Thinking Anglicans

opinions at the end of August

In the Guardian this week, Riazat Butt wrote about her sister’s experience wearing a face veil in Southampton, see Turning the tables and if you have time, read the comments too.

Today, in Face to Faith, Shahid Malik writes about Ramadan.

Over at The Times Jonathan Sacks writes about Genesis and the origin of the Origin of the species.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about A delightful case of curiosities. More details about this exhibition are available here. And there is more here.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about his Norfolk holiday in Surely God is specially present here?

The On Faith website asked various pundits the question: Advise John McCain and Barack Obama on the role religion should play in their presidential campaigns.


GAFCON issues a communiqué

Updated yet again Saturday morning


The first meeting of the GAFCON Primates Council took place in London from Wednesday 20th to Friday 22nd August 2008. A Communiqué is now online, together with a letter sent by US bishops for council’s consideration.

GAFCON Communiqué on establishment of Primates Council and Fellowship

Letter from US bishops to GAFCON

An invitation from the Primates Council

Friday evening updates

Mark Harris offers an analysis of these documents, at Preludium, see The GAFCON / FCA Primates Council Plots, Plans and Fusses.

So also does Pluralist at Full Steam Ahead.

The Telegraph has a news report by Martin Beckford headlined Archbishop of Canterbury’s rescue plan for Anglican Communion rejected

The Living Church has an interesting interview with Bishop Gregory Venables in GAFCON Primates: Priority Will be Given to the Possible Formation of a Province in North America by Steve Waring.

Saturday morning update

The Guardian has Anglicans still divided over homosexuality by Riazat Butt

Graham Kings has some analysis at Covenant: on first reading the communique from the GAFCON Primates’ Council.


more from Uganda

Last week, we had these stories from Uganda.

This week, we have Premier urges Church on Mengo row in New Vision. Although mainly about other matters, the article includes some references to church issues:

PRIME Minister Apolo Nsibambi yesterday asked Church leaders to mediate between the Government and Buganda Kingdom over the proposed Land Amendment Bill.

Nsibambi was yesterday speaking at the 19th Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda at the Uganda Christian University, Mukono.

Over 30 bishops from the Anglican Church and 100 delegates from 32 dioceses are meeting to discuss the future of the Church, the Church House project and other challenges including homosexuality…

… Nsibambi asked the clergy to fight homosexuality.

“One challenge is the vice of homosexuality in our own institutions and families. How ready are we to deal with homosexuality in our schools and universities alongside the global crisis in the Anglican Church?” he asked.

He commended Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi for fighting homosexuality. He urged the clergy to assist the Government end the burning of schools.

Nsibambi said religious education would not be scrapped from the syllabus. “We could not make religious education compulsory because that way, it can be resented. Religion is sacrosanct and we do not have to force it on people,” he stated…

…Orombi repeated his stand against homosexuality. While acknowledging Canterbury as an historic See, Orombi said the Archbishop of Canterbury had no jurisdiction over the Ugandan Province.

“When he acts contrary to the Word of God, we resist because we know he is wrong.”


more from New Westminster

Updated Friday morning

Further to this recent news, letters have been sent by the Diocese of New Westminster to all parishioners at the two parishes affected.

Read Letters sent to parishioners regarding Canon 15 actions.

Full text of the letter to parishioners at St Matthew’s Abbotsford here (PDF).

And to parishioners at St Matthias & St Luke here (PDF).

Friday morning update

There is still no mention of any of this in the Canadian (or other) media. However, there is a press release from the Anglican Network in Canada headed Diocese moves to seize control of ANiC parishes. Also, there is a reaction from a parish which has not yet been sent any letters, Response to Diocese invoking Canon 15 Against St. Matthew’s and St. Matthias-St. Luke from St John’s Shaughnessy.


‘a cult of bones’?

The Independent reports on the plan to exhume the remains of Cardinal Newman from a grave in which he was buried at his own request beside a priest, Fr Ambrose St John. The intention in moving his remains is to allow them to be venerated in a more suitable place, Birmingham Oratory.

The issue touches first on what we consider Christianity to be. Is it based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus, his appearances, an empty tomb with no bones remaining, and communion with the living Lord through the sacrament of the Eucharist in which we share his body and blood, or is it based on a cult of the bones of good people?

If we believe in ‘the resurrection of the body’ what is communicated by the tearing apart of the remains of saints limb from limb and sometimes slice by slice so that parts can be taken to different places for veneration?

I can venerate Newman by continuing to draw inspiration from his writing and his life without the need to be close to his mortal remains, just as I can be a Christian without the need to visit the Holy Sepulchre.

I have led pilgrimages to the places where saints lived and worked, in particular to places associated with St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, and find the same is true. I may be inspired by the context in which saints lived and worked, particularly at a place like the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila. But Teresa’s body isn’t there. The place remains an inspiration just as the Birmingham Oratory is one without needing the bones of Newman. It was part of his life, and the life can still inspire.

The removal of Newman’s remains raises another issue. Cardinal Newman wrote shortly before his death: ‘I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John’s grave — and I give this as my last, my imperative will.’ If the Church values the inspiration of Newman, his wishes should not be set aside. Moving his body against his stated wish is not an honourable way to venerate him. When he stated his wishes for his burial he knew all about the ways in which the deceased are venerated within his Church, and deliberately chose not to be buried at the Oratory, which others may have seen as an obvious choice.

The Independent article highlights the reason for Newman’s choice of burial place; his close affection for Ambrose St John. If Newman is to be reburied, then the remains of the other member of the Oratory should also be moved back to the place where he also served. These men were united in life and in mission, and they should be united for eternity. More importantly, if we wish to remain close to Newman’s heart, and treasure his memory, then our faith, like his, should be in the presence of the risen Lord.


Lambeth: some perspectives from the sidelines

First, Jean Mayland of MCU wrote Holding together but going nowhere.

Second, two people from Inclusive Church have written personal reflections:

Clare Herbert “Beyond the Fringe” and

Greg Tucker Reflections on the Lambeth Conference.


Bishops give a clear lead

The report to General Synod (GS 1685A) from the House of Bishops on the legislation for women bishops was clear. A majority of that house wished to avoid the creation of any new structures, and considered that a national code of practice was both necessary and sufficient to protect the consciences of those unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops.

We knew before the 11 July debate that “a significant minority within the House” was opposed to the approach embodied in the draft resolution submitted. But we did not know the size and composition of the majority or the minority. Now we do. The results of the electronic voting in the House of Bishops are available, either here, or over here.

The final outcome saw 68% of the bishops present, and 72% of the House of Clergy voting in favour of a motion that had been amended only slightly from the text the House of Bishops had originally put forward. The laity were less enthusiastic with a majority of only 61%. (Overall, exactly a two-thirds majority.) So the Synod accepted the view of the episcopal majority, and rejected all attempts to adopt any of the other options that the Manchester Report had proposed.

Episcopal opposition turned out to be almost entirely limited to a core group of only twelve bishops. These included five who later signed the 15 August letter (see below) and who also have votes in Synod, i.e. the Bishops of Blackburn, Chichester, Europe, Burnley and Beverley. There were also seven others: the Bishops of Birmingham, Exeter, London, Rochester, Winchester, Dover and, significantly, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the end of the debate, the Archbishop abstained, and the other eleven all voted against the substantive motion. The only other bishop who voted “No” was the Bishop of Durham, whose earlier motion to adjourn the debate had support from only 46% of the synod. He had consistently opposed every amendment throughout the debate.

The group of twelve also supported several amendments that would have moved the outcome in a conservative direction.

First, all twelve voted in favour of an amendment proposed by the Bishop of Winchester. Only two other bishops joined in this action: Bradford and Southwell & Nottingham. This amendment sought to do two things:

  • commit the synod to a restatement “that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are both loyal Anglicans,” (Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference)
  • remove the limitation on the drafting group to work “within the existing structures of the Church of England”.
    The amendment was rejected in all three houses: by 69% of the bishops, 66% of clergy, and 59% of laity.

Next, a small wording change, proposed by Prebendary David Houlding, to change “wish” to “wish of the majority” [for women to be admitted to the episcopate] was narrowly approved, by 62% of Bishops and 51% of Laity but by only by a single vote in the House of Clergy. Curiously, the Bishop of Rochester voted against this.

Ten of the twelve then voted in favour of Fr Simon Killwick’s amendment that sought to allow new dioceses to be considered. London opposed this and Canterbury abstained. No other bishop voted for it. The amendment was defeated by 71%, 68.5%, and 61% margins in the three houses.

Eleven then voted for the Bishop of Exeter’s amendment, which aimed to allow a structural solution based on existing rather than new dioceses. Again London voted against, but two others (Bradford and St Edmundsbury) added support. It also was defeated by margins of 64%, 64% and 59%.

Finally, ten of them voted for the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds’s amendment to keep open the possibility of “statutory transfer of specified responsibilities”. Altogether 21 bishops supported this, but amazingly both Chichester and Birmingham opposed it, leading to a 21-21 tie in that House. (The chair of the drafting group, the Bishop of Manchester, abstained on many though not all votes.)

The amendment did obtain a 53% majority in the House of Laity, but failed in the House of Clergy where it obtained only 47% support. Had the vote not been by houses, the amendment would have passed by the slim margin of 203-200, with 3 abstentions.

For completeness, I should also note that two other amendments were both voted down by huge margins. The Reverend Steven Trott’s amendment, to keep open all the options of the Manchester report, was voted down by huge margins in all houses: 89% of bishops, 82% of clergy, and 78% of laity. Among all the bishops, only Chichester, Rochester and Beverley voted “yes”.

To match this, the Reverend Miranda Threlfall-Holmes’ amendment to adopt the “simplest statutory approach”, and exclude even a national code of practice, was also voted down by large margins, though smaller than in the previous case. The figures against were 82%, 59%, and 62%. Seven bishops were in favour of this, namely Southwark, Bristol, Liverpool, Bath & Wells, Hereford, Derby and Portsmouth. The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds abstained.

The net effect of all this is that the view of the overwhelming majority of the House of Bishops was accepted by the whole synod. The recent letter from fourteen traditionalist Anglo-Catholic bishops, only five of whom have votes in General Synod, highlighted that the House of Laity vote was below the two-thirds level that will be needed for final approval of the women bishops legislation. It also pointed to close voting on the amendment offered by the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds as another indicator of less than overwhelming support for legislation without “new structures”.

However, the final approval vote will not occur in the life of this Synod, but only after new elections have been held in 2010. This issue may well dominate those elections. The House of Bishops, to whom the letter writers are explicitly appealing, does not meet again until October. By that time, the Legislative Drafting Group should be halfway through its task of preparing a draft for the General Synod to consider in February. General Synod has clearly instructed the group to do so only on the basis of a statutory code of practice. The strength of support for that in the House of Bishops is now clearly on the record.

Note: Sheffield and Truro were vacant sees at the time of the vote, and there were six bishops who were either not present or who never voted at all (Coventry, Chester, Sodor & Man, Ely, Salisbury and Leicester).


New Westminster moves to reclaim parishes

The Diocese of New Westminster has issued this announcement: Diocese takes steps under Canon 15

The Diocese has taken steps under Canon 15 towards removing clergy who have left the Anglican Church of Canada rather than accepting the decisions of the Diocesan Synod and General Synod.

The Diocese has invoked the provision that returns control of the parishes to the Diocese, an action that was approved by Diocesan Council.

The parishes are St. Matthew’s Abbotsford and St. Matthias and St. Luke, Vancouver. Former diocesan clergy who have continued working in the parishes are Trevor Walters, Michael Stewart, and Don Gardner at St. Matthew’s, and Simon Chin at St. Matthias and St. Luke.

No steps have been taken at present at Good Shepherd, and at St. John’s Shaughnessy, Vancouver, two other parishes where former diocesan clergy remain who have left the Anglican Church of Canada.

In a memorandum to diocesan clergy, Commissary (Acting Bishop) Peter Elliott wrote that implementing this canon is a time consuming process, hence at this time the diocese was only proceeding with two parishes.

George Cadman, chancellor (chief legal officer) of the Diocese, said he hopes that the former clergy will now decide to leave voluntarily and that resort to the courts will be unnecessary, even though the possibility of litigation was raised in letters from the former officials at St. Matthew’s. No communications have been received from St. Matthias and St. Luke since its priest left the Anglican Church of Canada.

There is a formal press release (PDF) here, Diocese of New Westminster takes steps to remove clergy who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and there is the full text of a Memorandum to Diocesan Clergy (PDF).


pastoral letter from Lambeth

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent a letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, setting out his personal reflections on the Lambeth Conference. You can read the full text of it at Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter to Bishops of the Anglican Communion.


A response to Bishop Duncan's email

Readers will recall this item.

Several contributors to Covenant-Communion have written an open letter, which you can read at A Word in Time: An Open Letter to the Anglican Communion Also available as a PDF here.

It starts out:

We the undersigned contributors to www.Covenant‐ believe that “a word in time” is now needed in order to assist the Communion to move forward in a constructive manner following the Lambeth Conference. We would like to speak such a word by specifically addressing the points Bishop Bob Duncan raises in his email to Bishop Gary Lillibridge, which has now been made public with Bp. Duncan’s permission…


MCU conference papers

Many of the papers from the 2008 Modern Churchpeople’s Conference, Saving the soul of Anglicanism: the nature and future of the Anglican Communion are now available on the MCU website.

Here are the links to the PDF files. More detail and links to Word files are available here.

The Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan
Questions not Answers: A way forward for the Anglican Communion?

The Right Rev Michael Jackson
Anglicanism, blessing or curse – the Irish experience

The Right Rev Trevor Mwamba
A Holy Mess and the Grace of Ambiguity

Revd Dr Marilyn McCord Adams
The proposed Anglican Covenant and its implications for the Communion

Revd Dr Janet Wootton
A Dissenter’s view of Anglicanism and Establishment

Andrew Brown
A Journalist’s view of Anglicanism


more opinions

I have written two more columns for Matt Wardman.

Last week it was titled Reporters Begging, Press Officers Blagging, Bishops Blogging.

This week, it is Sex, Race and Religion in American Politics. Architectural Open Days in Britain.


Bank Holiday weekend opinions

Giles Fraser asked in the Church Times How should children behave in church?

Mark Vernon wrote about Humanism in Face to Faith in the Guardian.

Earlier this week A C Grayling wrote The rise of Miliband brings at last the prospect of an atheist prime minister.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about Cardinal Newman’s miraculous bones.

Peter Townley wrote in The Times about The value of William Temple’s vision in a cynical world.

Susan Jacoby wrote at the Washington Post’s On Faith site about Saddleback Church Forum: A Religious Test For The Presidency. Other opinions on this topic here.


origins of homosexuality

Updated 29 August

Back in late July, the Church Times published an article by Professor Michael King, titled How much is known about the origins of homosexuality?

The full text of the earlier report from the Special Interest Group mentioned in this article can be found here.

This week’s Church Times contains several letters responding to the article. (These are not yet available online, except to subscribers.)

As promised, here is a link to last week’s Church Times letters, Sexual orientation and the Church: navigating between the competing claims of the extremes and the middle.


more on Lambeth Conference funding

See here first.

The Church of Ireland Gazette has an editorial today, Lambeth Conference Funding which says:

…However, should the Church of Ireland be approached to contribute some funds towards the £1.2m shortfall, it should not rush to join in footing the bill because what the shortfall points to is a serious level of mismanagement. It is the height of financial irresponsibility to run a massive international conference venture without being sure that the necessary finance is in place…

The Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council is a priest of the Church of Ireland.


three canon law articles

The Church of Ireland Gazette has now completed publication of its three-part series:

What is Canon Law? by Simon Doogan

Canon Law of Communion and Inter-Anglican Relations: the draft Anglican Covenant by Kenyon Homfray

Ecclesiastical courts and disciplinary jurisdiction by Terence Dunlop


Lambeth: two conservative perspectives

Ephraim Radner published at Covenant an article titled True Christian Unity? Reflections on the Lambeth Conference.

Graham Kings published at Fulcrum an article that will also appear in this week’s Church of England Newspaper titled Patience and Urgency Lambeth Conference 2008.

Adrian Worsfold has commented on both these pieces at Fawning and Imagining and there are several useful links to discussions of them on conservative blogs at this Fulcrum forum thread.


news reports from Uganda

Updated Thursday evening

The Archbishop of Uganda writes in the East African Business Weekly:

Church cannot heal this crisis of betrayal

So, why did the bishops of the Church of Uganda and I decide not to attend the present Lambeth Conference? Because we love the Lord Jesus Christ and because we love the Anglican Communion. St Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” We believe that our absence at this Lambeth Conference is the only way that our voice will be heard. For more than ten years we have been speaking and have not been heard. So maybe our absence will speak louder than our words…

From New Vision we have Museveni backs church against gays:

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has praised Anglican bishops for resisting homosexuality.

“I salute the Archbishop and bishops of Africa for resisting disorientation and a decadent culture, which he said was being passed by Western nations.”

Describing homosexuality as mtumbavu (Swahili for stupid), the President said: “Don’t fear, resist and do not compromise on that. It is a danger not only to the believers but to the whole of Africa. It is bad if our children become complacent and think that people who are not in order are alright…”

And earlier in the month, New Vision had Canterbury hits back at Archbishop Orombi:

THE Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has dismissed a suggestion by the Archbishop of Uganda that his position as head of the worldwide Anglican Communion is a left-over from British colonialism…

Update Thursday evening

There is a further report by Ecumenical News International via Episcopal Life Online UGANDA: Anglican leaders support president’s speech on homosexuality by Fredrick Nzwili:

…Some Ugandan Anglican church leaders have expressed support for a statement by President Yoweri Museveni in which he commended the denomination’s bishops for resisting homosexuality.
“It was great of the president to speak about the issue,” Anglican Bishop Stanley Ntagali of Masindi–Katara told Ecumenical News International on August 20. “We have been inspired by the president’s positive comments.”


“When he speaks in this manner to the bishops, it will energise the resolve against homosexuality,” said the secretary of Uganda’s Anglican church, the Rev. Aaron Mwesigye, in an interview with ENI. “The Uganda church has been very bold against homosexuality.”


Lambeth: another American perspective

Bishop Pierre Whalon, who is Bishop in Charge, Convocation of American Churches in Europe has written On polygamy, homosexuality, and generosity.


Lambeth: three more English perspectives

The Bishop of Ely, Anthony Russell has written On returning home from Lambeth.

Paul Richardson, Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, has written Analysis: Will the Lambeth Conference bring peace to the Anglican world?

The Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard has written Bishop John reflects on Lambeth.