Thinking Anglicans

Do American bishops have a different view of their role?

Bonnie Anderson, who is president of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, has made a statement about the Lambeth Conference to a Conference for Religion Writers. You can read that statement in full at Rowan Williams and “the distinctive charism of bishops” on Daily Episcopalian.

Update: Episcopal News Service has now also published this text.

Here’s a snippet:

…I think that the Archbishop has given up trying to get our bishops to take an independent stand on the future of the moratorium of same sex blessings for instance, and is now moving to “plan B” and turning his attention to encouraging our bishops to understand their “distinctive charism” as bishops, perhaps in a new way. I envision Archbishop Rowan pondering in, to use his word, “puzzlement” why these bishops of the Episcopal church don’t just stand up and exercise their authority as bishops like most of the rest of the bishops in the Communion do. Why would our bishops “bind themselves to future direction for the Convention?” Some of us in TEC in the past have thought that perhaps the Archbishop and others in the Anglican Communion do not understand the baptismal covenant that we hold foundational. Perhaps they just don’t “get” the way we choose to govern ourselves; the ministers of the church as the laity, clergy and the bishops, and that at the very core of our beliefs we believe in the God- given gifts of all God’s people, none more important than the other, just gifts differing. We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment. But I think our governance is clearly understood. I just don’t think the Archbishop has much use for it…


opinions at the Festival of the Visitation

Joanna Collicutt asks in the Guardian Are we “hard-wired” to believe in God?

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about John Wesley’s polygamous brother-in-law.

In The Times Anil Bhanot presents A Hindu view on the challenge to the sanctity of life.

Simon Barrow writes about Globalisation for Ekklesia see Hearing hope through the babble.

Nick Spencer writes for Fulcrum about Neither Private nor Privileged:
the role of Christianity in Britain today

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Penalties of chaos in Chelsea.

The Church Times leader is about the Festival of the Visitation. See The song from the silence.

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Bishop Nazir-Ali stirs the pot some more

The Bishop of Rochester is attracting considerable attention in the UK media at present arising not only from his support for Paul Eddy’s private member’s motion, but also from an article he wrote for a new magazine, which you can now read in full: Breaking Faith With Britain.

BBC Robert Pigott Britain left with ‘moral vacuum’

Church Times Bill Bowder Christians have duty to witness to their faith, says Bishop Nazir-Ali

The Guardian has today published a profile by Riazat Butt Nazir-Ali is a prophet and prophets are rejected by their own, as Jesus was. He is a serious man for serious times and a Leader: Bishop’s move.
And Simon Barrow has written a thoughtful piece on Comment is free titled Blinkered bishop.

Over at the Telegraph Martin Beckford has written two pieces: Bishop of Rochester ‘doing the BNP’s work’ and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Radical Islam is filling void left by collapse of Christianity in UK. And this comment piece by George Pitcher: Right or wrong, the Bishop of Rochester named our ills.

The Times has Radical Islam taking advantage of Christianity’s decline, says bishop by Hollye Blades.

Cartoon by Dave Walker.


women bishops: more about the laity petition

As noted previously, a petition for lay members of the Church of England was recently published. Here is the covering letter for that petition:

FROM: Canon Dr Susan Atkin
Professor Anthony Berry
Hilary Cotton
Robert Key MP
Baroness Pauline Perry
Christina Rees
Lord Walpole
TO: Lay members of the Church of England

Greetings! You are invited to show your support for the letter sent in May 2008 by senior clergywomen to the House of Bishops. The letter, the text of which is below and which is also attached, urges the bishops to proceed with opening the episcopate to women without any further delay, and to resist anything in legislation that includes discrimination against women. General Synod will be meeting from 4 – 8 July, and we hope to be able to show strong lay support for the clergywomen’s stance. If you wish to sign, please go to the petition website below.

The website for the petition for lay members is

Please send this website link to any of your friends whom you believe should be made aware of its existence. If they are not equipped with a computer please enable them to sign by offering them the facility of doing so via your computer.

If you feel you are unable to sign, thank you for reading this and for considering doing so.



women as bishops: further items

Updated Saturday

Today, the Church Times reports that ‘Chaos’ warning as rumours fly after Bishops’ meeting by Bill Bowder.

.. A spokesman for Forward in Faith said that it did not comment on speculation based on leaks.

News of a possible decision by the Bishops not to offer legal provision for the objectors was reported in The Sunday Telegraph this week. It said the move had been opposed by a “substantial minority”, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury had argued that, although creating jurisdictions with male bishops only would further divide the Church, it would honour promises made to traditionalists.

On Tuesday, however, a Church of England spokesman refused to confirm whether the Bishops wanted a simple “code of conduct” for objectors, in order to keep the legislation to a minimum, and had rejected the idea of a third province. He also declined to comment on whether they wanted to end the right of parishes to opt out of the ministry of women priests.

“The House of Bishops had a full discussion of the Manchester report [News, 2 May], and agreed that the options in the report should be debated by the Synod in July. The House agreed a motion to act as a starting point for the Synod debate. The wording of this will be issued with the other Synod papers next month,” the spokesman said.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York would set out in a covering note “the considerations [the House of Bishops] believes that the Synod will need to weigh in coming to a decision”.

In the paper edition this article also says that:

“Two online petitions, one for male clergy (including retired bishops), and the other for laity, have been set up by Thinking Anglicans to support legislation for women bishops that does not give legal protection to objectors.”

This sentence is wrong and has been corrected on the Church Times website. Thinking Anglicans did not set up these petitions. Nor did we set up these petitions opposing such legislation.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph today has a further story, see Church of England closer to appointing women bishops after MPs signal approval by Martin Beckford.

Members of Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee had previously said the church was not ready for women priests to become bishops, an historic step which has divided Anglicanism for decades.

But this week MPs on the committee, whose approval would be needed before any legislation is passed, said most are now in favour after bishops voted to go ahead with the reforms without any concessions to opponents…

And here is another parliamentary exchange that occurred recently, well on 8 May, concerning this matter.

Robert Key (Salisbury, Conservative)
There is clearly still some way to go. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that it really is time that the Church of England stopped discriminating against 50 per cent. of the human race when it comes to episcopal appointments? Can he imagine this House finding it expedient to agree to any Measure from Synod that sought to discriminate against women, in the hope that it was going to allow women bishops in the Church of England—but not at any price?

Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Middlesbrough, Labour)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He will remember that this House voted almost unanimously, but certainly overwhelmingly, for women priests way back in 1992. Given that he is a member of the General Synod, he will know that in July it will look at the options for progressing the ordination of women as bishops, informed by the recently published report of the legislative drafting group, chaired by the Bishop of Manchester. This House—in its majority, I think—supports women bishops and we urge the Church in this case to make haste less slowly.

Update Saturday
Matt Cresswell has a similar report for Religious Intelligence Parliamentary boost for women bishops campaign.


Lambeth bishops plan to walk

Updated Friday lunchtime

This press release from Lambeth Palace is headlined Archbishop unveils plans for London event to challenge global governments to reach targets on tackling poverty.

The same release from the Anglican Communion Office is headlined The Archbishop of Canterbury – plans to challenge global governments to tackle poverty.

And when released by Episcopal News Service it becomes Bishops’ London walk to underscore commitment to MDGs.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion’s determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe…

Why is this being announced today?

The announcement of this walk is being released to coincide with a meeting of faith leaders and heads of faith-based development agencies, who met at Lambeth Palace today (29th May). The group discussed how faith groups can ensure that governments honour their spending commitments towards the UN targets and make policy decisions in their support.

Not explained is why the LamPal website shows today’s date on this release as Donnerstag 29 Mai 2008. Update This has now been corrected.

The Living Church has reported the news with a snappier headline: Archbishop Plans London March with Poverty Focus.

Kent News appears to be the only secular UK news outlet so far to report on this: Bishops to march on London in name of poverty.


petitions opposed to the 'Single Clause' option

Two such petitions, one for those who are opposed to women as bishops in general, and one for those who are in favour of women as bishops but are opposed to the ‘Single Clause’ option are now also available.

For some background on these petitions, see here.


petitions in support of women as bishops

Two petitions have been set up: one for Church of England male clergy (other than serving bishops), the other for all lay people of the Church of England.

The petitions can be found at these websites:

The letter of invitation to male clergy is below. A separate letter of invitation to laity will follow.

FROM: The Deans of Bristol, Durham, Manchester, Southwark and St Edmundsbury
TO: Male clergy and retired bishops of the Church of England

Greetings! You are invited to read the statement below (and also attached) and to add your signature to the on-line petition.

This petition is for male clergy and retired bishops to sign. It is not for serving bishops. The website for the petition for male clergy is

There is a separate website for lay people to sign and show their support for the letter from the women clergy to the House of Bishops. The website for the petition for lay people is

Please send these website links to any of your friends and colleagues whom you believe should be made aware of their existence. If they are not equipped with a computer please enable them to sign by offering them the facility of doing so via your computer.

If you feel you are unable to sign, thank you for reading this and for considering doing so.



In God's Name

Updated Thursday evening

There was a television current affairs programme on Channel 4 last week, in the Dispatches series, entitled In God’s Name. Here’s the Channel 4 blurb about the programme.

If you didn’t see it and want to do so, you can find it on this website.

The film-maker, David Modell wrote a major article for the Sunday Telegraph before the programme aired, which was headlined Christian fundamentalists fighting spiritual battle in Parliament. This Sunday, there were several letters to the editor.

The article and the programme devote considerable space to the activities of the public policy director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

No less a person than Joel Edwards wrote an open letter to Channel 4 about it.

Stephen Green who was also featured, and whom Joel Edwards describes as an extremist, has responded to the programme here. (h/t Louise Ashworth)

Craig Nelson commented about the programme here and also here.

Updates Thursday evening

Simon Barrow has written a detailed analysis of the issues raised by the TV programme for Wardman Wire which you can read at A fundamental problem? Thinking Aloud by Simon Barrow.

In that article he also links to an earlier interview with Andrea Minichiello Williams done by Rachel Harden in the Church Times which I inexplicably forgot to include here earlier.


women bishops: the House takes a position

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph that:

…At a confidential meeting, bishops narrowly voted to proceed with the historic reforms and to resist pressure to create separate dioceses free of women clergy.

The decision will dismay hundreds of priests who could defect to the Roman Catholic Church, which refuses to ordain women. It was taken at a meeting of about 50 members of the House of Bishops, at a hotel in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, last week, and has set the stage for a showdown with traditionalists when the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, is next convened, in July.

During the meeting, the bishops were deeply divided over ways of solving the issue, which has engulfed the Church in bitter debate for decades. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued that making women bishops could exclude from the Church those opposed to the idea, unless proper provisions were made for them.

He acknowledged that creating new dioceses which were only for men could create further division within the Church, but said that the move would honour promises made to traditionalists when women were first made priests, in the early 1990s.

Following the debate, the bishops decided to endorse legislation – which will now be voted on at the Synod – that would end special arrangements for clergy who are not prepared to accept female priests, including “flying” bishops, senior clergy who operate across different dioceses, ministering to those opposed to women priests.

Instead, the bishops opted for a Synod motion that asks for respect for opponents of women bishops, but does not make provisions for them.

The motion makes clear that a significant minority disagrees with this approach.

The move means that it is now highly unlikely that new dioceses will be created for opponents of women bishops…

Read the whole article headlined Church of England faces exodus over women bishop reforms.

To remind you of what the options offered by the Manchester Report are, see this summary by Dave Walker or alternatively, read the earlier article here:

Report on Women as Bishops to which links to html copies of several more annexes have been added today.

The full text of the main body of the report is available here.

In light of the above report, the following annexes of the report may be of interest:

Annex D – Illustration of ‘Statutory Code of Practice’ option

Annex D, Measure 2 – Draft Bishops (Consecration of Women) Measure (No 2) or here is the PDF original.


Archbishop Akinola's address in Pittsburgh

Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry reports:

Trinity School for Ministry held its 30th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17 at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh. Forty-nine students graduated, including five Doctor of Ministry, 31 Master of Divinity, five Master of Arts in Religion, one Master of Arts in Mission and Evangelism, six diploma students and one Certificate of Work Accomplished for an African student completing his studies in Africa. The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, DD, Archbishop of Nigeria, delivered the commencement address. His son, Emmanuel, was one of the graduates.

The full text is available here as a PDF file.


two American views

Two unrelated recent articles from Episcopal Church commentators worth reading:

Doug LeBlanc wrote for Episcopal Life about Staying involved.

Since I began reporting on the Episcopal Church in the early 1990s, conservatives have gone through a few different regroupings: Episcopalians United begat the American Anglican Council, which begat the Anglican Communion Network, which begat the Common Cause Partnership. An important change since General Convention in 2003 is that each regrouping has brought many conservatives ever closer to leaving the Episcopal Church. I was beginning to wonder what any remaining conservative presence within TEC might look like in the next few years.
I was fairly sure we did not need another group with a national headquarters, a logo and regular conferences. I believed that conservatives within TEC needed to find some way between the poles of departure and mere acquiescence to the more provocative resolutions of General Convention.

I’ve now heard some encouraging notes for a conservative future within TEC. Two hours of audio, posted on the website of St. Andrew’s Church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina (, suggest that the conservative future sounds assertive rather than aggressive and hopeful rather than despairing…

Andrew Gerns watched the press conference held earlier this week in New York City, and wrote this article: Taking an appreciative path at Lambeth.

The conventional wisdom is wrong. At least about the Lambeth Conference.

I watched the video news-conference by The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori yesterday. I had these big ideas about live-blogging it, but that wasn’t practical. I am glad I didn’t. In attempting to draw immediate conclusions, I would have missed the heart of the story.

My gut feeling was very positive…that the attempt is to build a basis for resolution of thorny issues by building on relationships. But I was still perplexed, at a time when Anglican divisions are at their highest and most delicate…how can we move forward? And when everyone is itching for a solution (theirs) how can consensus be reached?


Angst in DuPage County

The Diocese of Chicago is not the only body claiming to be Anglican in the environs of Chicago.

Jason Byassee has written a fascinating article in the Christian Century describing the fragmentation taking place there. The article is titled Splitting up.

There are some very interesting comments about this article, including several by its author, in Jason Byasee: Anglican angst in Illinois and Beyond at titusonenine.


opinions just after Trinity

In The Times Roderick Strange writes about Corpus Christi in A simple supper in an upper room that feeds us still.

In the Guardian Stephen Heap discusses A truly secular approach can resolve conflicts between religious law and the law of the land.

Christians have no monopoly on morality, says Lisa Jardine, who is interviewed in in the New Statesman.

Also Julian Baggini writes that we need new ways to decide ethical issues in Now let the real battle begin.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Levelling with odd bedfellows.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about The voices that Joan of Arc heard.

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Church Times on the embryology bill

Ed Beavan has this news report, Embryology vote leaves lobbyists out in the cold and there is a Leader, In the wake of the embryo debate, which has harsh words for some:

The second observation is that, in the main, the debate has been conducted at a disappointingly low level. It was only to be expected that the different lobby groups would simplify the issues in order to attract support; but the ludicrous invocation of Dr Frankenstein at every turn has degraded the arguments, not least those of some Christian lobbyists. The Church has been justifiably scornful of Richard Dawkins’s efforts to construct a case against religion. Religious commentators ought, at least, to ensure they have a secure grasp on the scientific constraints contained in the Bill before dismissing them in such a cavalier fashion.

This is not the first time for such criticism, remember this earlier leader, Church fails its Biology exam, from 28 March this year. It ended with:

Theologians have been rightly dismissive of the ignorant forays that scientists have made into theology. They must beware of giving scientists the opportunity to return the compliment.


more Church reaction to parliamentary votes

Some media reports were linked in this earlier article. When I read the BBC report linked there, Churches unhappy over father figures, I was a bit surprised at the strength of reaction attributed to the Church of England on the issue of the role of fathers in connection with IVF treatment, so did some checking on this.

In fact Robert Pigott is not misrepresenting the position of the CofE’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. Here’s the full text of the response provided to the recent vote:

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church holds that a child’s right not to be deliberately deprived of having a father is greater than any ‘right’ to a child through IVF. There is a huge difference between a child who finds themselves in a single parent family through bereavement or breakdown of parental relationship, and those who find themselves in this situation by design, for which this Bill allows. We are extremely disappointed that the important role of fathers was not recognised in the Bill, and that we now have a situation where the perceived ‘right’ to have a child trumps the right for a child to be given the best possible start in life. This vote sends a signal that fathers don’t matter.”

That response is entirely consistent with the position taken earlier, and contained in a PDF document published in June 2007, titled Response from the Church of England Mission and Public Affairs Council to the Call for Evidence from the Joint Committee on the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill and which is available here. The section relating to this topic is reproduced in full below the fold. The press release issued by the CofE at that time was headed Church says IVF children need fathers.

And indeed, TA linked to this document in March this year, see more on the embryology bill. The focus of that TA article, and of the Church Times reports, was primarily on the apparent change of position by CofE bishops from the stance taken by the MPA Council concerning the use of embryos, see this Church Times report of June 2007, C of E: yes to hybrids.


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Kenyan church challenged

Charles Njonjo, a former Cabinet minister, and described by the paper as “a staunch member of the Anglican Church” has written a commentary article for the Daily Nation headlined Failing to attend the Lambeth Conference is cowardly.

MEMBERS OF THE ANGLICAN Church in Kenya would like to know why our bishops are not attending the Lambeth 2008 Conference.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi is reported as reasoning thus: “Lambeth 2008 should have been about a return to God in view of these realities, yet it’s obvious that won’t be the case. Canterbury has sanctioned homosexuality. We cannot be going there to keep up with its theological gymnastics.”

Is this not missing the point of Lambeth? Isn’t this cowardly?

And later, he writes:

…We know that already, some bishops who do not take the same position as the Archbishop have courageously registered for the conference. Yet others, maybe from fear, are attending as observers

SHOULDN’T WE HAVE BORROWED a leaf from the House of Bishops of the province of South East Asia, who made the following resolutions:

1. Encourages the bishops of our Province to participate in the Lambeth Conference 2008, yet also fully understands and respects the decision of some who for their own principled reasons, may choose not to attend the conference;

2. We should demand of our bishops to show leadership in the Church now that we are the focus of world Christianity.

I find it impossible to keep quiet when people are frequently hounded, vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia for something they did not choose — their sexual orientation.

Where is our Christian charity?

How sad it is that the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God’s children are facing massive problems — poverty, disease, corruption and conflict!


Church reaction to parliamentary votes

Once again Dave Walker has a roundup of reactions to the voting in the House of Commons, see Abortion vote: blog responses.

If you want to know what the numeric outcomes of all the abortion votes were, Louise Ashworth has them summarised here (these figures appear in the deadtree Guardian but I can’t find them on the website). The IVF votes (there were two of these) are reported by the BBC here.

It appears that somebody (or maybe more than one person) has been giving out reaction quotes on behalf of the Church of England. See these reports:

Martin Revis Ecumenical News International via Episcopal News Service Religious leaders critical of vote to allow embryo research

Dr. Malcom Brown, director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England, said, “Any erosion of the unique moral status of the human embryo opens the door — if only a crack — at the top of a ‘slippery slope’ to treating human beings as less than ends in themselves.”

Robert Pigott BBC Churches unhappy over father figures

But the Church of England has reserved its greatest ire for the decision of MPs to allow single women and lesbian couples to seek IVF treatment without having to consider the need for a father for their children.

Its verdict is stark.

“This vote sends a signal that fathers don’t matter,” it said.

“The Church holds that a child’s right not to be deliberately deprived of having a father is greater than any ‘right’ to a child through IVF.

“We are extremely disappointed that the important role of fathers was not recognised in the bill, and that we now have a situation where the perceived ‘right’ to have a child trumps the right for a child to be given the best possible start in life.”

…The Church of England focuses on how children end up without a father.

“There is a huge difference between a child who finds themselves in a single-parent family through bereavement or breakdown of parental relationship, and those who find themselves in this situation by design, for which this bill allows.”

By comparison the Church’s official reaction to the defeat of several attempts to cut the limit for abortion of 24 weeks’ gestation was mild.

A spokesman said that “abortion is used too freely”, but added that “the upper limit should be considered sympathetically on the basis of medical advances”.

The problem for the Church of England – a large organisation lacking strong top-down authority – is the wide range of strong views on abortion held by its members.

Update Thursday morning

The Bishop of Bradford has expressed his personal opinions see Bishop critical of abortion decision in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.


Middle East Presiding Bishop will not attend GAFCON

The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East will not be attending GAFCON.

He has explained why in a letter. The full text of the letter is below the fold.

Update Saturday evening

There are comments about this on many sites.

Covenant has Mouneer Anis explains his withdrawal from GAFCON.

babyblue asked Uh oh … Mouneer Anis jumps the shark?



Director of Communications becomes bishop

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) issued this announcement:

21st May, 2008.

For Release to all Media Houses:


The Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), met at the Cathedral Church of Saint James the Great, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Wednesday, May 14, 2008, and elected the Venerable Akintunde Popoola of All Saints Church, Wuse, Abuja to the See of Offa, Kwara State, where the incumbent was recently translated. Also, the Venerable Geoffrey N. Chukwunenye of All Saints Church, Surulere, Lagos, was elected to the newly created See of Oru in Imo State.

The date and venue for their consecration will be announced later.

Venerable AkinTunde Popoola
Director of Communications

N.B : In Anglican ecclesiastical terminology a See is the area of jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop while Translation, as applied to a serving bishop, means transfer to another diocese

24, Douala Street, Wuse P. O. Box 212, ADCP, Abuja, Nigeria.
Tel: +234-9-523-6950, 523-0987/9,
Fax: 523-1527, 523-0986.