Thinking Anglicans

weekend opinion columns

Geza Vermes wrote in the GuardianFace to Faith column that Mary was probably not a virgin in the modern sense of the word.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about a Remarkable piece of cardboard.

Jonathan Sacks wrote in The Times about Chanukah, in Candles in memory of a clash of civilisations.


second big weekend in Virginia

The first one was here. And the statement of the ACC Secretary General in the matter of CANA’s ecclesiastical status was reported yesterday.

This weekend voting concludes in the two big parishes, The Falls Church and Truro Church, and there is some excitement in the air. See also the comments to that post for some descriptions of last Sunday. At another parish the voting is over and the result declared.

Detailed instructions have been issued to the media in anticipation of extensive coverage tomorrow. That PDF is also available as html, here.

Some very strong stuff indeed appeared Thursday in the Falls Church News-Press:
F.C. Episcopal to Report Results of Vote to Defect Sunday
Nicholas F. Benton: An ‘Old South’ Backlash
Editorial: Descent Into The Abyss

The Living Church has published two further reports:
Secretary General of ACC Clarifies Communion Status of CANA
Virginia Diocese Questions Voting Procedure

If like me you were puzzled as to why the diocese cared about the voting procedure details, this comment on titusonenine explains.

The Clergy and Wardens of the Church of the Apostles, Fairfax, Virginia, wrote a letter to Bishop Peter Lee which you can read in full here.

The perception of Truro Church leadership concerning CANA’s Anglican District of Virginia are contained in this PDF file.

The Washington Times had this detailed report by Julia Duin today: Diocese faces exodus of flock.

And if you are wondering about whether Virginia law is clear about the ownership of parish church property this note by Jim Naughton On church property may confuse you further.

Further update: some useful background statistics on the voting numbers involved can be found here.


Tom Wright: A Confused 'Covenant'

Following Fulcrum’s earlier initial response, now comes Bishop Tom Wright’s very detailed (over 6000 words) and very critical analysis of ‘A Covenant for the Church of England’. You can read it all here.

I am surprised that this document (‘A Covenant for the Church of England’, hereafter CCE) has been issued, and sorry that its clear grasp of some issues is not matched by clarity or wisdom on others. I fully understand what the Bishop of Rochester has referred to as the ‘strength of feeling’ which it demonstrates, but could wish that this had been matched by strength of thinking, both in the strategic decision to make this move at this time and in the detail of much of the document…

Fulcrum forum discussion here.


statistics on civil partnerships

Changing Attitude has published a lengthy and detailed analysis on the number of civil partnerships of Church of England members reported to it. You can read the whole report here: Changing Attitude reveals results of Civil Partnership Survey.

They report a total of 87 Anglican events out of an English total of 14,084. (UK total 15,672). (That’s 0.6 % of the English total.)

The official national statistics can be found here.


more on the "Covenant for the CofE"

The Church Times reports on the covenant shenanigans with Conservative Evangelicals lay their cards on the table.

The Church of England Newspaper has an article which is reproduced elsewhere, e.g. at Global South Anglican titled Evangelicals deliver claim for alternative structures.

Stephen Bates managed to squeeze in a reference to it during his Guardian article Action by Tanzanian bishops risks new gay priests row.

Ekklesia had Keep Church of England open, bishops and leaders urged.

Changing Attitude has published this press release: A response to the conservative evangelical Covenant.

And, a couple of blog entries: MadPriest called it A Covenant Of Straw and Dave Walker had presciently blogged this: Reform website.


Kearon on CANA

The Anglican Communion Office has issued this statement:

From the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

‘In response to a number of queries, and following consultation with The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has issued the following statement:

“The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is, to my knowledge, a “mission” of the Church of Nigeria. It is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organsation which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion. CANA has not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion’s structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”’

The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon

If you are wondering why this statement was thought necessary, you need to go here, and read the statement by Mary Springmann or read this shorter explanation.

Update Anglican Mainstream has published a response to this from CANA (perhaps it will appear on the CANA website later) which can be read here.
Further Update Yes, it is now on the CANA site here.


two responses to the real covenant proposal

Affirming Catholicism has responded to the covenant consultation paper initiated some time ago by the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates’ Meeting, with a press release, Covenant could cause division and a more lengthy document, available here in Word format.

Affirming Catholicism is also holding a day conference in January to discuss ‘Anglicanism: Unity and Diversity’.

The document “Towards an Anglican Covenant”, to which this is responding can be found at the ACO website. See also this ACNS press release.

InclusiveChurch has also responded to the ACO request, and its response ‘Towards an Anglican Covenant’: A Response from InclusiveChurch By Rev. Canon Vincent Strudwick can be found here and here.


Archbishop of Uganda writes

Updated Saturday

More than one conservative American site has published this Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. (The Uganda provincial website appears to be out of order.)

Some excerpts:

…I am writing with a heavy heart to share with you sad news about our beloved Anglican Communion. On Saturday, 4th November, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) enthroned as their Presiding Bishop a leader who has permitted the blessing of same-sex unions and who also denies that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Her name is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Our problem with ECUSA is not that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop. We in the Church of Uganda do support the ordination of women and women in all levels of leadership in our church. In fact, I am very pleased to report that the House of Laity elected Dr. Sarah Ndyanabangi to serve as the next Chairperson of the Provincial House of Laity.

Our problem with the new Presiding Bishop of ECUSA is that she has publicly denied what the Bible teaches about faith and morality. And now she is in the position of Archbishop of one of the most influential and wealthiest Provinces in the Anglican Communion, even though it is one of the smallest in number.

and this:

…Finally, one of the most significant decisions we have made to support Biblically faithful Anglicans in America is to provide a diocesan home for American congregations who could no longer be submitted to a revisionist Bishop and the national church leadership of ECUSA. Ten of our dioceses in the Church of Uganda are now providing spiritual oversight to twenty congregations in America. These are congregations of Americans in America, but they are officially part of the Church of Uganda.

I have been in consultation with the other Primates and Archbishops of Africa and the Global South about this crisis in our beloved Anglican Communion. We have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and informed him that we cannot sit together with Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February. We have also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite an orthodox Bishop from the Anglican Communion Network in America to attend the Primates Meeting and represent the orthodox believers. We await his decision on these matters.

We are also praying about whether our House of Bishops should attend and participate in the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 2008. Every ten years, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all the bishops of the Anglican Communion together for prayer and mutual consultation on matters of mission and our common life together as Anglicans throughout the world. The next conference is planned for 2008. However, the Archbishops of Africa and the Global South have received a report and a recommendation that we not participate in the next Lambeth Conference if ECUSA, and especially their gay bishop, are also invited to the conference. The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda has not yet made a decision about this, but I wanted you to know that we are praying and asking the Lord to give us the mind of Christ on this matter…

Update Saturday
A Clarification on the November 2006 Pastoral Letter from the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop of Church of Uganda has been issued by The Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye Provincial Secretary. You can read it here.


Fulcrum's initial response to the "covenant"

Fulcrum has published this Initial Response to the ‘Covenant for the Church of England’.

Fulcrum’s own forum discussion on this matter can be found here.


how many evangelicals in the CofE?

Anglican Mainstream has published the following statistics, under the heading: Who are the evangelical and charismatic churches?.

They start with this comment (my emphasis added):

We are often asked about the numbers that our networks represent. In one sense the question is impossible and unnecessary because we seek to speak for all who uphold and seek orthodox teaching and leadership. However, a prominent researcher in the field of church membership, Peter Brierley, has given these figures:

The numbers then given, which are copied below, are Peter Brierley’s totals for three categories of evangelicals. This is interesting information, but it is not necessarily an answer to the second question posed above.

The English Church Census of 2005

Total number of Anglican churches 16247

Mainstream evangelicals (largely conservative) 1998 1045 2005 1411
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 1002 2005 1308
Evangelical broad 1998 1542 2005 1554

Total in 2005 4273 percentage 26%

Total worshippers

Whole of Church of England 1998 980,000 2005 870,600
Mainstream evangelicals 1998 72,500 2005 77,400
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 114,700 2005 114,900
Evangelical broad 1998 121,400 2005 105,200

Total in 2005 297,500, percentage 34%

Average size of congregation

Mainstream evangelicals 1998 55
Charismatic evangelicals 1998 88
Evangelical broad 1998 68

Of the 160 largest churches, (1% of the total number of churches) with a membership of over 350, who make up 10% of the membership of the CofE, 83% are evangelical.

The English Church Census 2005 is available in Pulling out of the Nose Dive by Peter Brierley and Religious Trends Number 6, by Peter Brierley, published by Christian Research, September 2006.


InclusiveChurch replies to "covenant"

Press Release

1.0 Conservative Evangelicals are clearly trying to create a defining moment for the Anglican Communion. The declaration by the Anglican Church of Tanzania separating itself from all who ordain, who are, or who support homosexual people, together with Reform’s “Covenant” are the next stages in the rolling out of a strategy which will, if allowed to proceed destroy the Anglican Communion.

2.0 We are seeing the development of a long term plan developed by various people on various continents which is intended to bring the Anglican Communion out of its historically generous and open position, into a narrowly defined, confessional group of churches rooted in the religious right of the United States and extending from there across the world.

2.1 We understand that the Tanzania declaration was produced at the behest of others with the specific aims of undermining the Presiding Bishop of the United States, challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and derailing the moves towards an inclusive Covenant which the Communion is beginning to make. It is a deliberately incendiary move. The intention is to pre-empt any decisions the Primates’ Meeting in February might make so that elements from the Global South and disaffected elements of the Episcopal Church rebels can proceed with their plan to set up an alternative Communion.

3.0 Reform’s “Covenant” brings this strategy into England. The authors of the “Covenant” (all male, all white) and their cohorts are, simply, using the politics of the playground, issuing financial threats and huffing and puffing in an attempt to bring the Church of England into line. The most cursory reading demonstrates a startlingly inadequate ecclesiology and a deep misunderstanding of the role of bishops. They are showing increasing militancy and becoming more and more vocal, because those of us who support the orthodox, historic and open tradition of Anglicanism are, unexpectedly, refusing to lie down and be trampled on.

4.0 Underlying all this is an obsession with homosexuality which flies in the face of human understanding, of natural law and of the Gospel; fundamentally, the labelling of homosexuality as “intrinsically sinful” offers the only chance for unity that these groups can find. It means that Biblical scholarship is distorted to justify the anathematising of homosexuals, and that the Gospel is reduced to a message where the rejection of lesbian and gay people lies millimetres below the surface.

5.0 InclusiveChurch has always, from the beginning, tried to be open to those with whom we disagree. We have sought meetings with conservative groups, and have tried to ensure that the breadth, generosity and openness of Anglicanism is extended to those who would reject that breadth and generosity. But we find that these groups, in the end, do not wish to engage. They wish to set up a separate structure which will keep them safe from taint. In the first place, the taint of homosexuality. Beyond that, the taint of women as bishops (or indeed as priests); and beyond that, the risk of change.

5.1 InclusiveChurch is committed to orthodox Anglicanism, which preaches the gospel of the liberating love of God. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Nowhere in the statements of these conservative groups and churches do we hear of the boundless love of God. The theology of the Reform “Covenant” bears as much relation to Anglican theology as that of Calvin and Zwingli did to Hooker and Andrewes.

6.0 We ask the people of Reform: “Why do you not have the courage of your convictions and leave the Church of England altogether? When your actions and your statements display so clearly your wish to distort the church of the Elizabethan Settlement, the Protestant revival, the Oxford Movement and the innovations of the twentieth century, why do you not simply realign yourselves with other churches? Why do you want to remain Anglican if that Anglicanism is a travesty of the gift we have been given?

The logic of your statement is you should secede from the Church of England altogether, not have it restructured to accommodate your narrow views of who may or may not be an Anglican. Inclusivity is written into the title deeds of the Church of England and we ask you to respect it.

But if you leave, you may not take the name “Anglican”; for the church you create will not be an Anglican church.

6.1 Or, if you wish to remain in the Church of England, then remain in the knowledge that we are all required, in love, to engage with each other. We inclusive Christians undoubtedly have a great deal to learn from you; we all, undoubtedly have a great deal in common. Stay in the knowledge that engagement will bring about change. And that God speaks not just to you but to others as well. And that all our understanding of God’s will – yours and ours – is flawed, because we are all flawed.”

7.0 We say to the senior hierarchy of the Church, to Archbishops, Primates and senior staff of the church: “Enough is enough. This squabbling needs to be brought to an end. There is no justification for a Bishop from the province of Nigeria exercising jurisdiction in the United States. There is no justification for Alternative Episcopal Oversight or Extended Primatial Oversight or any other terms used to cloak intolerance. There is no way a province can declare itself to be “out of communion” with another province. We ask you to say to the rebels, whether they are provinces or parishes – ‘leave or engage: if you engage, respect the structures: and listen to the spirit as it speaks to the whole church’. This bullying and hectoring must cease, so that the Gospel can be proclaimed anew. If that means that this generation oversees a split in the Communion, so be it. We trust in God for the future of the Church.”

8.0 To laity and clergy throughout the Communion we say: “You are the future. The Gospel we have been given lies with you to pass on. Are you willing to allow that Gospel to be distorted and broken, to allow the Communion to be torn into something it is not, for the sake of a concept of tradition, biblical truth and God which is exclusive and condemnatory? Are you willing to allow the Communion to go the way of all sects, into marginal oblivion?

We need, all of us, to speak, to pray and to love. We need to seek ways to engage with those with whom we disagree, in worship, in prayer and in our daily lives. We need also to engage with all the structures of the Communion – the Instruments of Unity, Synods, Bishops and officers, making our passion and our commitment known.

But, in the end, we need to be willing to say to those who would undermine the Gospel we proclaim: leave, if you will. Taking your money with you. We are all diminished by division but if division comes, so be it. God’s love will not be constrained.”

Giles Goddard: Chair, InclusiveChurch
St John of the Cross: December 14th 2006
original press release here, and continued here.


update on Nigeria

Matt Thompson links to this Associated Press report which summarises the situation well: New law and old prejudices threaten Nigeria’s gay community.

Matt’s own report, which should be read in full, is here: “There is a lot of ignorance”.


Reform proposes a "covenant"

Updated again Thursday morning

The meeting mentioned in a newspaper report last Sunday took place today at Lambeth Palace. The report had forecast that:

Leading evangelicals will meet the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Tuesday to deliver papers laying out the plans for a restructuring of the Church.

However, according to the Anglican Mainstream website what happened was:

A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity of the Church of England.

The document that this group presented is published on the Reform website, and can be read in its entirety at A Covenant for the Church of England.

The press release is described as follows:

It is not a Reform press release as such but a press release by a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

Update Wednesday evening
It is now revealed that:

The Covenant was drafted by a group under the following leadership:

Rev David Banting, Chair of Reform
Rev John Coles, Director of New Wine Networks
Rev Paul Perkin, Member of General Synod
Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society
Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes’ Oxford
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
Rev William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate
Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council
Rev Dr Simon Vibert, Chair of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit

This list can also be found at the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council where it is claimed that:

“CEEC President and Chairman sign new Covenant on behalf of CEEC

Update Thursday morning

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph has this report: Williams warned of Church anarchy:

The Church of England was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday after evangelical leaders representing 2,000 churches told the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow them to bypass liberal bishops or face widespread anarchy.

The group, whose supporters include the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, warned Dr Rowan Williams that the crisis over issues such as gay clerics was escalating fast and could descend into schism.

At a confidential meeting at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, they urged Dr Williams to create a parallel structure to free them from the interference of liberal bishops or risk a revolt against his authority…


Tanzanian bishops issue statement

Episcopal News Service has published a report TANZANIA: Bishops declare ‘impaired communion’ with Episcopal Church.

Update Tuesday: the statement now also appears at Global South Anglican and is now also on the ACNS site.
Update A PDF copy of the statement is now on the Tanzania site.

No similar report has yet appeared on the Anglican Communion News Service, nor on the Tanzanian provincial website.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) issued a statement December 7 saying that its “communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) is severely impaired” in light the 75th General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report.

The bishops also declared that ACT “shall not knowingly accept financial and material aid from dioceses, parishes, Bishops, priests, individuals and institutions in the Episcopal Church (USA) that condone homosexual practice or bless same-sex unions.”

Meeting in Dar Es Salaam, where the next Primates’ Meeting will be held in February 2007, the bishops noted that the Episcopal Church did not “adequately respond to the requirement made to them by the Anglican Communion through the Windsor Report by their failure to register honest repentance for their actions.”

During the past three years, leaders of at least 14 out of the 38 Anglican provinces have issued statements saying that they are in a state of “impaired” or “broken” relationship with the Episcopal Church. It is unclear how many provincial synods have ratified the statements.

The full text of the statement is in the ENS report.

Here is the statement from Tanzania in 2003.


InclusiveChurch responds to Reform threat

InclusiveChurch PRESS RELEASE: Advent 2: 10th Dec 2006

Rebel churches want to destroy the traditional breadth of the Church of England

Today’s Sunday Telegraph reports that a small group of conservative evangelical parishes are intending to set up an alternative jurisdiction within the Church of England using retired bishops to provide their own, separate ministry. What they are objecting to is in fact the agreed position of the House of Bishops.

The Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, President of InclusiveChurch, said “These rebel churches want to destroy the traditional breadth of the Church of England and turn it into a puritan sect. They must not be allowed to succeed.”

Britain is aware of the dangers of religious extremism. Now, more than ever, the message of a broad and inclusive Christianity needs to be heard. The Civil Partnership legislation has clearly offered new opportunities for people in this country to express a profound and committed love for one another. InclusiveChurch welcomes that.

These parishes are attacking their Bishops for upholding the agreed position on the Civil Partnership legislation. We urge the House of Bishops to resist this attempt further to divide the Church of England. The threats of financial penalties sound very like an attempt to bully the church into a particular position. Rather than engage with the world, these parishes seem to wish to separate themselves from it.

These proposals represent part of a wider pattern which will, if allowed to continue, distort and ultimately destroy the Anglican Communion. Across the Communion, we see attempts to replace the breadth and openness of Anglican theology with a confessional, protestant theology and practice. The recent irregular ordinations in the Diocese of Southwark, the statements of the Primates of the Global South at Kigali in July, the moves by the diocese of San Joaquin and parishes in the Diocese of Virginia to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church, and the appointment by the Church of Nigeria of Martyn Minns as a Bishop in the United States are all part of this strategy.

Alternative Episcopal Oversight, when it was created, set a dangerous precedent for Anglican Christianity. It implied that a “mix and match” church was possible, with people and parishes being able to choose their bishops according to their views on specific issues. The request for Alternative Primatial Oversight in America is partly a result of this precedent. This proposal to bring bishops out of retirement in order to promote a view of the church which appears increasingly single-issue and dominated by homosexuality is another.

We repeat, as we have said before; the Anglican Communion is a gift. In all its complexity and untidiness it has a great deal to offer the world. For that reason we have welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposals for working out a Covenant between us.


secularism: bishops attacked and responding

For the second week running, English bishops are criticised by an Observer columnist. This time, Mary Riddell has a piece titled Integrate? Tell that to the Christian church, Mr Blair. Here’s an excerpt:

…Even so, the bishops are on the prowl. The Bishop of Rochester criticises diversity legislation, while lamenting the lack of Christmas celebrations in that hotbed of Saturnalia, the nation’s SureStart schemes. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, announces that ‘illiberal atheists’ and ‘aggressive secularists’ have stolen Christmas. On a point of semantics, secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place.

Which, in the view of many bishops, is in every corner of the public realm. In the current Times Higher Education Supplement, the Archbishop of Canterbury defends Christian campus groups which risk banishment because of their attitudes to gay sex. ‘It isn’t as though sexual activity were any different from any other conscious choice,’ writes Dr Rowan Williams, likening any threat to such groups to banning CND. Public organisations should operate within the statute. On 1 January, laws protecting gay people in Northern Ireland will be tightened. Ruth Kelly, who plans weaker, later rules for the rest of the UK, has bowed to religious leaders complaining that the pillars of Christendom will totter unless Christian adoption agencies, bookshops and hotels are allowed free rein for prejudice. Islamist extremism is obviously never to be compared to the behaviour of peaceful citizens. Even so, the harmonious society Mr Blair desires is not best served by Christian leaders passing themselves off as a persecuted minority and the whipping boy of multicultural Britain.

This is purest fallacy. The might of bishops trickles down from the House of Lords, where they sit without a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy. Cathedrals are forecasting record attendances this Christmas. In a fearful, divided country, religion is the beneficiary. Mr Blair, though recognising that shift, was too selective and too timid in his remedies. He condemned radical Muslim schools, quite rightly, but omitted to say that creationism in Christian ones is deplorable, too. He demanded that faith schools must abide by guidelines requiring tolerance and respect for other faiths…

The article by Rowan Williams to which she refers can be found in the Times Higher Education Supplement which is read largely by university academics and administrators. The article is trailed on the front page of the weekly journal this way:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has hit out at the “suppression” of Christian unions on university campuses with an impassioned defence of free speech in an exclusive article for The Times Higher.

and the background to it is summarised in a news article entitled Archbishop hits back.

Rowan Williams’ article is titled It is not a crime to hold traditional values. A couple of excerpts (but read it all, please):

…But beyond this, we sometimes seem to be unclear. Quite often in discussion of Christian attitudes to homosexuality (and this is often the presenting issue where Christian unions are concerned), it is taken for granted that any statement that a form of behaviour might be sinful is on a par with the expression of hate, so that it is impossible for a conservative Christian, Catholic or Protestant or, for that matter, an orthodox Muslim to state the traditional position of their faith without being accused of something akin to holocaust denial or racial bigotry.

Yet the truth surely is that while it is wholly indefensible to deny respect to a person as such, any person’s choices are bound to be open to challenge. Any kind of behaviour or policy freely opted for by a responsible adult is likely to be challenged from somewhere; it isn’t as though sexual activity were different from any other area of conscious choice. And to challenge behaviour may be deeply unwelcome and offensive in a personal sense, but it is not a matter for legislative action…

and this:

…Christian unions, like most student associations, can be a nuisance. As a university chaplain many years ago, I was blessed with good relations with members of the Christian union, thanks to the maturity and warmth of the local leadership; but I know that not every chaplain in higher education has the same good fortune. Questions about tests for orthodoxy recur regularly in the histories of Christian unions, and every few years there is likely to be some degree of conflict and sometimes schism (as in other societies – I can also remember the ferocity of debates in the 1970s within a university Labour Club at the time leading up to the formation of the Social Democrat Party). Furthermore, there is real debate and divergence among Christians about the ethics of same-sex relationships, and some more liberal Christians will find it embarrassing that the traditional position of the Christian union can be seen by the rest of the student world as something like an unquestioned Christian line. Christian unions can appear detached from the rest of student life in some campuses (by no means all); or they can lay themselves open to charges of insensitive recruitment; and so on. But the basic question remains. Is there a straightforward right of association for people with these convictions? …

Other material relating to the current dispute over Christian Unions on British university campuses can be found in this excellent report from Ekklesia (PDF file), which was also written up in the Guardian in Christian unions warned against legal action. See also Simon Barrow here.


big weekend in Virginia

Updated 13 December

See earlier reports here and here.

The Richmond Times Dispatch has Episcopal churches may split and the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star has Will Neck church.

Truro Church’s Mary Springmann has a letter on the church’s website Why CANA? Convocation of Anglicans in North America (PDF file).

Jim Naughton contests the truth of the claims made in that letter in Another dubious claim from Truro. TA’s August report on the 2004 events that Jim mentions is here.

Mark Harris considers that Truro’s Vestry has gone round the bend.

BabyBlue (Mary Ailes) has published a photograph of the letter she got yesterday from Bishop Peter Lee. (You might need to click on it to show it full size.) Mary is unhappy about the letter.

The media have been given this instruction. (PDF file).

The Living Church added a report: National Church May ‘Retain Interest’ in Virginia Church Properties.

A statement from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

The following reports are delayed as the site was unreachable for me for several days:
Washington Times Julia Duin
8 Dec Virginia churches stuck in middle
12 Dec Episcopal Church sees first defection


Rowan Williams' visit to Rome

This week The Tablet has a very interesting interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, conducted by the editor, Catherine Pepinster. Read it at Ambivalent archbishop.

Previously, the Church Times had this report of the visit: ‘Definite progress’ as Williams visit exceeds expectations by Rupert Shortt.

Earlier reports of the visit are collected here.


opinion columns

Andrew Linzey has written for The Times about why Animals must not be scapegoats.
Also in that paper, Roderick Strange writes that Advent means no more hiding out in the hills and valleys.

Colin Slee writes in the Guardian about why banning Christmas is ignorant and counter-cultural, see Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse has his regular Sacred Mysteries column in the Telegraph. This week the title is Another kind of comfort.


news from ECUSA

It’s increasingly difficult to keep up. Several reports today:

The Church Times has a report by Doug LeBlanc about the San Joaquin convention: Californian diocese votes to move from ECUSA.
One assertion in that report is, I believe, inaccurate. I do not think that the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA has uttered the words attributed to her here. I think this is a reference to what a spokesman said, as reported by the New York Times.

The Senior Wardens of Truro Parish and The Falls Church have responded jointly, in fairly strong terms, to the earlier letter they and others received from the Bishop of Virginia. The response is in a PDF file and can be found here.
Update there is now an html copy of this document available here.

Stand Firm has published an interview with Neal Michell from the Diocese of Dallas.

And last but by no means least, a Press Release from the Anglican Alliance of North Florida states that the Bishop of Florida has deposed six of his clergy. The letter itself is available as a PDF file here.

Update Saturday Florida Times-Union report on this: Episcopal bishop revokes 6 priests