Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant: Our Unity is in Christ

Carolyn J Sharp, Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Yale Divinity School has written an essay about the Anglican Covenant.

You can read it here: Our Unity is in Christ.


MCU responds on the Anglican Covenant

The Modern Churchpeople’s Union opposes the Draft Anglican Covenant and urges its rejection.

Jonathan Clatworthy, Paul Bagshaw and John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln, have prepared a detailed response to The Draft Anglican Covenant on behalf of the MCU.

Three documents are available here in several formats:

  • Response (prepared for the meeting of General Synod in July 2007 and submitted to the Anglican Communion Office as MCU’s response to the consultation) in Word, .rtf, .pdf
  • 2 page summary of the paper in Word, .rtf, .pdf
  • Summary of the arguments (prepared as a more general briefing) in Word, .rtf, .pdf

The Response concludes:

We oppose the Draft Anglican Covenant on the grounds that:

  • it would transform the Windsor process from admonition and counsel into an unprecedented and unjustifiable ecclesiastical coup d’état;
  • its central proposal is to transfer power from the presently autonomous Provinces to a Meeting of the 38 Primates. The ambiguity of the text leaves open the possibility that this power would be unlimited, unaccountable, and irreversible;
  • the consequences of this development for Anglican theology and polity, and for ecumenical agreements, would be extensive and have scarcely been explored;
  • the proposed innovation in granting juridical power to the Primates’ Meeting would be a distortion and not a legitimate development in Anglican ecclesiology;
  • the consultative processes and timetable are wholly inadequate and in particular they completely marginalise the voice of the laity;
  • the proposals have not been adequately justified in their own terms (the creation of trust) nor in the wider terms of better ordering and facilitating the mission of the Church;
  • and yet Anglicanism has a rich storehouse of dispersed authority, of hospitality, mutual respect and trusting co-operation, of valuing difference and openness to new developments, of the honest and open search for truth, all of which can provide an alternative to the Draft Anglican Covenant as grounds for hope for the future.

Global Centre comes to UK

press release from InclusiveChurch:

“Global Centre” Comes To UK

InclusiveChurch is delighted to announce that the Most Revd Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, has agreed to join the Archbishop of Mexico as a Patron of InclusiveChurch.

Bishop Idris is Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and a Primate of the Anglican Communion. He said:

“It is a privilege to be associated with Inclusive Church. The Anglican Communion is seeking how it may develop and deepen its life today – what better way could there be than working to keep our church as welcoming and encouraging to everyone who wants to follow Jesus so that everyone of us can be challenged by God’s love.”

We also announce that the Archbishop of Mexico, Bishop Carlos Touché-Porter, will be in England in September 2007. Bishop Carlos was a co-signatory of the Declaration by the Global Centre released in May 2007 which reaffirmed the call of Latin American bishops to preserve the “participative, diverse, ample and inclusive” nature of the Communion.

During his visit the Archbishop will take part in two major conferences:

  • “Renewing our Vision – Anglicans and the Global Centre” on Saturday 22nd September, at St Matthew’s Westminster. 11.00 – 4.00 Cost £10
  • Bishop Idris and Bishop Carlos will both speak at “Celebrating Anglican Diversity” on Sat 29th September, at Manchester Cathedral. 11.30 – 3.30 Cost £5

These conferences will inform discussions at “DRENCHED IN GRACE”, InclusiveChurch’s first residential conference to be held in Derbyshire on 21st – 23rd November. “Drenched in Grace” will be a celebration and restatement of broad and inclusive Anglicanism. A discount of £20 applies for bookings received before the end of June. For further information go here.

For further information or advance registration contact InclusiveChurch here.


InclusiveChurch responds on the Anglican Covenant

Two documents have been published by InclusiveChurch and can be found from this page:

An Anglican Covenant?

InclusiveChurch believes that the Anglican Communion offers a creative and dynamic vision of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our structures, while loose and complex, mean that both tradition and development have a vital place in our attempts to live out the Gospel. Following the first Draft issued by the Covenant Drafting Committee and the way in which it influenced the Primates’ discussions in Dar Es Salaam, we have serious doubts about the proposed Draft Covenant. Tim Bartel and Savi Hensman have written responses which can be seen below:

The links above are to MS Word documents. For ease of access html pages are also available:


a news item from Nigeria

The “King of the Tabloids” in Nigeria, the Sun reports that

The love of money is the root of all evil, so says the Holy book. Love of power, it appears, is today threatening the brotherhood of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) following alleged attempts by the out-going National President, Right Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, to “manipulate the electoral process”.

Read all about it here.


bishops who value diversity

A leader in this week’s Church Times is titled At last, bishops who value diversity:

IT IS with a degree of shame that we acknowledge the statement from the bishops in Central and South America who met in Costa Rica at the end of last month. After all, a declaration by a group of Anglican bishops which talks of “the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism” was once an obvious candidate for the news editor’s spike. Times have changed, however. Now it is a relief to report determined, if somewhat fluffy, pronouncements about the Anglican Communion and its “participative nature, diverse, ample, and inclusive”. The Bishops support the view, often rehearsed in this paper, that plurality and diversity are a “rich source of growth” rather than a cause of dissension.

The present debate in the Communion has been undermined by unsubstantiated claims about who represents whom. Individual dioceses and provinces have their own structures of decision-making and accountability. The Church of England’s understanding of episcopacy — that bishops operate in synods or councils together with representatives of the clergy and laity — is replicated in one form or another across the provinces. The rise of the Primates’ Meeting has disturbed this balance, and its coincidence with — some would say, contribution to — the disunity in the Communion leaves many ordinary Anglicans unconvinced that the innovation is to be welcomed.

The expectation behind episcopacy is that the Church is governed by individuals with theological understanding and a particular charism to keep the flock together. In the same way as MPs are supposed to represent all their constituents, regardless whether they share any political views, bishops are called to mediate for and between Christians of all flavours. The Costa Rica statement is a pleasant reminder that this has not been entirely forgotten.


follow-ups to the Time interview

Reuters Anglican schism not inevitable says Williams by Michael Conlon

The Times Archbishop: Church unity is ‘very fragile’ by Ruth Gledhill

Daily Telegraph Anglican Church is ‘fragile’ over gay split by Jonathan Petre

Religious Intelligence Archbishop ‘hopeful’ Church will not split by Matt Cresswell

GetReligion Canterbury’s Time diplomacy by Doug LeBlanc


Wycliffe Hall: pressure is mounting

Jonathan Petre has an article in today’s Daily Telegraph headlined Dispute grows over ‘abrasive’ Oxford principal:

Pressure is mounting on Church of England authorities to take action against the principal of an Oxford theological college accused of alienating staff.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, is being urged to withdraw his support for the Rev Richard Turnbull, the principal of Wycliffe Hall, who has been criticised for his allegedly abrasive management style and conservative brand of Christianity.

Alister McGrath, a leading theologian and Wycliffe’s previous principal, has pulled out of delivering a prestigious lecture in Liverpool in protest at the lack of action by Bishop Jones, who is the chairman of the hall’s governing council….


columns on Saturday

Jonathan Sacks asks in The Times Can we really learn to love people who aren’t like us?

Christopher Howse writes about The Beautiful Names of God.

Mordechai Beck writes in the Guardian about The New Sanhedrin.

Clifford Longley writes in the Tablet about Catholic bishops and their approach to UK politics.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times Remember that manners makyth man.


Time magazine interviews Rowan Williams

Amended Saturday

Time magazine has the Archbishop of Canterbury on the front cover of the European and African editions:

In an exclusive interview with TIME, his last before a three-month leave, the Archbishop Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, describes the Anglican Communion as “very fragile” — and explains how he hopes to reconcile its bitter factions.

The feature article, written by David Van Biema and Catherine Mayer is headlined Saving Grace.

An edited interview transcript is headed Keeping the Faith but there is also a podcast mp3 file (9 Mb) under the title Anglicanism in Crisis which contains much more material than the transcript.


The Church of England and the draft Anglican Covenant

Last Sunday, the Sunday Telegraph carried a report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones headlined Church to impose ‘rule book’ of beliefs.

Here’s what is actually happening, based closely on the so-called “bishops’ paper” to which the Sunday Telegraph refers.

The House of Bishops met at Market Bosworth in May. At that meeting they were asked to agree to a process for the Church of England to respond to the request made for all provinces of the Anglican Communion to comment by the end of 2007 on The Proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

This is only the first stage in quite a protracted process, involving the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the subsequent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and the subsequent submission of a final Covenant text to all Anglican provinces for synodical approval.

The initial process proposed was this:

  • The General Synod should be asked in July to give some kind of mandate for the preparation of a Church of England response. It is thought that it would be disproportionate to convene a special session of Synod in November 2007 for the purpose and February 2008 would be too late.
  • The text of the response should be agreed by the Archbishops towards the end of the year following discussion in the House in October. The Archbishops’ Council, as the Standing Committee of Synod, should also have an opportunity to comment on the draft response during the autumn.
  • The Faith and Order Advisory Group [FOAG] and the House of Bishops’ Theological Group have been tasked to work together on the first draft of the possible Church of England response. These two groups, headed respectively by the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Rochester, plan to work on this, in the light of the promised minutes of the Tanzania discussion (as soon as they are available), and of the discussions at Market Bosworth and at the York Synod, consulting members of the House as far as time permits;
  • They hope that it may be possible to bring a draft Church of England response to the meeting of the House of Bishops at Lambeth on 1-3 October, to which members of the College of Bishops (i.e. bishops outside the House of Bishops) will be invited to join the discussion;
  • That will allow some time for further revision and further circulation, with clearance in correspondence or submission to the meeting of the House of Bishops Standing Committee at the beginning of December as necessary. It will also give the Archbishops’ Council the chance to be consulted before the response goes.

At the meeting in Market Bosworth, the House of Bishops had before them a draft motion for the General Synod to consider in July, and two further documents intended as drafts of material to resource the July debate. The draft motion was as follows:

That this Synod

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion;

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms for a considered response for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year on the draft from the Covenant Design Group.

One of the two further documents is a personal reflection entitled An Anglican Covenant? written by the Bishop of Chichester. The other is a paper entitled The rationale for the development of an Anglican Covenant written by Dr Martin Davie.


Bishop of Southwark: today's reports

Updated yet again Thursday evening
The Guardian has a news report about the apology! See Times apologises for bishop story.

Thursday morning
The Times issued this apology in the News in Brief column:

Bishop of Southwark

We were wrong to say in our headlines (June 6, 2007, front page and page 4) that the report of Judge Rupert Bursell, QC, into a complaint of drunkenness against Dr Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, had concluded that Dr Butler was drunk. Judge Bursell did not hear any evidence or reach any conclusions as to the truth of the complaint. We apologise to Dr Butler for the distress and embarrassment this must have caused him.

Times archive Dec 19, 2006: Bishop of Southwark denies being drunk

Wednesday evening update

Damian Thompson offers an explanation for all this in The Bishop’s hangover.

The report in The Times has been republished at a new URL, with a new headline, Leaked report into Bishop of Southwark.

And there has been a further write-through of the Daily Mail report, now headlined Whitewash claims over bishop cleared of drunkenness.

Noon update

The story has been removed from the website of The Times although it still appears here. A new version of the story Bishop of Southwark escapes disciplinary action for drinking now appears on the Daily Mail website. And according to the Wimbledon Guardian:

The Bishop of Southwark is to go to the Press Complaints Commission after a report in the Times claimed he was drunk after a Christmas party.

The newspaper said a leaked Church of England document confirmed the Right Reverend Tom Butler was inebriated when he left a bash at the Irish Embassy.

But Lambeth Palace, which took “no further action” after a full investigation into the incident, said the preliminary report was based entirely upon a complainant’s account…

And, Ruth Gledhill has written further about all this on her blog at Judge’s report into Bishop of Southwark.

My original article:

Following a report in The Times by Ruth Gledhill and Lucy Bannerman the following press briefing from Lambeth Palace was issued early this morning:

Times report on the Bishop of Southwark – a correction

A report in today’s Times is headlined Bishop was drunk after Christmas Party, leaked report says (online version as at 12.35am; wording for other versions may differ). The headline accompanies a story about a report into allegations around an incident last December involving the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Dr Tom Butler.

The suggestion in the headline that the report has concluded that the Bishop was drunk is completely misleading. It comes as a result of a misunderstanding of 1) what the report, prepared by Chancellor Bursell, is intended to address, 2) the stage it represents in the procedures of clergy discipine, and 3) the untested nature of the allegations which were set out in the complaint.

The report in question was a preliminary report, intended merely to assess whether – if true – the allegations made by the complainant would be strong enough to justify proceeding further with the disciplinary process under the Clergy Discipline Measure. The report’s finding is that some of the allegations – if true – would be serious enough to justify being taken on to the next stage. Some allegations it discounts.

At this preliminary stage, no explanation or answer by the person complained against is required or expected. Only at the next stage would the opportunity be given to the person complained against to give his side of the story. This report, therefore, is based on only the complainant’s account.

For that reason, the report does not make any judgement as to the truth of the allegations. A footnote makes it clear that other evidence ‘may in due time put a different complexion on the matter’ and, crucially, a clause in brackets makes it clear that the question of the truth of any allegation is yet to be determined: Chancellor Bursell qualifies references to the alleged drunkenness in the complaint with the phrase ‘if it occurred’.

The finding of the report was that the complaint was sufficiently serious to justify further exploration under the Measure. Although the complainant was not qualified under the Measure to bring it forward, a subsequent complaint was taken to the next stage in the disciplinary process, enabling the bishop to give his own account of what had happened. It was only at that point, on the basis of all the evidence then before the Archbishop, that he took the decision, announced last month, that no further action should be taken.

It would, therefore, be entirely misleading to represent this preliminary report as being any kind of judgement or finding that the Bishop of Southwark was drunk on the night in question.


Revd Jonathan Jennings
Archbishop’s Press Secretary

A shorter version of the original report appears also in the Irish Independent and there is a derivative report in The Sun and another one Bishop of Southwark was drunk says church in the Daily Mail.


about comments (again)

We have noticed an increasing tendency by some commenters to make ad hominem or derogatory comments about other people — sometimes about other commenters and perhaps more often about people in the news.

We want discussions here to be conducted in a spirit of Christian charity and we are going to take a strong line on this. We will not approve comments that include ad hominem remarks. Comments on someone else should concentrate on their words or deeds. People should be accorded their proper names and/or titles, not a pretend or derogatory name or sarcastic title preferred by the commenter. Please note that this applies to people on all sides of discussions.

Secondly, we reiterate a plea we made a year ago: ‘please consider seriously using your own name, rather than a pseudonym. While we do not, at this time, intend to make this a requirement, we do wish to strongly encourage the use of real names.’

Finally, a reminder about comment-length: ‘a few people have sometimes written very long comments that really are essays in their own right, rather than being comments on the original article, or direct responses to previous comments. We have therefore decided to introduce a length limit of 400 words per comment, with immediate effect. Longer comments than that will in future quite probably not be published. If you still want to write such essays, we suggest that you set up your own blog, and you will be very welcome to then link to them in the comments here.’


more government guidance on SORs

I previously drew attention to a page from the UK Department of Communities and Local Government, with links to guidance booklets.

There are now two further pages from the same department:


Americans study the Tanzanian communiqué

In an Episcopal News Service press release, Bishops’ Theology Committee offers Primates’ communiqué study document it says:

The Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on June 1 released a study document aimed at helping the bishops respond to the requests made to them by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

The 15-page “Communion Matters: A Study Document for the Episcopal Church” is available online. A color PDF version of the document is available here. A black-and-white PDF version is here…

Go to the release for much more detail on the content of the document, the proposed process, and for links to other documents. The colour PDF version is 660K, and the black-and-white one is 375K.

There are many useful links to other background documents at this page here.

(There was also an earlier release – 16 April – of a draft covenant study guide.)


Anglican diversity upheld

Episcopal News Service has a report Latin America, Caribbean bishops uphold diversity of Anglicanism which includes the full text – in both English and Spanish – of a declaration signed by signed by 21 Latin American and Caribbean bishops, including the Primates of Brazil, Central America and Mexico, and Bishop Lloyd Allen of Honduras, president of the Episcopal Church’s Province IX.

The press release begins:

Anglican bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean, meeting in San José, Costa Rica, May 18-22, released a declaration reaffirming their call for the Anglican Communion “to preserve its participative nature, diverse, ample and inclusive,” characteristics they say are essential to Anglicanism.

The English text is reproduced here:

Declaration of the Anglican Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (Global Center)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

“By this all men would now that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

We the Anglican Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, who sign below, gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica from the 18 to 22 of May 2007, renew and ratify our position proposed in Panama, better known as the Global Center, in which we call the Communion to preserve its participative nature, diverse, ample and inclusive, characteristics which we consider essential to Anglicanism and at the same time our contribution to the Christian tradition.

Since our last meeting, our concern has grown because of the polarization regarding the biblical and theological positions manifested in the Anglican Communion, during the last years; positions known as Global North and Global South, non reconcilable in their character and putting the unity in the Communion at risk.

In the midst of this painful controversy, we do not identify with either side, because they don’t fully represent the spirit of our thoughts.

It has been proven in our relations that we greatly represent the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism and that we hold different positions on the themes that are presently discussed in the Communion. However, we have also experienced that the plurality and diversity we represent has become a rich source for growth, rather than a cause for controversy and division.

We unanimously express our determination to remain united as members of the same family and will continue to come to the Lord’s Table, together.

We invite our brothers and sisters in the episcopate, as well as all the members of the Clergy and laity who identify with this vision, to join together and work for an effective reconciliation, interdependence and unity in the diversity of our family of faith and so preserve the valuable legacy of which we are guardians.

As disciples of Jesus, called to live out the mandate of love (St. John 15:17), we declare our commitment to be together and with all our strength, struggle for unity, as an act of obedience to His will expressed in the Holy Scriptures. Trusting that the Holy Spirit, whose descent we are about to celebrate on the Feast of Pentecost, will guide and strengthen us on such a difficult journey.

The experience of these few days confirms our conviction that, we will make it with God’s blessings. Of this, we are sure and now we return to our dioceses comforted and full of joy and hope.


from the papers on Saturday

Christopher Howse writes in the Daily Telegraph about Norfolk’s heir to the Punjab.

In The Times Stephen Plant writes about why Trinity Sunday helps us to see the real dangers of bad faith.

The Guardian’s Face to Faith column is written by Joanna Collicutt McGrath and discusses Richard Turnbull’s opinions. As the Guardian explains:

The Rev Dr Joanna Collicutt McGrath is a lecturer in the psychology of religion at Heythrop College. A former student and visiting tutor at Wycliffe Hall, she co-wrote The Dawkins Delusion with her husband, Professor Alister McGrath.


Wycliffe Hall responds

Richard Turnbull reacts to the earlier article by Giles Fraser in the Guardian in I didn’t say you’ll all go to hell. (Some of the comments are also interesting.)

The elected present, past and future Student Presidents of Wycliffe have a letter in both the Church of England Newspaper and the Church Times. Anglican Mainstream has reproduced the CEN version.