Thinking Anglicans

what the ACI is saying

Members of the Anglican Communion Institute have published several essays recently.

Ephraim Radner, who also made a presentation to the House of Bishops on the Proposed Anglican Covenant published
What Way Ahead? and
What Way Ahead – Part Two.

Christopher Seitz has written
The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and also
The Pastoral Council and the Primatial Vicar.

Comments on the above:
Jim Naughton The latest from Ephraim Radner and ACI leader’s parish joins Church of Nigeria
John Chilton Quote of the day :: Ephraim Radner and Quote of the day :: Christopher Seitz
Nick Knisely More on Seitz’s argument regarding historical precedence


women bishops: Affirming Catholicism proposals

Press release from Affirming Catholicism 30 March 2007
Women bishops: the limits of dissent

Affirming Catholicism has made a formal submission to a Church of England group charged with drawing up the legislation that will enable women to become bishops. In its submission, Affirming Catholicism argues that women bishops should have the same authority and status as their male counter-parts and that pastoral provision can be made for many but not all of the opponents of the move. The legislative drafting group was created by the Church’s governing body, the General Synod, after a debate in July 2006 when the great majority of its members backed a motion in favour of women bishops, although the question of how to deal with opponents was left unresolved.

The Rev’d Jonathan Clark, who chaired the Affirming Catholicism working party, said:

The General Synod has asked the legislative drafting group to produce proposals which will require all members of the Church to accept the fact of women bishops but which affirms that it is possible to dissent from that decision while still remaining loyal Anglicans. We argue that the clear implication of this tough brief is that pastoral arrangements can be put in place for those who regret or disagree with the decision to admit women to the episcopate but not for those who want to insulate themselves from the rest of the Church by living as though women had never been ordained.

The debate about women’s ordination as bishops has been high on the agenda of the General Synod over the last three years, with no set of proposals gaining the full support of its members. Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, Chair of Trustees of Affirming Catholicism, said:

The Church has been grappling with the ordination of women for a generation now and many many people are keen to see it at last resolved. Although only a minority of parishes and priests oppose the ordination of women as bishops, we are arguing for generous and secure pastoral provision to be made for them, provided that it does not put women who are bishops on a lesser footing than their male colleagues or create a church within a church. We believe our proposals strike the right balance between clarity and charity.

The legislative drafting group is due to meet in the middle of April to consider the submissions it has received from individuals and groups and is expected to make a progress report to Synod when it meets in July, although it is as yet unclear when the final vote on legislation will take place.

To read the full text of the submission, click here (.doc format)


Saturday thoughts

Judith Maltby writes in the Guardian about Good Friday.

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times about Passover.

Christopher Howse writes in the Daily Telegraph about Circumcision.

Paul McPartlan writes in the Tablet about Palm Sunday.

Simon Parke writes in the Church Times about Labelling.


General Synod – transcripts of proceedings

Verbatim transcripts of the proceedings of the reent meeting of General Synod are starting to appear online here. So far transcripts of the first two days are available.


report from Bishop Pierre Whalon

Updated Monday

In addition to the report from Bishop Jim Kelsey, there is now a very long report indeed from Bishop Pierre Whalon, who is Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

That is available as a Word document at Long note on the Situation, March 2007.doc. Again it is strongly recommended reading.

Update Monday
Another version of the full article now appears on Anglicans Online at A Bishop’s Estimate of the Situation.

Much of that report is concerned with the Anglican historical background to current events, but his account of the recent American House of Bishops meeting is not too long to reproduce here:

Our House’s meeting

Finally we come to the present moment, from the “big picture” to the details. The February 2007 Primates’ Communiqué made several specific demands of The Episcopal Church’s bishops, to be met by September 30. The Communiqué asked for clarification of the bishops’ intentions to abide by the decisions of the 2006 and 2003 General Conventions not to accept the consecrations of other partnered gay bishops or create rites of same-sex blessings. Furthermore, it proposed appointing a pastoral council composed of two foreign bishops and two bishops appointed by the Presiding Bishop, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which would oversee the ministry of a “primatial vicar,” a bishop to represent the Presiding Bishop to seven of the church’s one hundred ten dioceses and parishes in other dioceses that do not accept her ministry.

Ephraim Radner, a conservative Episcopal theologian appointed to the newly-formed Covenant Design Group, told the Episcopal bishops that everything boils down to trust. He presented the Covenant process as a way to create trust again. He is of course quite right. However, there have been many developments, some even during the meeting, which contributed to eroding trust.

First, The Episcopal Church has been held to the standards of Lambeth I.10 and the Windsor Report, which some of those demanding a reckoning from us have themselves ignored:

  • Some provinces have given full support and encouragement in their respective nations to draconian legislation criminalizing people for being gay which has been unanimously condemned by the world’s human-rights organizations, in blatant disregard of the Lambeth resolution we are accused of violating. Had the Primates’ Communiqué addressed this firmly, it would have had much greater credibility.
  • Some primates and other foreign bishops since 2000 have been coming into our dioceses (and Italy as well) despite requests from the respective diocesans that they should not. They have wreaked havoc by setting up illicit non-geographical jurisdictions and making grandiose promises to clergy and people, thus violating not only the Windsor Report conditions (para. 155), but also the unanimous practice of Anglicans, and indeed the Church Catholic since the First Council of Nicea.

(We would all do well to remember the Lord’s instruction: before removing the speck of sawdust from your brother or sister’s eye, pay attention to the great wooden log in your own (Mt. 7:3-5; Lk 6: 41-42).)

The Communiqué seemed to “move the markers” again, by sweeping aside the scheme set up by the bishops for dissenting congregations (“delegated episcopal pastoral oversight,” which the Windsor Report had commended) in favor of this council. There was no appreciation that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church requires unconditionally that any clergy exercising within the church must swear to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship” of the Church (Article VIII). Can one reasonably demand something of a bishop which he or she has no power to grant, and then complain about the bishop’s unwillingness to work with them?

The first day the bishops convened to consider the Communiqué (March 16) was also announced as the last day for nominations to fill the pastoral council, as if the Episcopal bishops had already acquiesced to it. Perhaps it was thought that Bishop Katharine had agreed to the scheme, which in any event she has no authority to do. In fact, she reported (and others can confirm) that she only agreed to take it to her House of Bishops.

Furthermore, despite a report from their own Standing Committee that The Episcopal Church through its General Convention had accepted the restrictions on it required by the Windsor Report, the Primates seemed to demand more assurances. And the Communiqué threatened implicitly that if the bishops did not accede to all its demands, the setting up of alternative jurisdictions within the American province would continue unabated.

Further erosion of trust occurred when it was learned that the Archbishop of Uganda was in Los Angeles during our meeting to administer confirmation in three of the diocese’s congregations. The Bishop of Los Angeles asserted that he had written “twenty to thirty” letters to him, none of which had received the favor of a reply.

A report from bishops working on the matter of property disputes produced several documents from the Anglican Communion Network, an organization specifically set up to promote the replacement of The Episcopal Church, which works closely with those Primates who have taken it upon themselves to “fix” us. These outlined plans for the subversion of the Church from within. The last document reportedly had the phrase, “Wage guerilla warfare in The Episcopal Church,” allegedly in the hand of the Network’s Moderator, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

In light of these provocations, I think our Statement was quite moderate, though some of the language sounds a bit jingoist (“liberation from colonialism” is not how most Church of England colonists saw the American Revolution). In all our resolutions, we affirmed our deep desire to remain within the Anglican Communion, while declining to participate in a scheme we had no authority to accept, a plan which would have de facto grounded the schism some long to see.

Update Saturday
Fr Jake has an article The Subversion of the Church From Within which contains links to numerous documents which relate to some of the points made in the article above.


"Windsor" bishops reducing in number?

Earlier, I identified a list of possible “Windsor” bishops which numbered fourteen, in addition to the ten bishops of NACDAP dioceses.

Recently Stand Firm has been trying to find out how these bishops voted at the recent American HoB meeting, on the specific issue of the “mind of the house” resolution addressed to the Executive Council that urges it to “decline to participate in” the pastoral structures articulated by the Tanzania Communique. They took the view, which seems reasonable to me, that a true “Windsor” bishop could not have voted for this resolution.

They included one bishop that I omitted, namely Mark MacDonald of Alaska. I excluded him since he has recently accepted a bishopric in Canada; in the event he did not attend the meeting due to illness.

John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee has succeeded Bertram Herlong, retired. He appears to be a further potential for the “Windsor” list.

The results of their investigations to date:

But so far—barring the one that we have no knowledge of [Bishop Ohl]—of the 25 Windsor bishops, we know of:
— 2 that voted for the HOB resolution opposing the pastoral structures of the Tanzania Communique
— 6 who did not attend the meeting
— 3 who attended the meeting but were unable to vote
— 14 who voted AGAINST the HOB resolution that rejected the pastoral structures of the primates

Considering first the NACDAP bishops:

  • it appears that four did not attend at all (though would surely have voted no), one left prior to the vote due to illness, and one, being already retired, had no vote. Thus only four votes against the resolution came from the ten network dioceses.

Turning to the fifteen other bishops(including both MacDonald and Bauerschmidt):

  • Two voted FOR the resolution, namely Henry Parsley of Alabama and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island.
  • One did not attend, one left the meeting early due to illness, and one vote remains unknown to Stand Firm.
  • Ten voted against the resolution.

So the total number of non-network “Windsor” bishops may be no more than twelve.


report from Bishop Jim Kelsey

The Bishop of Northern Michigan, Jim Kelsey, has published a lengthy and detailed report of the recent American House of Bishops meeting. The whole document can be read at Jim Kelsey’s report on the Spring Bishops’ Meeting March, 2007 on Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan News. As several others have already said, it is a Must Read.

Some parts of the report deal with earlier meetings, and these may be of even wider interest:

…During the meetings of the Bishops Working for a Just Society, there was also discussion about a major world-wide gathering of Anglicans just completed in Boksburg, South Africa, convened to focus on the Millennium Development Goals, and especially the one dealing with the AIDS pandemic (MDG Goal #6). The gathering was called TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission). It was moving to hear from those who were there, as they recounted the remarkable presentations by people from all over the world who told of the depth of human suffering and the response to which our Church is called. It was encouraging to hear about how these Anglicans from around the globe approached the US Episcopalians who were there, and made clear that despite the unpleasantness coming out of the Primates’ meeting, they were eager to continue our partnerships in mission of all sorts and configurations, and that they had no intention of withdrawing from communion with us, regardless of what official actions are being taken by the Primates.

But it was discouraging to hear about a meeting held between Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the US Episcopal bishops who were present. It was clear that at the meeting, Rowan Williams was uncomfortable and defensive, and that he has a distorted picture of The Episcopal Church (believing that the dissidents in our midst make up 40% of the Episcopal Church – – a bizarre and wildly inaccurate figure). When asked how the rest of the world perceives our efforts to promote and advance the Millennium Development Goals, Williams responded that he thought it was received as “papering over differences, and buying votes”. (Quite a different read from the face to face encounters our people experienced throughout the TEAM conference!). When asked what would happen after the September 30th deadline set by the Primates’ Communiqué, and who would decide about the adequacy of the response of the Episcopal Church to its demands, Rowan Williams responded that it would not be he who would decide since, as he said, “I’m not a Pope; that’s not how our system works… I’ll take it to the Primates, and they will decide”. (As if that’s how our system works!!!) This was sobering to hear, to say the least! At least we know where we stand, and what lies ahead…

And another section:

By the way, those who had been at the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania reported some very disturbing dynamics. The Primate of Mexico, Carlos Touche Porter, said that every time there was a break, new amendments were proposed for the Communiqué, always more critical of The Episcopal Church. His comment was, “as the meeting went on, I began to feel less like a Primate and more like a Cardinal”. Between his observations and those of our press corps, it was clear, in fact, that every time there was a break, Peter Akinola disappeared into a room where Martin Minns and other conservative US folks were holed up, and when he emerged, he had the next revisions for the Communiqué – which in fact were adopted. In the earlier drafts, there was a phrase “We respect The Episcopal Church”, and on the strength alone of Peter Akinola’s objection, that phrase was removed. All of this provides important information: that it is clear who is in control of the Primates’ Meeting, and this reinforces why it is so important that the Primates not be given increased power as a centralized authority in the Anglican Communion.


CANA in Colorado

…The vestry of Grace and St. Stephen’s, Colorado Springs, announced March 26 its intention for the parish to leave the Diocese of Colorado and affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The parish’s rector, the Rev. Don Armstrong, has also transferred to CANA.

See the Living Church report titled Colorado Springs Parish Plans to Join CANA.

The parish’s own news page is here.

Today, the Rocky Mountain Gazette has published UPDATE Diocese accuses Grace’s Armstrong of theft, fraud and the Letter from Bishop O’Neill can be read as a PDF here. An earlier Gazette article is Question of authority.

Rocky Mountain News said Episcopal diocese threatens to sue breakaway parish leaders.

The New York Times earlier had Episcopalians in Colorado Plan to Leave Denomination

Associated Press is now saying Colo. Parish Leader Facing Money Charges. Updated Thursday morning

The Reverend Donald Armstrong is also the Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute.
The ACI issued this comment earlier.

Episcopal News Service yesterday had COLORADO: Diocese moves to protect remaining Episcopalians, parish property.


Nigeria is not a 'safe place'

In addition to the press release from Lambeth Palace issued earlier today, Ruth Gledhill reported yesterday on her blog that Rowan Williams has recently written this in response to this LGCM Open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury following the Tanzanian Primates meeting Feb 2007:

‘I don’t think there was a chance of getting an agreed statement out of the Primates on this subject at the moment. I don’t take any pride in that, but it’s a fact.’

She mentioned this in the context of the Listening Process dossier:

Peter Akinola… has given an interview to Philip Groves, who head[s] the listening process for the Anglican Communion, in which he makes it clear that he is fully behind the draconian anti-gay measures currently going through Nigeria’s legislature.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) statement in that dossier, which can be found here, says:

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has therefore strongly opposed the developments in the Episcopal Church (USA), the Church of Canada and the Church of England. The Primate has called for the Church of England to be disciplined within the Anglican Communion for its response to the Civil Partnership Act.

In Nigeria the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006 is passing through the legislature. The House of Bishops has supported it because we understand that it is designed to strengthen traditional marriage and family life and to prevent wholesale importation of currently damaging Western values. It bans same sex unions, all homosexual acts and the formation of any gay groups. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria has twice commended the act in their Message to the Nation.

And another quote:

The Primate of all Nigeria has said “Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.”

Many people, when commenting on the dossier, have made specific reference to the Nigerian entry.

Changing Attitude issued a lengthy statement which includes:

“The Archbishop’s concern for situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten proper liberties may be taken as code for the situation in Nigeria. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has used high ranking Anglican officials to persuade the Government to introduce a new bill banning same-sex marriage and extending sanctions against any lesbian or gay social or political activity. The Church continues to support the proposed legislation despite international reaction against the Nigerian Government.

“Changing Attitude Nigeria and England have alerted the Communion to the active support being given by Archbishop Akinola and senior Church officials to the bill. The bill extends sanctions against lesbian and gay people to the extent that all social activity will become illegal. As we have repeatedly pointed out, this would make any bishop who met with and listened to a lesbian or gay Anglican subject to arrest and imprisonment. The Church of Nigeria is working actively to ensure that the listening process can never happen in Nigeria. We hope the Archbishop of Canterbury’s concerns for the legal attitudes which threaten proper civil liberties will be communicated directly to Archbishop Akinola.

The Living Church has Provinces’ ‘Listening Process’ Reports Published:

In contrast to the submission by The Episcopal Church, the report submitted by The Church of Nigeria views homosexuality as an “abominable deed.” The report notes that the House of Bishops in The Church of Nigeria has supported a proposed state law which if approved by the Nigerian legislature would, among other provisions, ban same-sex unions, the formation of homosexual advocacy groups and “prevent wholesale importation of currently damaging Western values.”

Ekklesia wrote Archbishop of Canterbury says churches must be ‘safe’ for gays:

In what will be seen as a reference to the situation in Nigeria where Anglican Archbishop Akinola is backing legal measures which would oppress gay and lesbian people, Rowan Williams said; “I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places – including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes – hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.

and also there is Gay Christians appeal to international community over repressive laws.

Among the blogs:

William Crawley has Primate of homophobia?
Tobias Haller wrote They Will Never Learn
Fr Jones wrote Anglican Centrist 18 – The Listening Process
Jim Naughton has ABC kinda sorta speaks out in a muted and extremely qualified sort of way
Scott Gunn has Rowan says church must be a “safe place”
Not too much has Nigerian church condemned by its own words
Fr Jake has The Listening Process: Reports from the Provinces
Jared Cramer has Lambeth Ringing Hollow


Church must be 'safe place' says Rowan Williams

Lambeth Palace press release

Archbishop – Church must be ‘safe place’ for gay and lesbian people

Wednesday 28th March 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said that the churches of the Anglican Communion must be safe places for gay and lesbian people. His comments come in a welcome to an interim report on the Anglican Communion’s Listening Process, a commitment to listen to the experience of homosexual people. Dr Williams warns that the challenge to create the safe space for their voices to be heard and for their dignity to be respected is based on a fundamental commitment of the Communion.

“ The commitments of the Communion are not only to certain theological positions on the question of sexual ethics but also to a manifest and credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people, a commitment again set out in successive Lambeth Conference Resolutions over many decades. I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places – including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes – hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.

“ No-one reading this report can be complacent about such a situation, and the Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected, whatever serious disagreements about ethics may remain. It is good to know that the pastoral care of homosexual people is affirmed clearly by so many provinces.”
In his statement, Dr Williams paid tribute to the work of Canon Phil Groves and the team at the Anglican Communion Office involved in coordinating the Listening Process. The interim report, comprising summaries of the Communion’s 38 Provinces’ progress on the issue, has been posted on the Anglican Communion website and can be found at

The full statement follows.



global voices

Updated Wednesday

The Anglican Journal has a copy of the lecture delivered recently to the Ecclesiastical Law Society by Bishop Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba of Botswana.

I recommend that you read it in full: The Anglican Communion: crisis and opportunity.

The Anglican Communion Office has published a lot of material relating to the Listening Process. The section on Reports from the Provinces starts here:

The Facilitator of the Listening Process has collated relevant research studies, statements, resolutions and other material on human sexuality from the various Provinces. Summaries of the responses are here available for study, discussion and reflection across the Communion. This was called for by ACC 13 and commended by the Primates in their communiqué of their meeting in February 2005…

Go here to find the index of the individual summaries. It includes responses from the Global South.

Here is the press release from ACO about this: Listening Process Summaries now on-line. It includes:

…In addition to the summaries, and the materials being formulated on our website, A Study Guide for use at the Lambeth Conference 2008 on: The Process of Listening to Gay and Lesbian people and Mutual Listening on Human Sexuality is underway. The facilitator requests contributions for the study guide, the full details are on the website.

The Primates also asked for ‘the preparation of material to assist the bishops at 2008 Lambeth Conference.’ The Facilitator for the Listening Process is asking for contributions to be used in the writing of a Study Guide…

Go here to read about A Study Guide For use at the Lambeth Conference 2008 on: The Process of Listening to Gay and Lesbian people and Mutual Listening on Human Sexuality.


American bishops: presiding bishop interviewed

Episcopal News Service has a 15 minute video interview with the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Go here to watch it.


InclusiveChurch on the American bishops

Press Release from InclusiveChurch

26th March 2007

We acknowledge the frustration which has led the Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) to reject the requests of the Dar Es Salaam Communique for the creation of a parallel church structure.

We welcome their strong affirmations of the equality before God and human rights of all people.

We wish members of TEC to know that we fully support them in their response to the Primates.

To lose the long-cherished principles of provincial autonomy, respect for diversity and active participation of laypeople and clergy would be to lose many of the defining principles of our Anglican inheritance. We have no tradition of centralising authority in the hands of a few senior bishops.

The majority of members of the Church of England find the continued failure of Anglicans to recognise the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people absolutely unacceptable.

It is increasingly clear to us that the process which the Communion has followed over lesbian and gay Christians has been very seriously flawed. Comparisons have been drawn with the ordination of women. In relation to that question a moratorium was imposed in 1948. But the next twenty years led to a conditional acceptance, following a great deal of work by the Communion and a serious and sustained engagement with the question.

But the initial Lambeth resolution in 1978 calling for sustained engagement over issues of human sexuality was honoured only in the breach. Twenty years later at Lambeth 98, the conclusions of the working party charged with coming up with a response to these questions were hijacked by a few conservative bishops with the active support of the then Archbishop of Canterbury. A resolution was produced which rowed back from the 1978 call. In other words, the “conservative” position became a “regressive” position.

In this context, the frustration felt by the Episcopal Church and expressed by its Bishops last week is entirely understandable. To add weight to that frustration, the “listening process” which was called for by Lambeth 98 and again in the Windsor Report has not been carried out with any degree of seriousness by those people who have most to lose by genuine engagement – that is, those parts of TEC loosely grouped under the American Anglican Council, the Province of Nigeria and conservative groups in England. And the cross-border incursions condemned by the Windsor process have, far from coming to a halt, merely increased.

In the meantime, the Church of England has moved on. The debates at General Synod on Wednesday 28th February showed that there is a desire by Synod to take a more mature and supportive approach to Christians who genuinely see the inclusion of lesbian and gay people as a Gospel imperative.

We are now in the ridiculous position where we have gay clergy living in relationship at all levels of the hierarchy – and where the blessing of same-sex relationships is taking place in a significant number of parishes. Parishes trying to live out the radical and inclusive welcome of Jesus Christ are thriving. But because of the untenable policy of the House of Bishops none of this can be acknowledged.

In the meantime, the Archbishop of Nigeria is proceeding at full speed with his support for the homophobic legislation proposed in that country which breaches the UN Declaration on Human Rights, unchecked by his brother Primates.

In this context, we do not see that Lambeth 1.10 can be considered any longer to hold legitimacy or credence. Nor do we see that the Windsor process (which was planned as a process of reconciliation but has been used as a process of exclusion) can continue any further. The road map, effectively, was torn up at Dar Es Salaam. We are now in a new world, in which it is hard to see how a meaningful Covenant can be agreed.

This week it is worth remembering that the entire House of Bishops was originally opposed to the abolition of the slave trade. It took William Wilberforce and his colleagues over twenty years to convince the Church of the rightness of their cause.

InclusiveChurch remains committed to its fundamental aim: to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation. We will continue to work to fulfil that aim across the Anglican Communion. We look forward to ever increasing friendship with inclusive Christians around the world.

Giles Goddard, Chair, IC


Nigeria: what Archbishop Akinola did say

Anglican Mainstream has published the following comment in response to the LGCM advertisement in this week’s Church Times:

From Canon Ben Enwuchola, Chaplain to the Nigerian Community and Canon Dr Chris Sugden. Member of General Synod and Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream

The Lesbian Gay Christian Movement has a full page advertisement in the Church Times this week linking the church’s dilemma over engagement in the slave trade with its current dilemma on issues of human sexuality. It states: “Should it (the Anglican communion) support the end to the slave trade? Some said ‘no’ and turned to the Bible for justification. But just as the Church was able to search its soul and overcome this to support the abolition of slavery, it ought to be able to support justice and inclusion for lesbian and gay people.” The advert also makes a number of allegations about the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Rev Peter Akinola.

The following should be noted.

1. The very people who were set free from slavery, which was a powerful global expression of western culture at the time, do not wish to come in bondage to that culture again in the form of its sexual licence.

2. Those who cited the Bible to justify their views on supporting slavery based their views actually on economic theory, not on the Bible.

3. When he met a representative of Changing Attitude Nigeria in Tanzania in February, Archbishop Akinola treated him with courtesy. Those of us who know Archbishop Akinola and have discussed these matters with him know that none of the imputations of this advert have any basis in his thinking or action. He is committed to the human rights of all the oppressed, including those who feel they are oppressed because of their sexuality. He is seeking in his context which is characterised by militancy on this issue to operationalise that decision. He needs our prayers and support.

What the advertisement says about Archbishop Akinola is this:

Shamefully the Anglican Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, has promoted this legislation, condemned by UN officials as “an absolutely unjustified intrusion of individuals’ right to privacy” which goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Archbishop Akinola’s view, “homosexuality is flagrant disobedience to God”, and an “acquired aberration” which “does violence to nature”.

These quotations all come directly from an article Why I object to homosexuality written by Archbishop Akinola for the Church Times and published originally on 4 July 2003, during the campaign against the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading:

…Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.

THE ISSUE is such an important one, such a defining one, with the potential of splitting the Communion, because it has become a chronic aberration, which is being defended and promoted in the Church of God. On the authority of the word of God, we see homosexuality as a rebellion against God, like that typified by Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. A rebellion cannot be relative.

Moreover, homosexuality is flagrant disobedience to God, which enables people to pervert God’s ordained sexual expression with the opposite sex. In this way, homosexuals have missed the mark; they have shown themselves to be trespassers of God’s divine laws.

Protagonists of homosexuality try to elevate this aberration, unknown even in animal relationships, beyond divine scrutiny, while church leaders, who are called to proclaim the undiluted word of God like the prophets of old, are unashamedly looking the other way.

The practice of homosexuality, in our understanding of scripture, is the enthronement of self-will and human weakness, and a rejection of God’s order and will. This cannot be treated with levity; otherwise the Church, and the God she preaches, will be badly deformed and diminished.

Homosexuality does violence to nature. As someone puts it: “It contradicts the very light and law of nature….”

Indeed in the same article Archbishop Akinola wrote:

Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery…


American bishops: more commentary

Telling Beads is keeping track of statements made by individual bishops, commenting on their recent meeting in Navasota, Texas, at Bishops Speak About Their Meeting.

Episcopal Majority is also collecting them, but in multiple posts. Go here and scroll through the recent posts.

Changing Attitude has issued this press release: Changing Attitude England welcomes the response of the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church.


Fewer or none?

Updated Friday 30 March

In last week’s Church Times Paul Bickley of Theos wrote an article about the bishops and the House of Lords, under the title Fewer Lords Spiritual, or none at all. In it he argues convincingly that:

The game is almost up for the bishops in the Lords. The only option for them is to put forward a counter-proposal of their own, with a radically reduced number of bishops to be part of a potential appointed element of a reformed chamber. They have not done so in the Lords’ debates on the subject this week. But five, six — even two — bishops, appointed on the basis of ability and capacity, and released from some diocesan responsibilities, could ensure that the national Church could maintain its excellent work in a reformed second chamber.

This article follows on from the Theos report Coming off the bench: The past, present and future of religious representation in the House of Lords which was published in February and can be downloaded from here. At the time, Bill Bowder reported on it: Report finds bishops too political.

This week’s Church Times has letters in response to the article, including from Frank Field and Colin Buchanan.
Update These letters are now available, see If the bishops want a future in the Lords, they need to work on it.

Frank Field writes:

…The impression given by the bishops is like that of their predecessors sitting around, sharpening their quills, and waiting for Prime Minister Peel to come and begin ecclesiastical-committee meetings. This time round they are simply awaiting reform.

The House of Bishops needs to become proactive and introduce its own Bill reforming the place of the Lords Spiritual in the Upper House. But to do this the bishops need to have thought through what is their place in a “modernised” Second Chamber.

Despite the increase in attendance of bishops now, compared with the Thatcher era, most bishops who have places in the Lords do little to justify their existence…

And Colin Buchanan says:

…I wonder whether a few one-line shafts of the obvious would help?

First, if there were 16 bishops taking their seats on the present pecking-order basis, all but the top five would get about nine months’ membership of the House before retirement.

Second, if there were the Bickley solution of “six, five — even two — bishops appointed on the basis of ability . . . and released from some diocesan responsibilities”, then (a) who would appoint them? (b) what would count as “ability”? and © what diocese would want them in absentia?

Third, surely the issue of “100 per cent elected” should be addressed in its own right, not simply on the grounds that it unseats bishops?

Fourth, when will anyone start to couple a changed future for bishops in the Lords with an end of Downing Street’s final say in their appointment as bishops, indefensibly staked, as it is, upon the current expectation of their proceeding to the Lords?


columnar thoughts

The Times Many roads lead to the One in southern India by Guy Liardet

Guardian Stephen Tomkins writes about the abolition of slavery campaign.

Telegraph Christopher Howse The lost language of worship

Church Times Giles Fraser Capitalism can have a warm heart

Tablet Dangers, toils and snares by Michael Fitzgerald

Church of England Newspaper via Fulcrum The Church of England: More than Evangelical but not Less by Graham Kings


SORs: follow-up and analysis

Ekklesia has Victory goes to equality in House of Lords vote.
The BBC has Blair proud of gay rights record.

The Daily Mail has How agencies could beat gay adoption laws and also Gay adoption laws forced through by the Lords.

…Equalities Minister Meg Munn admitted the nine Catholic adoption societies in England would be released from the demands of the Sexual Orientation Regulations if they forego cash from state-run social services and instead rely entirely on collections from supporters.

The announcement caused speculation that the Catholic Church could launch an appeal to England’s one million Catholic churchgoers to make up the £10million agencies get from local councils.

Miss Munn revealed the breakaway option in a Parliamentary written answer.

She explained how regulation 14 of the gay rights laws allows religious organisations exemption from the discrimination rules, as long as they are not run on commercial lines.

They can discriminate if it is necessary to comply with doctrine or the beliefs of members…

The Parliamentary written answer to which reference is made above can be found here.

The Evangelical Alliance issued this press release: Christians should continue to deliver public services until the law stops them.

Craig Nelson has an excellent detailed and critical analysis of the bishops’ contributions to the House of Lords debate at More on the House of Lords debate – the bishops’ speeches. It’s worth reading in full, but predictably he selects this quote from the Bishop of Winchester as winning the prize:

“I greatly regret the fact that the Government chose not to do so, but, rather, chose to legislate to coerce the churches and others to accept as the norm for this society—the regulations ask us to accept this and to collude in the Government’s promotion—alternative patterns of living and of family life that many people conscientiously believe are less than the best, less than the most healthy, and less than God’s will for humankind.”

Keith Porteous of the National Secular Society has much harsher things to say about the bishops:

“As it turned out, only three of the bishops turned up. They probably realised that a show of brute power would seriously jeopardise the survival of the Bishops Bench in House of Lords reform. But they clearly tried to field their top brass. This included the Archbishop of York, who even apologised for the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and two senior bishops. All voted against the Regulations…

…“Their remarks were torn to shreds by several speakers in a way that would have been unthinkable just a year ago. The most effective attacks came from three non-aligned Christians, two peers who happen to be gay and a baroness who was chief executive of Childline. To murmurs of approval they lectured the prelates on love and discrimination. It was unforgettable.

“Lord (Chris) Smith spoke of the humiliation of a gay couple being turned away from a bed and breakfast, and the reality of gay and lesbian people being removed from GP lists because of their sexuality. In one of the most powerful speeches of the evening, Lord Waheed Alli spoke of his father, a Muslim. The Koran openly says that Jews should be killed, he told peers. As a Muslim, if he truly believed that, then there should not be a law against it, according to the arguments of the bishops. ‘The sight of children holding up homophobic placards outside the Lords seems a good argument for these regulations,’ he told peers. Baroness Howarth of Breckland concluded ‘Gay people deserve that as much as any of us, just as Wilberforce said that every black person deserved equal treatment.’


American bishops: Telegraph editorialises

Updated Friday evening

Today, the Daily Telegraph catches up with the news, as Jonathan Petre reports Liberal bishops reject parallel Church, but compensates for the delay by printing this leader column: Communion no more. Part of it reads:

…The text of the American bishops’ statement is damaging. This is a national Church speaking with an (almost) united voice. The casus belli has shifted from the ordination of Gene Robinson, a bishop who is in a relationship with another man, to allegations of bullying by a group of primates led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams now finds himself out of favour with liberals and moderate conservatives in his own Communion. And, harsh though it may sound, he has only himself to blame.

In the past couple of years, he has allowed conservative Anglicanism to be hijacked by extremists. Archbishop Peter Akinola, Anglican Primate of Nigeria, is the leader of the Global South provinces opposed to the ordination of actively homosexual clergy.

That is fair enough, but he has also defended new Nigerian legislation that makes “cancerous” (his word) same-sex activity punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. The deeply divisive figure of Archbishop Akinola was central to Dr Williams’s Tanzanian compromise; is it any wonder that it has been rejected?…

It takes a while for the RSS feed to arrive, but the Damian Thompson blog entry related to this is now on Holy Smoke: It’s all over for the Archbishop. He starts out this way:

Rowan Williams is finished as Archbishop of Canterbury. His authority has been utterly destroyed by the decision of the American bishops to reject his scheme to hold together the Anglican Communion.

If there is a Lambeth Conference next year – and it is hard to see how there can be, if its American bankrollers are kicked out – then I shall be very surprised if he presides over it.

Any Archbishop of Canterbury would have faced almost insurmountable obstacles to preserving the unity of the Anglican Communion, many of whose members do not recognise each other as Christians, let alone as Anglicans. But Dr Williams has not come even close to surmounting them.

Just as John Major never recovered from Black Wednesday, Rowan Williams has never recovered from Black Sunday: 6 July, 2003, when he forced his friend Canon Jeffrey John to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Reading…


American bishops: more stuff

Updated Monday morning

One of the things the American bishops did was to invite Rowan Williams and the Primates Standing Committee to come to the USA, and talk directly to them.

Somebody has decided to help this idea along: see on Ebay Travel for the Archbishop of Canterbury to the USA:

See American bishops in their native habitat!

The bishops of the American Episcopal Church have asked Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to make an unprecedented and long-delayed visit to them in North America to discuss the Current Unpleasantness pre-occupying the Anglican Communion. The Americans assure ++Cantuar that their Christian hospitality will match that of the various fissiparous bishops he has broken bread with on multiple continents. So that the plate and pledge of parishes is not unnecessarily depleted, elements within TEC inclined toward reconciliation or at least a good face-to-face row are offering a business class ticket to any USA destination of the archbishop’s choosing, along with lodging in a Courtyard by Marriott ™ or better accommodation within strolling distance of the agreed-upon meeting place. A team of Th.D translators will be on hand to couch ++Cantuar’s musings in terms accessible to the colonials. Tea and biscuits to be provided by the ECW.

All are invited to bid on this communion-saving encounter.

Update see eBay Shall Not Splinter the Communion!