Thinking Anglicans

still more on the embryology bill

I linked previously to David Aaronovitch’s criticism of the Bishop of Durham, who responded in an oddly snarky letter to the editor last Thursday.

Sir, I will happily respond to David Aaronovitch’s challenge (Comment, March 25) when he will answer me these questions.

First, does he think that there is any difference between humans and other animals, and does this difference matter? Secondly, what makes him think he can reduce the function of religion (which Jews, Christians and Muslims have traditionally seen as being about public truth) to the provision of “comfort and companionship”? Thirdly, where in St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians — or anywhere else for that matter — does the Apostle attack the “sinful mixing” which Mr Aaronovitch seems to think is the sole subject matter of Leviticus?

The Right Rev Tom Wright
Bishop of Durham

Today, David Aaronovitch replies to the bishop in Who wants to kill the elderly?

Last week, irked by what I saw as the use of wild exaggeration by church leaders in the embryology Bill debate, I challenged one of them – the Bishop of Durham – to justify one of his more outrageous claims. Tom Wright had accused the “militantly atheist and secularist lobby” behind the Bill (a Bill, as it happens, supported and sponsored by many practising Christians) of believing “that we have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people.”

I didn’t choose to quarrel with Dr Wright’s characterisation of abortion. What I did ask for, however, was any evidence whatsoever that any significant secular or atheist body of opinion advocates “the right to kill surplus old people”.

Bishop Wright’s reply to my challenge, carried on Thursday’s letters page in The Times, was to refuse to reply to it until I had answered a further series of questions that he set for me. This is, of course, odd. A cynic might think that the Bishop was playing for time while a diocesan search squad parsed the texts of old Polly Toynbee columns looking for gerontocide.

So let me answer the Bishop’s questions…

Another primer on the science can be found at this NHS page, Embryology Bill controversy.

Meanwhile, the Press Association reports that Cardinal agrees stem cell meeting, and the full text of Cardinal O’Brien’s remarks can be found here.


charities and politics

The Independent on Sunday has a news report and a leader article about this.

First the news report:
Exclusive: right-wing Christian group pays for Commons researchers

An evangelical Christian charity leading opposition to new laws on embryo research is funding interns in MPs’ offices, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday has discovered.

Christian Action, Research and Education (Care) faces inquiries into its lobbying activities by the Charity Commission and the House of Commons standards watchdog after accessing Parliament at the highest levels.

Twelve research assistants sponsored by Care are Commons pass-holders, allowing them unrestricted access to Westminster in the run-up to highly sensitive and potentially close votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill next month. At least two MPs face questions after they omitted to declare they have Care-sponsored staff.

Charities are allowed to carry out political campaigning, but Charity Commission rules state they “must not give support or funding to a political party, or to a candidate or politician”.

Then, the leader column: Leading article: An unsuitable case for charity

The Charity Commission guidance on political activity could hardly be clearer: “A charity must not give support or funding to a political party, nor to a candidate or politician.” Our report today that Care, the Christian charity, has been paying the salaries of research assistants for at least eight MPs appears on the face of it to suggest that the law has been broken…

The whole matter is discussed at greater length on the Church Times blog under Charity Commission investigates evangelical Parliamentary interns.


San Joaquin Special Convention reports

Updated again Sunday noon

Fr Jake has links to several first-hand reports from Friday evening in Healing Begins in Stockton.

Some further information about that Standing Committee which Fr Martins and others wrote about, is contained in this comment on Stand Firm. It appears that three of the remaining six (out of eight original) members are planning to leave TEC after all. (I am open to correction on this.)

The Anglican Communion Office has recorded here that the see is vacant. And now added the new diocesan website.

Episcopal News Service has San Joaquin Episcopalians anchor reorganization in themes of resurrection, hope and the full text of Presiding Bishop’s address to San Joaquin diocesan convention and San Joaquin Episcopalians celebrate new beginning.

Early press reports:

Reuters Episcopal bishop elected in disputed California diocese and this also appears in the Washington Post.

Central Valley Business Times Episcopal Church reorganizes in Central Valley

This includes an audio file of the press conference.

Lodi News-Sentinel Episcopal diocese reorganizes in Lodi, might allow gay priests

Fr Jake has more first-hand comments at San Joaquin: “We’re Back!” and also here and here.

The Living Church has a report from Friday night, Presiding Bishop Seeking Quicker Way to Intervene Before Other Dioceses Leave.

Fresno Bee Episcopal diocese selects new temporary bishop

Stockton Record Episcopal Diocese has new leader

KFSN Fresno A Call For Healing (includes video)

Modesto Bee Bishop delivers healing message


opinions after Easter

James Mawdsley writes in The Times about The proper place of the Church in debates of state.

Michael Horan writes about the Resurrection in the Guardian’s Face to Faith column.

Christopher Howse writes about Pictures from a lost village in the Daily Telegraph.

Simon Barrow writes at Ekklesia about The God elusion.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that After the fire comes the resurrection.

And in last week’s Church Times Paul Oestreicher wrote This is not a religion of the book.

Also Una Kroll wrote Abandon establishment, and gain autonomy.


San Joaquin: Special Convention tomorrow

Updated again Saturday midday

Earlier articles here were due process for bishops and further reports on Bishop Schofield and San Joaquin.

Since then, the following have appeared:

Living Church San Joaquin Special Convention May Violate Canon Law

Episcopal News Service San Joaquin diocese prepares for its future

titusonenine Diocese of South Carolina Protests Presiding Bishop’s Failure to Follow the Canons

Dan Martins formerly a senior priest in that diocese has written this blog article: Perfect Storm Brewing. The specifics of the San Joaquin situation are dealt with in the last part of the article. titusonenine has extracted a key segment here.

Saturday updates

The Living Church has some further details about the action of the South Carolina diocese in South Carolina Asks Presiding Bishop to Postpone San Joaquin Special Convention.

Some local press reports:

Lodi News-Sentinel Episcopals to reorganize, appoint new bishop

Sonora Union-Democrat Controversial bishop to visit Lode

Central Valley Business Times Episcopal Church to install new Central Valley bishop

Stockton Record Episcopal leader to head diocese reorganization

Episcopal News Service has a report of Friday night’s event in Stockton, San Joaquin Episcopalians place their future in context of healing. This includes a response to a question about the deposition process:

…Answering a question about reports of problems with the March 12 consent by the House of Bishops to her request for authority to depose or remove Schofield from his diocesan position, Jefferts Schori said that the vote was conducted in the same way that other such deposition requests have been done.

While the applicable canon (Canon IV.9.2) may have “varieties of interpretation,” the Presiding Bishop said that her chancellor and the House’s parliamentarian ruled that the canon called for approval by the majority of those bishops present at the meeting. She added that the canon does not allow for a poll by mail of all bishops eligible to vote, as some have suggested ought to have been done.

“We believe that we did the right thing,” she said, adding that the consent came from “a clear majority of those present…”


whither the Network? – part 2

Earlier, I posted a note titled whither the Network?

Now, The Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton, Chief Operating Officer of the Anglican Communion Network has written this article entitled Who is “in” the Network?. Here’s his explanation of numbers, emphasis added:

… By our latest figures, the Anglican Communion Network has 828 affiliated parishes.

To arrive at that number, we are counting the parishes of the nine affiliated Network dioceses of Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, San Joaquin, Springfield, and South Carolina. (Rio Grande took a number of steps towards affiliation, but had not finalized its status when its bishop resigned to join the Roman Catholic Church.) We do not count the parishes in each of those dioceses who have asked to be removed from the Network’s database. For instance, that means that we don’t include the five parishes in the diocese of San Joaquin that have clearly thrown their lot in with The Episcopal Church.

To speak very frankly, we don’t expect all of these dioceses to maintain their Network affiliation indefinitely. However, we are not in the business of kicking people out. Affiliated parishes and dioceses can change their status as they wish, and we honor their decisions.

We are also counting the 105 parishes under the pastoral care of the Anglican provinces of Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone. These parishes, and the bishops that oversee them, look to the Network to provide their connection to Common Cause, as well as to other orthodox Anglicans, whatever their jurisdiction. With them, the Network’s system of convocations continues to operate. There are currently 136 parishes primarily connected to Network convocations. The vast majority of these remain within The Episcopal Church.

A smaller group of Network parishes have also decided to come under the jurisdictional authority of our Common Cause Partners. These include the Convocation of Anglicans in North America or the Reformed Episcopal Church. We are happy for these parishes to maintain their relationship with us…

I interpret this to mean that the 828 total includes all the CANA and REC parishes.

See the CANA figures here (62 at 20 March.)


more on the embryology bill

Updated again Saturday morning

The Church Times has a report by Bill Bowder Bishops attack embryos Bill and also a Leader: Church fails its Biology exam. (Another comment article by Paul Vallely is subscriber-only until next week.)

The news report refers to earlier evidence given to Parliament by the CofE Mission and Public Affairs Council, last June, on a separate but related topic. See this press release Church says IVF children need fathers and the PDF with the full text here.

And Dave Walker on the Church Times blog draws attention to a report by Jonathan Petre on 18 March of some remarks made by Rowan Williams, Society can’t handle science, and a rather more useful contribution made this week by Alan Wilson Embryo Wars — five critical questions.

Update Friday evening

The Tablet carries this article by Colin Blakemore For pity’s sake.

Update Saturday morning

The Times carries this article: Sir Leszek Borysiewicz says Church is wrong on hybrid embryo Bill:

The most senior Roman Catholic scientist in Britain has attacked his Church’s opposition to proposed laws that will allow the creation of human-animal embryos for research.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz made a passionate defence of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and the science that it will make possible…


Gift of Communion

Inclusive Church has announced:

Celebrating the Gift of Communion

In advance of the Lambeth Conference we invite parishes to give thanks for the gift of the Anglican Communion, and to affirm their commitment to its historic generosity. At a time of debate and discernment in our life together we believe the best way forward will not include segregating or excluding those with whom we disagree.

If your church is in agreement with the following statement, please send an email to listing your name, parish, diocese and province. Please make sure you have the agreement of your parish council or vestry before signing, and note that this invitation is intended for churches, and not individuals. If you have any questions or comments please address them to Please circulate this message to friends and networks.

“As Christians, we believe that all people have been made in the image of God. We believe that God loves each and every person with an infinite, never-ending, unconditional love.

As members of the body of Christ, we acknowledge each person’s unique and valuable contribution as we seek together to build up that body in love.

As members of the Anglican Communion, we celebrate the gift of our diversity and are committed to being a broad Church that accepts and welcomes difference. We acknowledge our need of God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings which harm our shared witness in the world. We believe our unity is rooted in our baptism in Christ, and we will seek to maintain that unity through the grace of the Holy Spirit who lives and works in each one of us.”

For more about this, read Scott Gunn at Seven whole days Put your congregation on record, support the gift of Communion.

For the most recent Inclusive Church newsletter, see here.


Canadian chronology

The Anglican Journal has published this Chronology of the same-sex debate in the Anglican Church of Canada from 1975 to 2008, which also includes a number of interesting photos.


proposals for constitutional reform

The earlier Green Paper was reported here.

The subsequent consultation paper from the archbishops is here, and the General Synod document considered in February is here as an RTF file.

What this week’s White Paper (full document as PDF here) said on Church of England Appointments:

254. The Government proposed in The Governance of Britain that the Prime Minister’s role in ecclesiastical appointments in the Church of England should be significantly reduced.At present,he receives two names from the Crown Nominations Commission for appointment as new Diocesan Bishops. In future, he will ask for only one name which he will then forward to Her Majesty The Queen. The Government undertook to discuss with the Church any necessary consequential changes to procedures.This discussion also considered the role of the Prime Minister and of his Appointments Secretary in the appointments process for cathedral deans, where the Appointments Secretary was responsible for conducting the appointments process and making the final recommendations, and some other senior appointments in the Church.

255. Following an internal consultation exercise, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York put proposals to the meeting of the General Synod in February 2008. Synod approved the proposed modifications to the appointments process.They called for a continuing role for a senior civil servant at the heart of Government to help in ensuring that the wider needs of the church and of the community continued to be given adequate weight in the appointments process. However, they agreed that in future the decisive voice in all appointments would be that of the Church itself. In relation to diocesan bishops, the Crown Nominations Commission would continue itself to select two names – a preferred name and a reserve – but would forward to the Prime Minister only the preferred name. In relation to appointments to Cathedral Deaneries, there would in future be a selection panel chaired by a layperson selected by the archbishop of the province after consultation with the diocesan bishop and the proposed Crown appointments adviser. It was proposed that the Government would continue to provide administrative support for the process of appointments to Crown parochial livings (in the same way as, for example, where a bishop has the right of presentation the church authorities would provide support to the parish in the process). The Government is discussing with the Church future long-term arrangements within government in the light of the Synod’s decisions.

256. The changes to the appointments processes for Diocesan Bishops and Cathedral Deans are internal Church procedures and require no legislation. The Church will itself legislate by Measure for a number of consequential changes. These are to remove the requirement for two names to be forwarded for appointment to Suffragan Bishoprics (a requirement of a 1534 Act); to bring crown parochial appointments into line with all others by allowing the parish representatives a right of veto; and to remove the right of the Crown to appoint to certain positions which have become vacant through the preferment of the incumbent to a diocesan bishopric, or where there is a vacancy in the episcopal see which would normally have the right of appointment.

In connection with the above, the Lord Chancellor said this in the House of Commons:

Appointments to the Church of England: the Government remain committed to the establishment of the Church of England, and greatly value the role played by the church in our national life. Appointments to senior church positions will continue to be made by Her Majesty the Queen, who should continue to be advised on the exercise of her powers of appointment by one of her Ministers, who will usually be the Prime Minister. We are very grateful to the General Synod for its proposals on how new appointments procedures should work and the Government are discussing with the church future long-term arrangements.


Anglican views on the embryology bill

Updated Tuesday afternoon

Several Church of England bishops have stepped into the controversy generated by the UK government’s proposed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (see this PDF for how the bill actually alters existing legislation).

The Bishop of St Albans is quoted in today’s Daily Mail see Embryos: Church of England demands free vote on controversial research plans and in this Press Association report.

The Bishop of Lichfield has issued this press statement, Bishop adds voice to free vote calls on human-animal embryos and got a mention in the Birmingham Mail Scientists to meet church leaders over embryo research and in The Times David Cameron: Catholics should not misrepresent embryo Bill.

The Bishop of Durham preached this Easter Day sermon, which was reported in the Newcastle Chronicle as Embryo research an issue for all Christians and attacked furiously in The Times by David Aaronovitch under the headline Wicked untruths from the Church.

Some useful background articles:

The Times
Q&A: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
Embryology Bill: Bishop’s ‘Frankenstein’ attack smacks of ignorance, say scientists
Letters, including one from Colin Blakemore former head of the Medical Research Council.

Leader: Conscientious objections
Simon Barrow Cardinal vices and virtues

Tuesday afternoon update
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his opinion on this matter, see Archbishop on Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Full text below the fold.



list of CANA congregations

Regular readers of TA will recall that in the past it has been hard to get confirmation of the number of congregations belonging to CANA.

This situation has now been remedied. CANA has published this list of congregations as an Excel file.

The copy of the file from which this html copy was taken contains 62 entries and is dated Thursday 20 March.

There is also a new (12 February 2008) version of the Frequently Asked Questions file, now as a PDF.

In other CANA news, tippet seals are now available.


whither the Network?

From the ACN website:

Network Bishops to Meet April 24

Bishops of those Episcopal Church dioceses that have formally affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network will meet in Chicago on April 24. The purpose of the meeting is to allow Network bishops to speak frankly with each other about the future.

As the crisis in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has deepened, Network bishops and dioceses have been moving in several directions. Some Network dioceses have reaffiliated or are considering reaffiliating with other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Individual Network bishops have left The Episcopal Church to join other communions. Other bishops are attempting to be a voice for orthodoxy within The Episcopal Church.

“I have called this meeting because we need to talk frankly and openly about the future and how we as Network bishops can help the Network best fulfill its mission to build a biblical, missionary and united Anglican witness in the years ahead,” said Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Network. “It is clear that the Network has a continuing mission to unite orthodox Anglicans, especially as increasing numbers of Network parishes and now dioceses are exiting The Episcopal Church. We will be talking about how we can work together to accomplish this goal even as we bless the several paths we have chosen as bishops and dioceses,” he added.

Dioceses that have made formal decisions to affiliate with the Network are Fort Worth, Quincy, Pittsburgh, Albany, South Carolina, San Joaquin, Central Florida, Dallas and Springfield. (The Diocese of the Rio Grande took a number of steps toward affiliation. However, their status was never completely clear.) With these dioceses, the Network also has 231 individual parish affiliates in five geographical convocations and one non-geographical convocation. Of this group, 105 parishes are under the care of The Anglican Provinces of Kenya, Uganda, or the Southern Cone. The entire diocese of San Joaquin is also under the oversight of The Province of the Southern Cone.


two meetings in London

Global South Anglican has published Statement from the Global South Primates Steering Committee, London, Mar 13-15, 2008.

Five Primates – Abp Peter Akinola, Abp Greg Venables, Abp Kolini, Abp Mouneer Anis and Abp John Chew – met together for some heart to heart conversations from 13th to 15th March in London. They released this statement…

The first three listed of these primates also attended the GAFCON meeting reported here:

We met in England as the leadership team of the Global Anglican Future Conference and Jerusalem Pilgrimage from March 10-12, 2008…

See picture here of the latter group, and the caption lists them:

Left to Right, Rt Rev Nicodemus Okille, Uganda, representing Archbishop Henry Orombi, Rt Rev Don Harvey, Anglican Network in Canada, Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India), Rt Rev Chuck Murphy (Anglican Mission in America) Consultant, Rt Rev Wallace Benn, Lewes, England, Rt Rev Martyn Minns, CANA, USA, Mr Hugh Pratt, England, Treasurer,Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Bendel, Nigeria, Rt Rev David Anderson, CANA, Consultant, Rev David Pileggi, Christ Church Jerusalem, Consultant, Canon Dr Chris Sugden, England

Front Row – Rt Rev Bob Duncan, Moderator, Common Cause, USA, Archbishop Greg Venables, Southern Cone, Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of all Nigeria, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Rwanda, Archbishop Peter Jensen, Sydney, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Kenya


Easter in New Hampshire

Riazat Butt of the Guardian spent the weekend in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and her report is titled Gay bishop’s mission to unite.

… The Guardian spent the Easter weekend with Robinson as he battled the winds and blizzards on a 400-mile road trip around his US diocese. But the conditions were nothing compared with those he has encountered trying to make it to the Lambeth conference, the 10-yearly gathering of the world’s Anglican bishops, which takes place in Canterbury, Kent, from July 16 to August 3.

Two weeks ago Robinson was told he would not be allowed to take part in the event – the only bishop out of 880 to be excluded. He will still go to Canterbury, but with no official status and the same access as a member of the public. Yet he will, inevitably, be one of its star attractions. Robinson will not go into detail, but says he has his own events planned, including one with award-winning actor and gay rights campaigner Sir Ian McKellen, who will perform a reading…


Easter Day at Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Day Sermon is here.

And he also wrote this article published in today’s Observer newspaper, We live in a culture of blame – but there is another way.


Holy Week images

The Church Times portfolio of Holy Week images includes this photo by Julia Low of a medieval wall painting in St Albans Abbey.


further reports on Bishop Schofield and San Joaquin

Pat Ashworth wrote in the Church Times US bishops agree to depose Schofield.

George Conger at Religious Intelligence/CEN continued to take a different view over what happened at the recent meeting of the American House of Bishops: Doubts over deposition trial.

Mark Harris takes serious issue with the quality of George Conger’s report, see Beyond Schofield and Cox.

Rob Eaton reports from the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin (he is a member of it), in Answers from the Standing Committee: What are you “doing”?

(TA readers will recall that this committee wrote this reply on 1 February to this letter sent to them by the Presiding Bishop on 25 January.)

Meanwhile, the new diocesan website shows increased activity relating to the forthcoming diocesan convention, see here, here, and here.


opinions on Easter Eve

David Stancliffe writes in The Times about How an election in Sudan signals a new resurrection.

Earlier in the week, Andrew White wrote there about Iraq five years on.

Last Sunday, John Cornwell asked in the Sunday Times Are Muslim enclaves no-go areas, forcing other people out (hat tip Andrew Brown).

Christopher Howse explains in the Daily Telegraph Why the Big Bang is not Creation.

At Ekklesia Simon Barrow follows up on the article by Peter Selby linked here yesterday with Why the church needs a new foreign policy.

And he also wrote Resurrection is no Easter conjuring trick.

In the Guardian Danny Rich writes about how Purim is a timely reminder of past persecution of the Jews and the fragility of Israel in Face to faith.

Giles Fraser also writes there today, about A funny kind of Christian.

And in the Church Times he wrote about Trusting in God beyond my death.


opinions on Good Friday

The Church Times leader is titled Only perfect love can cast out fear.

Last week, in the Church Times Peter Selby wrote about Why war is never a final solution.

The Guardian carried a leader today titled In praise of… the Council of Nicaea.

Justin Lewis-Anthony wrote about Gambling and Good Friday.