Thinking Anglicans

religion at the weekend

From the British newspapers:

Geoffrey Rowell in The Times writes that The calendar of commercialism does not reflect our spiritual rhythms.

Andrew Brown in the Guardian asks, in an essay entitled Belief systems: Are we hardwired for religion, or is it just a psychological and social need?

Two columns deal with the forthcoming 350th anniversary of the “resettlement” of the Jews in England:
Guardian Geoffrey Alderman in the Face to Faith column; and
The Times Jonathan Romain The timeless question: consolidate or integrate?

In the Telegraph, Christopher Howse writes about Naming the birds of heaven.

As it is New Year’s Eve today, the papers have articles about the New Year, like these:
Ruth Gledhill in The Times Bishops resolve to fight the flab – and end world poverty (see more about this column here), while Jonathan Petre in yesterday’s Telegraph was more sombre.


Anglican Theological Review: Fall 2005

A range of essays from the Fall 2005 issue of Anglican Theological Review is now available from this page.

Several of these relate to the Windsor Report.

The Windsor Report: Communion, Structure, and Covenant by Ellen Wondra (this is an introduction to the set of articles, another copy is here)

A Note on the Role of North America in the Evolution of Anglicanism by Paul Marshall
After Dromantine by George Sumner
Authority, Unity, and Mission in the Windsor Report by Ian Douglas
Thoughts on the Windsor Report: What Went Wrong? by Paul F M Zahl
The Spiritual Context of the Windsor Report by Steven Charleston
“But It Shall Not Be So Among You”: Some Reflections Towards the Reception of the Windsor Report within ECUSA by A Katherine Grieb
Covenant, Contract, and Communion: Reflections on a Post-Windsor Anglicanism by Harold Lewis
Freedom and Covenant: The Miltonian Analogy Transfigured by Ephraim Radner
Restoring the Bonds of Affection by William R Carroll
The Windsor Report: Two Observations on Its Ecumenical Content by J. Robert Wright
The Windsor Report and Ecumenical Dialogue by Kevin Flynn
The Unopened Gift by Jeffrey Steenson


civil partnerships: AM and some statistics

Updated 9 January
“Anglican Mainstream” has issued a press release. The text of it is not currently on at last posted to the AM website but meanwhile it can be found here. It says in part (emphasis added):

Following the passing of the Act, the House of Bishops of the Church of England released a pastoral statement on July 25 2005. Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and Reform all issued responses to the Bishops’ statement between July and September. Between them they represent people in over 1000 churches and 2000 clergy throughout England. The Anglican Mainstream letter… has since been personally signed by over 1700 people, including 290 clergy and two Bishops from 260 churches in 38 dioceses. It has today been presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury as evidence of the deep disquiet within the Church about the pastoral situation which the Civil Partnership Act has created.

The statistics included in this press release are rather interesting. (Of course, any AM-originated statistics warrant caution in interpretation.)

Anglican Mainstream UK (which covers Wales, Scotland, and Ireland as well) has a Steering Committee which includes representatives from: Reform, CEEC, Church Society, and New Wine. It is curious that the latter two organisations are not mentioned in the press release.

If this coalition represents only 1000 churches and 2000 clergy in the Church of England then it would seem to be very far indeed from representing “mainstream” evangelical opinion within the Church of England.

What is even more significant is how few signatures AM has managed to obtain, even after several months of active solicitation.

According to the CofE official website, there are:

“… more than 9,000 paid clergy; more than 2,000 non-stipendiary ministers;… around 5,000 active retired clergy; and 1,100 chaplains in colleges, universities, hospitals, schools, prisons and the armed forces.”

and from here:

“The Church of England has some 16,000 church buildings, in 13,000 parishes covering the whole of England…”

And AM obtained less than 300 clergy signatures from only 260 churches.


civil partnerships: recent CT reports

In today’s Church Times Bill Bowder reports on what the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich said in Bishop: gays ‘amongst the best’ clerics.

Earlier in the month, Rachel Harden had two articles: Priests prepare to register their civil partnerships and also Both sides agree: this is not marriage.

And a further report was entitled Don’t try to bend gay rules, says Dr Wright.

This week’s column by Giles Fraser is headlined Protect me from prying bishops.


Is God on Their Side?

BBC Radio 4’s Analysis: Is God on their Side?, was broadcast on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 at 20:30 GMT.

Analysis explores the beliefs, the world view and the aspirations of the politically religious in America to discover why so many have come to believe that God, uniquely, is on their side.

Presenter: Andrew Brown

More information from the BBC about the programme

More information from the presenter

Read the programme transcript

Listen to the programme (Real Audio – just under 28 minutes long)


Christmas sermons

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon is here, below the fold.
The Archbishop of York’s sermon is on the York diocesan website.



extra columns

Two weeks ago, TA linked to the first part of a report by Ian Mayes, in his Open Door column, on the Guardian’s coverage of religion. The second part of this got delayed by a Chomskyian diversion, but appeared last Monday. Here it is.

On Wednesday, Richard Chartres talked about Christmas on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

Today, the Guardian also carried an interview with Nicholas Holtam under the headline Motley Pew, and a column by Giles Fraser entitled Don’t leave those kids alone.

There was another good Thought for the Day on Friday, by Angela Tilby. The text of this is currently lost in the post, but you can hear it here (Real Audio): Darwin didn’t think that his theory of evolution dealt a death-blow to religious faith.

And The Times had another leader today: Very civil partnerships.


Christmas columns

In The Times the Archbishop of York John Sentamu writes the Credo column: Like children, we will be surprised and overwhelmed. Also, the Bishop of Colombo Duleep de Chickera looks back at the tsunami, Wave of division that defies God’s timeless love. The Times leader is headed O come, all ye faithful.

In the Guardian the leader is titled In praise of … Bethlehem. The Face to Faith column by Pete Tobias is about Hanukah falling this year on Christmas Day. Another leader is on Living and giving after the tsunami.

The Telegraph leader is titled Christmas and the end of history. Christopher Howse writes about What the bells told Toby Veck.

1 Comment

Simon Mayo interview transcript

Fulcrum has transcribed the whole of the Simon Mayo interview with Rowan Williams previously reported. The transcript starts here, and not only is it complete, but it is also indexed by subject. What an achievement!


Looking Forward

In his advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams offers his advent hopes for individuals, societies and the Church. For the last of these he gives us just two themes – reconciliation and renewal. Being a sucker for alliteration, I would like to add a third – readiness – to make a new version of the “3 R’s”. I have been trying to reflect on these hopes through the season.

I rather regret that in recent times it has become unfashionable in Advent to preach on the “Last Things” (Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven). Indeed, instead of looking forward to eternity, we are now asked by our lectionaries to look back (to the patriarchs, prophets, John the Baptist and Mary). To be frank, I don‘t think looking at the past is much help in terms of any of these three “R’s”. So let me suggest an Advent alternative.

From this perspective, reconciliation is about recognising that those we are in dispute with on Earth are also those with whom we hope to spend eternity. Despite the old joke (told at some point against most Christian denominations) there is no walled-off enclosure in heaven reserved for those who don’t think that anyone else is up there. In eternity, those with whom I have fallen out now, and to whom I may have behaved uncharitably, will be closer to me than the nearest human being in this present life. The Advent call to the Churches for reconciliation is therefore not so much “unity in diversity”, as “unity in eternity”.

Renewal also has its Advent dimension. We are to breath new life into our earthbound church so that we anticipate something of eternity. Taking just one example, it’s a call to make sure that the heavenly dimension is not absent from our liturgy and worship. And if that seems a rather too obvious thing to say, it is not that uncommon in my experience to find church services that appear to value matey-ness above mystery. A worship that is anticipatory of eternity will speak powerfully to our emotions, to our intellects and to our aesthetic senses. All too often we settle for being gently entertained.

Finally in Advent we are called to readiness. We are invited to prepare ourselves for a God who acts, not capriciously as did the Greek and Roman deities, but with a consistent and loving purpose moving ever towards the ultimate and complete fulfilment of his will. To be ready means to be prepared to wait. To wait for a God who may act sooner or later than we expect. It means to travel light so that, at any point, we are prepared to drop anything that holds us back from responding to where God is. As Archbishop Rowan has said elsewhere, the task of the Church is to notice what God is doing and join in with it.

In the final days of Advent maybe we can move beyond the remembrance of things past, so beloved of our current lectionaries, and begin to look forward. And as we do so, may we look forward both to that great breaking of God into the world that we call the incarnation, and that even greater breaking in of the world into God that we call eternity.


Nigeria: New York Times report

The recent Changing Attitude event in Abuja is now reported in the Sunday edition of the New York Times:
Nigerian Anglicans Seeing Gay Challenge to Orthodoxy by Lydia Polgreen. here’s an extract:

…The Anglican debate has largely played out as one between traditional African values and what many people call the decadence of the West. As one Anglican, Chimae Ikegwuru of Port Harcourt, put it: “Homosexuality is a Western thing. In Nigeria we don’t condone it, we don’t tolerate it.”

Nigeria’s gay men and lesbians regularly face harassment and arrest, gay activists here say. The criminal code bans acts “against the order of nature,” and imposes sentences of up to 14 years for those convicted. In practice, gay men are often arrested and jailed until they can bribe their jailers to let them go. In areas of Nigeria that adhere to Islamic law, Shariah, the sentence for homosexual acts is death.

Yet homosexuality is relatively common, particularly in the military, which dominated the country’s politics for decades, said Dare Odumuye, founder of Nigeria’s first gay rights organization, Alliance Rights Nigeria. “It has always been in our culture in Nigeria,” he said.

Still, in a country riven by corruption and strife, and perpetually perched on the edge of chaos, deeply conservative religious beliefs and literal readings of not only the Bible but also the Koran offer certainty and stability otherwise unavailable.

“The Bible and the creeds don’t lend themselves to any variation over time,” said Oluranti Odubogun, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. “They don’t subject themselves to cultural changes. They are guidance given for human existence from age to age.” But that desire for certainty and absolutism has run up against another powerful force, the wider struggle for self-determination, particularly among young people in Africa…


weekend columns

The Times has an interesting feature article about women’s ordination, titled The sisterhood. Interviews with three Anglicans are included: Joanne Grenfell, Lucy Winkett and Jessica Swift.

Elsewhere in The Times Roderick Strange writes about Christmas and Ruth Gledhill writes about St Nicholas.

Michael Burleigh’s piece in the Times titled Peer into today’s Aladdin’s cave and try to detect a spiritual life contrasts with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor writing in the Observer about an Outbreak of faith.

The Guardian’s Face to Faith column is by David Self and is about civil partnerships.

In the Telegraph on Saturday, Christopher Howse wrote about The Christmas law of gravity. But much more interesting is the article by John Sentamu in the Sunday edition, This year, Christmas should last a lifetime.

1 Comment

employment status of the clergy

Updated 24 December
The Church Times has two reports on this, both can be found at Church studies employment ruling; scroll down for Shiranikha Herbert’s report of the case.

A court case with significant implications for the Church of England (and other UK Anglicans) was decided in the House of Lords this week. Although the case itself concerned a claim alleging sex discrimination in the (presbyterian) Church of Scotland, it could have much wider ramifications in the long term.

The best newspaper reports of this are in the Scotsman and the Guardian.
Scotsman Susan Mansfield and (scroll down) Julie Sabba Ex-minister wins right to sue Kirk for sex discrimination
Guardian Clare Dyer Kirk minister sacked over affair wins right to lodge sex bias claim
Update also Woman ex-minister to sue Kirk over sex ‘bias’ by David Lister in The Times

The full text of the Law Lords ruling is online here:
Judgments – Percy (AP) (Apellant) v. Church of Scotland Board of National Mission (Respondent) (Scotland) and a PDF of this, which may be more convenient because it is some 60 pages long on paper, is here.

Other press coverage:
Observer before the judgement Minister awaits sex bias verdict … against God
The Times/PA News Woman vicar cleared to bring sex claim
Herald She worked for God on high, but her boss is down on earth
BBC Ex-minister wins sex claim fight


Transcripts of Proceedings

Transcripts of Proceedings are now available for the November meeting of General Synod.

Wednesday morning
Wednesday afternoon

The last of these contains the answers to all questions reached before close of business. The answers to the questions not reached are here.

The July 2005 Report of Proceedings (in PDF format) has recently become available online here.


Lambeth Conference plans

The text of the Advent letter sent by Rowan Williams to all 38 primates of the Anglican Communion is published:
Text of the Advent Letter sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury [to Primates] and Moderators of the United Churches.

See also this ACNS press release: Dates for 2008 Lambeth Conference announced by Archbishop of Canterbury.

The earlier Church Times article by Tom Wright Why Dr Williams must stand firm was responding to the CT leader previously reported here.


elections to synodical bodies

The several houses that constitute the General Synod recently held elections for the filling of various vacancies, including many of the seats on the Archbishops’ Council.
See details of these election results here.


civil partnerships: individual bishops views

Updated Thursday

First, John Hind Bishop of Chichester delivered a pastoral letter at his recent diocesan synod. The full text is on the diocesan website here: Civil Partnerships — A Pastoral Letter.

Second, Tom Wright Bishop of Durham issued an Ad Clerum letter to diocesan clergy yesterday. You can’t read that, or anything much, on the Durham diocesan website which is being refurbished, but it is available here.

The Bishop of Worcester’s views were reported earlier.

The Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt has issued this statement.

Changing Attitude has issued a Rough Guide to the Civil Partnership Law which mentions that:

There are two bishops, one Northern, one Southern Province, with whom we haven’t talked because their views are predictable and dangerous for gay clergy. You will know who they are and you would be advised not to register a partnership if you serve in either of their dioceses.


civil partnerships: AffCath booklet

Affirming Catholicism has announced it is to publish a booklet on Civil Partnerships.
The press release is reproduced below the fold (as it is not yet on the AffCath website).

ekklesia has this news article: Affirming Catholicism and two bishops back civil partnerships.



Lake Malawi: diocese rejects provincial decisions

Updated Saturday
This week’s Church Times carries more detail of the story below. See Malawi 21 reject Bishop Mwenda by Pat Ashworth.

According to the Daily Times in Malawi, Anglicans reject bishop again:

The Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi has rejected retired Bishop Leonard Mwenda of Lusaka, Zambia who was last month appointed interim head of the church in place of another rejected Bishop-elect Reverend Nicholas Paul Henderson.

The Court of Anglican bishops in Central Africa refused to confirm Henderson as bishop for Diocese of Lake Malawi on allegations that he was supportive of homosexuality.

But the clergy from the Lake Malawi Diocese meeting Friday last week disagreed with the church court’s decision to reject Henderson and complained that Mwenda was imposed on the Diocese.

More details in the article.


civil partnerships: a further legal opinion

Recently we published here an opinion on civil partnerships issued by LGCM and written by Derek Belcher.

Anglican Mainstream has now published a response by James Behrens which you can find at A Further Opinion regarding Civil Partnerships. He begins:

This further opinion is a response to a paper by Canon Belcher for the LGCM which comments on my written opinion of 30 June 2005 published by Anglican Mainstream. Canon Belcher and I are not as far apart as may be thought. Some people have read my written opinion as saying that the mere fact of entering into a civil partnership is a matter for ecclesiastical discipline. That was not my intention, and it is not my opinion. I am sorry that confusion has been caused. I make it clear now that it is active homosexual practice which is a matter for ecclesiastical discipline, rather than the fact of civil partnership itself. If the relationship between the parties to a civil partnership is chaste, the matter is not one for ecclesiastical discipline.

I annex to this note a slightly revised text for my written opinion which, I hope, makes my position clear. I have underlined the differences from the original version for ease of reference.

Unfortunately the AM web page has lost Dr Behrens’ underlining. Perhaps this will be rectified soon. Meanwhile the original version, of which this is a revision, can be found here.