceses, essentially the same structure since Bishop William White designed our polity in the 18th century.

As a result, legislation is rarely binding upon all the dioceses. General Convention’s resolutions are non-binding, unless they change the constitution or canons, including revising the Prayer Book. Using the General Convention to effect change in the church is an ungainly process at best, not only because the balance of the Houses of Deputies and Bishops is not offset by a strong president and independent judiciary, but also because of the problems inherent to a body of nearly one thousand voting members.

And when it comes about, change by legislation creates a division between winners and losers. As a result, following a trend in secular politics, lots of interest groups have formed to influence the Convention in one direction or another. As the decisions of Convention have evolved, so have these groups, clustering together along the political spectrum.

These clusters of groups at either end of the spectrum curiously resemble each other. Their rhetorical style is similar, inventing lexicons of invective like “heterosexist” and “homoerotic.” They organize fundraisers to pay for campaigns to lobby Convention. Each, sadly, has invited the other to leave the church. Now since Lambeth 1998, both are involved in a struggle to persuade the larger Communion that theirs has the right to be considered the “real” American Anglican province. Our side must win and the other side must lose, even if we must involve the whole world. In style, at least, they are so similar…

Dale Rye who is a lawyer in Texas has written On Thinking with the Church.

…That brings us to the crucial reason: my personal opinion is irrelevant

In the case of Anglicanism, such matters are traditionally decided through the painstaking process of collective discernment described by Hooker, among others. This method expresses the Anglican doctrine of the church, our ecclesiology. Decisions are not imposed from outside or above. Instead, we engage in a Socratic dialogue that incorporates persons from every order of ministry and every jurisdiction (both all those linked vertically in a hierarchy and all those linked horizontally in communion). We ground our discussions on scripture, but we also give a role to common sense, both the historical common sense we call tradition and the contemporary common sense we call the consent of the faithful. Eventually, we either come to an agreement that defines the Anglican position on an issue and that forces those who cannot conscientiously live with the agreement out, like the 17th century Recusants and Separatists, or we agree to disagree while remaining in fellowship, like the Puritans and Arminians.

Some of the differences that Anglicans have agreed to live with hardly qualify as unimportant. The discrepancy since the 1840s between High and Low Church dogmas on the means of grace goes well outside the historical scope of tolerable adiaphora; they diverge as widely as Luther or Calvin and the Council of Trent. Except that both sides agree that the question is essential to salvation, their answers are incompatible and cannot both be true. Nevertheless, since the Church (my church, which is neither Lutheran nor Roman Catholic) has declined to condemn either view, my personal opinion that one side or the other is a heterodox betrayal of the Gospel is irrelevant. In this, as in all things, a loyal Christian submits his judgment to the authority of the Church.

That is why the process issue and the question of polity are so important to those of us who find ourselves in the middle of the sexuality dispute. We are anxious to believe as the Church teaches, but who has the human authority under God to teach in the name of the Church? What are we to do when our rector says “yes,” our bishop says “no,” our national church says “yes,” and the Primates’ Meeting says “no?” Anglicans have been lucky enough for 450 years to avoid this sort of divided loyalty (except perhaps during the English Civil War). That luck has enabled us to “muddle through” without ever facing the issue of who has the final authority to speak for our church during a dispute between two—or more—organs of the body, all of whose oversight we would normally heed.

The original Art. XXXVII declared that national churches should be free of foreign jurisdiction. Whatever Henry VIII’s motivation, subsequent Anglicans made this a theological principle. Men like Jewel and Hooker argued from the New Testament that each distinct cultural and political society should have its own church under native leadership responsive to their community’s needs. That is why the Church of Scotland could choose to be Presbyterian, while the Church of England remained Episcopalian, and why everyone took it for granted that there would be an autonomous Episcopal Church in the USA. As John Henry Newman insisted—both before and after his conversion—if the Anglican divines were wrong on this point there is no excuse for separation from Rome. The long-standing consensus was plainly stated by all the Lambeth Conferences from 1868 to 1988: any structures beyond the national churches (barring a genuinely ecumenical council) were only consultative, not authoritative.

Andrew Hutchison was interviewed in the Canadian Anglican Journal Primates call for breathing space.

In a candid interview with Anglican Journal, Archbishop Hutchison said he was disappointed with the boycott of the eucharist by some primates as well as with a “failure of leadership” on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury. On one occasion some delegates were not informed that a number of primates would not be able to attend the meeting because they were having a dinner party with some conservative U.S. Episcopalians who had been monitoring the meeting from the nearby village of Newry. “I think when primates come together to do their business they should be permitted to do that, without outside interference,” he said. “There was a feeling that we (primates) were not fully in control of our agenda.”
Archbishop Williams had known about the party but did not try to stop it, he said. “Virtually nothing was done about it except that following the exodus of those people, (he) did apologize to the whole plenary session and did state how inappropriate that had been.”
There were also moments, he said, when he was profoundly disappointed as some primates glossed over their own provinces’ struggles with the issue of homosexuality. Fourteen dioceses in the Church of England regularly allow blessings, he said, and “in one diocese alone, I suspect there have been more blessings than have ever occurred in Canada,” he said. “But it’s all done unofficially, in the shadows rather than out in the light of day. So there is a profound sort of hypocrisy here.”

The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed Henry Orombi in African Anglicans flex their conservative muscle.

“The language is flowery, the meaning is … we suspend you,” Orombi told the Herald yesterday. “But it’s put in the most beautiful language that the English would like to put it. It’s a polite way of saying, ‘please leave the room’.”

Orombi speaks from a position of growing influence, having helped channel discontent among conservative dioceses mainly in Africa and Asia into action against the US church that even the Archbishop of Canterbury was forced to accept with an air of resignation.

He also comes from a position of numerical strength, with the Anglican churches of Uganda and Nigeria making up almost 50 per cent of the world’s Anglicans.

As Orombi views it, it’s the US church and other Anglican liberals that are on the outside looking in. Anglican conservatives are mobilising worldwide, marking a return to the purity of biblical teaching and breaking free of the strictures of denominational consensus…

But there can be no reconciliation without the liberal North Americans repenting – and that means abandoning the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.

“If Gene Robinson is going to the next Lambeth [conference] then we aren’t going, and if we don’t go there is no Lambeth.”

Robinson’s sin is to be openly gay. While progressives argue a church tradition of inclusiveness, Orombi has taken a hard line on gay issues. In Uganda, homosexuality is a crime punishable by life imprisonment.

Homosexuality, the archbishop says, contravenes Biblical teachings that go back to the first God-sanctified man-and-woman union of Adam and Eve, and are reinforced in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the words of the apostle Paul. It was a “misuse of sexual organs” as God designed them, and society’s “stamp of approval doesn’t make it normal”.

But a Melbourne Anglican, Dr Muriel Porter, said yesterday that the “second-order” issue of homosexuality should not govern who is acceptable to the worldwide Anglican faith and it was time for “good people” in the church to speak out…

“I would like to ask the Archbishop of Uganda and his church if they have launched an all-out offensive against his Government to change the law so that homosexual people are not facing life imprisonment,” Porter says. “That is the very least they should be doing if they are requiring the US church to take action against Gene Robinson.”


Updating the Sex Discrimination Act

On 7 March the Department of Trade and Industry published a consultation document and draft regulations to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) in order to bring it into line with the Equal Treatment Directive which comes into force in October. Amongst many other changes the proposals will alter the circumstances in which sex discrimination is legal in the Church of England.

The most important consultation documents can be downloaded from the website of the DTI’s Women and Equality Unit.

consultation document
executive summary
draft regulations

These and other documents are linked from here including the response form. Unfortunately this Word document uses the font Univers55; if you do not have this font installed on your computer you might find the document unintelligible. The consultation period ends on 31 May 2005.

The proposed changes include the repeal of section 6 of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993. The DTI view is that this section is too widely drawn. In its place a new section 19 of the SDA would still allow discrimination in certain circumstances, and would be applied equally to all religious bodies.

General Synod members have been sent a paper outlining how the proposed changes will affect the Church of England, and giving the text of the proposed new section 19 of the SDA. I have copied this paper below the fold.



Ugley Puritans – update

A correspondent reports from the Chelmsford diocesan synod meeting held last Saturday:

Answering questions at the Diocesan Synod, John Gladwin told the dissidents who have declared themselves to be “out of communion with him”, that theirs was the only letter of complaint that he had received, but that he had also received 130 letters and messages of appreciation and support.

In reply to their complaint that he had signed the letter as Bishop of Chelmsford without any synodical support for doing so, he answered to the effect that he is the Bishop of Chelmsford and people really have to come to terms with that – to loud and prolonged applause from the synod, thereby signifying that he did have the synod’s support should he have needed it. He also said that the Six Bishops’ letter was entirely in accord with the Dromantine Communiqué and that had been checked at the highest level.

After the spontaneous applause following his robust defence of his position as Bishop of the Diocese, a synod member even cheekily asked in a supplementary – would it be appropriate for this synod to further demonstrate its support for the Bishop with another round of applause – to more applause.

The dissidents had a rather poor time of it, the more so as the Bishop kept saying that he welcomed dialogue with the group, would be replying to their letter and would continue to meet with them.


religion and politics

Rowan Williams expresses his opinion on abortion today in the Sunday Times: People are starting to realise we can’t go on as we are and a related news story is Williams calls for abortion review.

There is also a BBC report about this Williams urges debate on abortion. The original article begins:

For a large majority of Christians — not only Roman Catholics, and including this writer — it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life. Whatever other issues enter into the often anguished decisions concerning particular cases, they want this dimension to be taken seriously.

Equally, though, for a large majority of Christians this is a view which they know they have to persuade others about, and recognise is not taken for granted in our society. The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right is alarmist nonsense.

One of the confusions that has arisen in the past week is the idea that we are somehow going to be swept up into a British rerun of the US election of 2004, with a moral conservative panic dictating votes. It’s far from clear that this is what happened in America; and even if it were, we are a long way from any comparable situation here…

Last Friday in the Guardian Giles Fraser and William Whyte wrote Don’t hand religion to the right.

For decades, the political class on this side of the Atlantic has prided itself on the absence of religious culture wars. The obsession with abortion, gay marriage and obscenity, the alliance between the secular and religious right – these are peculiarly American pathologies. It couldn’t happen here. After all, we’re just not religious enough.

Except it does seem to be happening here. In making abortion an election issue, Michael Howard has prompted the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, pointedly to warn against assuming “that Catholics would be more in support of the Labour party”. Elsewhere, the Christian right targets the BBC, and the Church of England is being colonised by homophobic evangelicals with broad smiles and loads of PR savvy. No wonder the cogs are whirring at Conservative central office on how best to exploit the voting power of religion…

The Observer today has a Focus: The religious right feature which includes this article by Jamie Doward and Gaby Hinsliff Who would Jesus vote for? with the strapline:

As abortion and religious censorship move up the pre-election agenda, evangelical pressure groups are seizing the chance to exercise increasing influence over mainstream British politics

Related news story Blair seeks the Christian vote

And yesterday the Independent carried a report about Tony Blair, Blair: ‘Within my milieu, being gay was not a problem’ and an accompanying news story First the grey vote, now the gay vote which includes this:

The Prime Minister insists there is no conflict between his religious views and his pro-gay stance. Urging the Church of England to resolve its differences over homosexual bishops, he says many people in the Church share his view that the fundamental Christian principle is one of equality. “But there are those that passionately disagree,” he says.


report from Toronto

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison Primate of Canada spoke in Toronto about the primates meeting in Dromantine. Below the fold is a first-hand account of the event held on Wednesday evening in Toronto, as sent by a local correspondent.

This meeting has also caused Anglican Essentials to issue J.I. Packer Comments on Recent Developments as well as this earlier report.

Also, Reuters apparently didn’t attend the meeting but did file this report after speaking to Hutchison by phone: Homosexuality Could Split Church-Canadian Anglican.



Object Lessons

While watching Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4, I suddenly realised what it was like to have them shoot at me; or at least shoot at something I care about.

I love the show, if for no other reason than it gives some of our MPs an object lesson in being an effective Opposition. Last week it turned to the subject of God speaking: Mr Blair finds it hard to hear what God says, so he asks Mr Bush who does hear God clearly. So we learn from Mr Bush that God says they should bomb Iraq, and Bremner wishes God would learn from the Archbishop of Canterbury whose practice, apparently, is to say nothing.

I was on board until we got to the Archbishop.

It took me back to a Daily Mail article I was shown a year ago asking what the point was of an Archbishop who did not feel the need to speak on every subject in the public eye. Of course Dr Williams has and does speak on key issues in public life, it is just that he does not do so to order.

It’s a strange feature of our national life that while so few of us attend Church of England services, and yet we expect its most senior figure to come out with a defining word from God to solve a particularly thorny public debate.

It happens personally as well. I was called to visit some old friends last autumn. They had lived perfectly contented lives without any need for dialogue with the Christian faith. They were now in crisis as the husband was dying a nasty and lingering death. They were clearly disappointed that I didn’t come out with a tidy phrase which would have been a ready source of supernatural comfort in their distress.

I know colleagues who do have a stock of tidy phrases for these occasions, but I have never believed you have to take people back to a world of Santa or the Tooth Fairy to be able to talk about God. Losing a lifetime’s love to death is too serious for that. I didn’t do a quick and easy sound bite, because you can’t give a shallow, ready response to profound pain. (Neither can you leave them empty-handed.)

Newspapers are in business to boost their circulations, so that they can charge more for their advertising space. Demanding a comment from a prelate, then and there, is newsworthy. Whether the comment is worth hearing, or whether it is absurd, it makes no difference to the journalist as it will still sell papers. Tomorrow it will be someone and something else, which will be required to be just as instant.

To be expected to respond to complex national issues with deadline-driven instant insight is unreasonable. Just as no course in faith, which will do a dying man or his wife the slightest bit of good, can be delivered in one visit over afternoon tea. But both are possible, all they need is time, consideration, prayer, and silence.

Above all they each need an understanding that any insight about anything, national or personal, is about being committed to a journey of discovery, in which things about ourselves are revealed, some of which will be assuring, some of which will not. Journeys are not all of a fixed length, and the outcome is not always foreseen. Whatever else they are, they are not usually responsive to instant demands for pithy comment.

I’m sorry Mr Bremner, an Archbishop who doesn’t always speak on demand is not a national liability. If anything, he is an object lesson to our representatives of how to manage grave and weighty issues. He does speak, however. As I write this, he is addressing a gathering in East London on the subject of who is raising our children. Whether I will agree with him or not, he will be worth hearing because what he says will be the fruits of a considered and prayerful journey, in a way that a lot of what is passing through Parliament is not.

Silence to a demand is not to say nothing, it may be that the question is the wrong one, or that silence may be an invitation to take a longer and more prayerful look.

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more on the Ugley Puritans

Several stories relating to this protest against writing letters to The Times:

Gladwin faces Ugley scenes over gays is the headline over the story in the Church Times (not on the public website yet), which says in part:

One of the clergy’s number, the Revd John Richardson, Assistant Curate of Henham, and Elsenham with Ugley, said on Tuesday: “He cannot be in sacramental fellowship with us and Churches in North America at the same time.”

…The Chelmsford group insists that, by opting for sacramental fellowship with those “who have gone against mainstream Anglicanism”, Bishop Gladwin has opted out of sacramental fellowship with others in his diocese.

…The group’s concern was not to add numbers to its list, but to make a point, he said.

Meanwhile Andrew Brown writes in the weekly Church Times Press column (also not on the public website) that:

ANOTHER EXAMPLE of a story that was made by its timing came in Saturday’s Telegraph, where the parish of Elsenham, Henham and Ugley in Essex announced that it was out of communion with the Bishop of Chelmsford because he had signed a letter to The Times in support of the North American Churches.

Again, this should have been a non-story. The benefice has made the papers before for throwing a yoga class out of the parish hall for a while (the class finally settled in Ugley village hall, which is controlled by a churchwarden of the neighbouring benefice); and for witholding its quota for a while in protest against the diocese’s interfaith policy. This stirring announcement, then, shouldn’t have been aroused too much excitement.

But, to journalists who are coming to believe that the Church of England as we have known it is doomed, and that a fractious congregationalism is the inevitable future, these gestures matter.

The CEN has Bishop rebukes opponents over Communion debate

The Guardian has Bishop hits back over gay row

And the GetReligion blog has Broken Communion story rolls on — in England.
while Fr Jake has Table Fellowship; the New Weapon