Michael Brown wrote at Religious Intelligence about the FiF meeting following the February synod sessions, Anglo-Catholics warned of split threat in UK.
There is considerable audio material of that meeting available here.
Anglican Mainstream carries an article by Roland Mourant What Future Strategy should Forward in Faith UK adopt?25 Comments
The Church of Ireland Gazette had this editorial comment: A Consultative Fellowship. It begins:
In their Alexandria communiqué, the primates indicated that successive Lambeth Conferences had urged them “to assume an enhanced responsibility for the life of the Communion”, referring to Lambeth Conference resolutions from the 1978, 1988 and 1998 meetings.
However, the relevant resolutions of Lambeth 1978 (Nos. 11 and 12) do not use the term “enhanced responsibility” at all; they advise member Churches of the Communion to consult with a Lambeth Conference or the primates on issues of concern to the whole Communion and request the primates to study Anglican authority and the best way to co-ordinate inter-Anglican meetings…
The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church wrote about the meeting at Episcopal Life Online: Varied Understandings. One excerpt:
…The striking thing was that the meeting room where the primates’ deliberations took place, the hotel’s largest and principal conference room, was bedecked with several large paintings of half-naked women. It was a space that, in normal circumstances, apparently was used only by men. I found it striking that public expectations of women are modest dress and covering, yet there is evidently a rather different attitude toward men’s entertainment…
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Sodom and Gomorrah. See Meeting the stench of the slums.
Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times that ‘Faith is the defeat of probability by possibility’
Alan Wilson also wrote on his own blog: Mushing our Brains on Facebook?
Robert Pigott at the BBC launched a Faith Diary with a survey of public opinion. The full results are available here as a PDF. Ekklesia reported on this as Mixed picture emerges on British attitudes to religion in public life.1 Comment
Updated again Sunday evening
Bishop Duncan comments on the decision of the new Episcopal Church diocese to reject mediation.
I should have added some background when posting the above note. First, the previous TA report on the Pittsburgh saga is Pittsburgh: national church seeks intervention.
Lionel Deimel has attempted an analysis of the Duncan letter, see Duncan Letter Decoded.20 Comments
Today is the day on which the Church of England commemorates George Herbert.
Justin Lewis-Anthony has published a series of articles on his blog under the title Killing George Herbert, arguing that:
For three hundred and fifty years the Church of England has been haunted by a pattern of parochial ministry, based upon a fantasy and untenable for more than a hundred of those years. The pattern, derived from a romantic and wrong-headed false memory of the life and ministry of George Herbert, finally died on the South Bank of the Thames in the mid 1960s… and nobody noticed…
Read KGH : Death to Herbertism for the rest of the introductory article, below which is a list of links to all the articles.
For today’s blog entry see KGH: Memento Mori II.
These articles are but a prelude to Justin’s book, which is coming soon, see If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Re-thinking Priestly Ministry.
Meanwhile, his other book, Circles of Thorns: Hieronymus Bosch and Being Human, is available and has been designated as Mowbray’s Lent Book 2009. Peter McGeary reviewed it recently for the Church Times.
Study guides are available starting here.11 Comments
We published links to some of the Church Times detailed reports on this month’s General Synod last week. The remainder are now generally available.2 Comments
This week saw the tenth anniversary of the landmark report into the death of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen, a young black man, died at the hands of racist thugs on a London street and the Metropolitan Police at the time failed to investigate the crime properly. To mark the occasion some 300 or so of us, including Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence (a tireless campaigner), three cabinet ministers (Home Secretary, Justice Secretary, Communities Secretary) and senior police officers and officials spent the day conferring on the interaction of police and race in Britain. If you want news reports or copies of the politicians’ speeches you can Google them, but it seems to me there were two unresolved tensions underpinning the event worthy of TA reflection.
The first is that secular society finds it hard to manage the tension between acknowledging achievement and recognising that where we have got to is still far from good enough. Ministers and Chief Constables rightly drew to our attention that the majority of the report’s recommendations have been accepted and implemented; for example there are many more black and minority ethnic police in Britain than when Stephen was killed and open racism is much harder to find among serving officers. By contrast comments from the floor suggested that the scarcity of BME faces among the senior ranks of the 43 constabularies and the huge disproportionality in “stop and search” practices means that little has changed in the underlying culture of British policing. One sounded complacent, the other incapable of recognising as progress anything less than total success. I was left feeling that what was missing was the ability to bring together repentance and thanksgiving, without denying the force of either, that is a hallmark of Christian liturgy. My impression was confirmed by the final speaker of the day, an evangelical pastor, who did hold the two together. Do the churches have something to offer here? If so, how can we make it accessible?
The second tension was between those promoting the “single equality” route to engaging with diversity and the advocates for separate treatment of distinctive strands. Here I am firmly in the former camp. I understand the concerns that those working primarily on race and racism express, that as soon as race is linked to something else the attention moves over to the something else and race gets marginalised. Against this however are a number of telling arguments. Individuals do not engage with the world separately as black, or muslim or female or gay or disabled or young, depending on the particular moment and cause. We always engage with our whole identity, and with all the aspects of that identity that make us diverse beings. The cutting edge of equality and diversity work lies in the interplay between the strands. Being black and female, I am sure, is not simply an amalgam of being black and being a woman; engagements that separate gender from ethnicity treat black women poorly. The same applies, I suspect, to being gay and muslim or young and disabled. For me as a Christian from the Anglican tradition it’s particularly important that the church operates a single equalities methodology lest we end up using different standards, even opposed standards, by which to engage with different aspects of diversity.
Stephen Lawrence had the ambition and the capacity to be an architect; nobody knows what buildings he would have erected had he enjoyed a full span of life. Instead his monument is the sea change in equality and diversity work that his murder and the subsequent enquiry provoked. It’s an edifice that is still very much “under construction”.0 Comments
They have jointly authored an article in today’s Times newspaper, Mugabe has ruined Africa’s beacon of hope. See also Archbishops of Canterbury and York condemn regime in Zimbabwe and Ash Wednesday: Say a Prayer for Zim.
The Archbishop of York has also invited people to come to join him today in a city centre Church in York praying for the people of Zimbabwe.
And see BBC ‘Pray and fast’ plea for Zimbabwe which includes a video interview with both archbishops.8 Comments
Today many of us will have some ashes smudged on our heads, reminding us that we are going to die, and asking each one of us to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. How should you react? How should you react if someone were to say to you that you’re going to be turned to ashes, that you’re all going to die? And why does thinking about your eventual death help you to turn away from sin? I mean, if you are going to die, perhaps you should get some serious sinning under your belt, or maybe even some serious sinning below your belt!
So why the stress on death? Why does the Church want to remind you that you’re going to die? Isn’t the Church supposed to be spreading good news, emphasising new life in Christ, emphasising eternal life? Why death?
The simple answer is that Jesus emphasised it again and again. You’ll remember the saying, ‘If anyone saves his life, he will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will save it’. Or again, ‘If people try to make their life secure, they will lose it; but those who lose their life will keep it.’ Or, ‘Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ Our baptismal liturgy echoes much the same theme: in baptism we literally drown and are reborn — we die to sin and come to real life. And Jesus’ own life is very much the story of someone who had to let go of his own life for others. And for that reason, we are told, God raised him to new life. Had he clung to life, we wouldn’t be here today.
Given the radical centrality of this death-life connection, it’s a bit odd that Christians have kind of sidelined death — or at least they have sidelined it theologically — for several thousand years. Death, they said, was a result of sin, original sin. Prior to Adam’s and Eve’s sin, there apparently was no death. Prior to Adam’s and Eve’s sin, we’re told, no one died, no one had deadly diseases, no one hurt themselves when they fell off cliffs or high trees; no one was devoured by lions; deadly cancer didn’t exist; birth defects didn’t exist. Death only came into the world when sin entered the world — a teaching based not so much on Genesis, which is ambiguous on this point, but on Romans 5, which could (and probably should) be seen as St Paul’s using physical death as a symbol for spiritual, even eternal, death.
I must say that I took such an approach myself for quite a few years. I thought to myself that, if death were an evil (and it does seem pretty nasty), then God couldn’t be the cause of it. After all, God wouldn’t, God couldn’t, create anything that wasn’t good; therefore death couldn’t possibly be part of God’s original plan; it couldn’t be part of God’s original creation. Someone else must be to blame.
But that’s too easy. Human beings have always been finite, which is to say we are and never have been in-finite: we’re not and we’ve never been God. No doubt death has a lot to do with sin, with the evil we do to ourselves and to one another; and it is probably the perfect symbol for understanding what sin does to us; but death is an inherent part of our being finite creatures. Death is and always has been natural — as natural as living. If you’re biological, you will die. Physical death is not a punishment in and of itself. And our finitude, our being finite beings — this is a universal and good aspect of all of creation: it’s not an evil to be explained away. We don’t need to make excuses for God: God created a finite universe.
The thing is, because we wrote off death as something evil, we rarely bothered to ask whether there is anything good in death. We rarely asked why God made a universe where all living things inevitably die, where even non-living things — all of them — inevitably lose the battle against entropy and die out too. But what if death cannot be written off? If God created death, as it were, shouldn’t we be asking why? Could it be that, in being created in the image and likeness of God, our living and our dying are both — somehow — in the image and likeness of God? Could it be that there is something about our having to face death that reveals something about God?
If, like me, you’ve had family members who have died recently, then these questions are not just theoretical questions, but exquisitely painful questions, especially as you watch death slowly overtake the body of a loved one, as you wrestle with the God who created the universe, knowing full-well that people would invariably die — and die often in the most horrendous and painful circumstances, leaving the survivors to experience the soul-numbing pain of separation.
And yet Jesus realised that clinging on to life is futile: ‘If anyone tries to make his life secure, he will lose it; but those who lose their life will keep it.’
This is a huge paradox, but Jesus is surely right. If you consider your own death, as you are asked to do today, you can either descend into moroseness (or a whole range of neuroses) or you can discover an unusual kind of freedom. If we’re all going to die anyway, then perhaps nothing has any real meaning at all. That’s certainly one way of looking at things. But if we are going to die anyway, then we ultimately have nothing to lose: we can live life to the full, we can take real risks, we can live radically, love radically, risk courageously: you can even dare to love your enemy. And if that’s true for each of us, just imagine what a community of people who thought that way could accomplish.
All of this cuts to the very heart of Jesus’s teaching: God is so trustworthy that you can choose to do the right thing, you can dare to love sacrificially; because, in the end, you’re going to have to trust God anyway: death ensures that. And Jesus’s own death and resurrection — these are God’s way of assuring us that such trust is not in vain.
There is this strange sense that we do have to let go of life, let go of our fear of losing life, in order to live life. And that’s not just a nice, theoretical, paradoxical sort of maxim. No, we actually have to do it. We have to let go of life physically. I’m well in my fifties now, and I can already feel it happening bit by bit. We’re talking about real death here. We have to live life facing death. In the face of death, we discover that we can’t cause ourselves to continue to exist. We face the fact that we can’t save ourselves. We realise that we are creatures — finite creatures — not gods: we can’t even claim our own lives as our own. If we are to live again, as Christians hope and believe, then such a life is not something we can give to ourselves.
And what does this reveal about God? Well, it reveals that all love, even or especially divine love, involves a dying to self; it involves a giving of self. Love demands that we not cling to life and hoard it as some possession. In the Trinity, the Father gives of his very own life to the Son. The Father does not cling to life; instead he shares it completely. And the Son does not cling to his equality with God, but empties himself, as we can read in Philippians 2.5, and offers his life, his Spirit, back to the Father. And this shared Spirit is offered to us, not as something we can own, but only as something we can share. And that emptying, that embracing of death, even death on a cross, that sharing of life itself — that is the Christian image of the costliness of love: not just for Jesus, but for the Father as well … the Father who shares infinitely in the pain of his Son’s having to let go of life, and yet the Father who also knows that Jesus’s faith was well-placed, that God indeed is in fact ultimately trustworthy, that death is not the final word. Love is the final word.
As I alluded to earlier, I realise that some of us have faced and are facing the deaths of loved ones. No doubt you are already anticipating the pain of loss: Do you dare love him or her so much as she dies? Do you dare believe that love makes sense in the face of death? If not, then nothing would make any sense at all. Nothing would matter in the end. But we know that things matter, because we do love, and we choose love. That’s the choice. That’s what Jesus was asking us to do: choose life, choose love, choose God. And the power of that radical choice comes to the fore when we confront death, as we do symbolically in the ceremony of the sprinkling of ashes.22 Comments
The Church of England has launched several initiatives as Lent approaches.
And don’t forget the communion-wide campaign for Zimbabwe, see Anglican Communion joins Prayers for Zimbabwe on Ash Wednesday. Posters and fliers can be downloaded from USPG announces Archbishops’ Appeal for Zimbabwe. To donate online, go here.16 Comments
Updated again Wednesday afternoon
A recent news item concerned the UK government’s banning members of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church from entering the country. Less widely reported was the joint statement issued by six Christian organisations, the day after government action, including the Evangelical Alliance, which said:
“We are dismayed that members of Westboro Baptist Church (based in Kansas, USA and not associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain) might picket the performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday.
“We do not share their hatred of lesbian and gay people. We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we unreservedly stand against their message of hate toward those communities.
“Neither the style nor substance of their preaching expresses the historic, orthodox Christian faith. And we ask that the members of Westboro Baptist Church refrain from stirring up any more homophobic hatred in the UK or elsewhere.”
This prompted Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia to issue the following response:
“It is welcome that a number of churches and evangelical groups have made a public statement and joined the many others who are opposing Westboro’ Baptist church-style hate speech. But it is relatively easy to issue statements against extremists, distance oneself, and condemn them. It is more challenging, and uncomfortable, to acknowledge what one might have in common with those we find abhorrent. But that is what the message at the heart of the Christian faith requires.
“This is the real challenge that Westboro Baptist church presents. And among those who have condemned Westboro are some who preach rejection of faithful gay relationships, who deny their baptism and Christian ministry, and who refuse their wisdom. Some have attempted to negotiate opt-outs from equalities legislation so they can themselves discriminate against lesbian and gay people in employment and in the provision of goods and services. The Evangelical Alliance in particular removed the Courage Trust from its membership when the Trust made a Christian commitment to affirming lesbian and gay people.
“The six churches and groups have said with one voice: ‘We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation’ We invite them to reflect these words in their actions.”
Ekklesia also issued a background report, Churches condemn Westboro hate speech, but challenge remains.
The other five organisations were: The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance UK, Faithworks, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Bible Society-funded thinktank Theos.
A further statement has now been issued by another group of Christian organisations:
…Accepting Evangelicals, Courage, the Network of Baptists Affirming Lesbian and Gay Christians, the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian & Gay Christians, and the Christian think-tank Ekklesia have issued a joint statement saying that opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church USA’s hate-stance towards gay people does not go far enough.
“The real challenge to evangelicals is to face the need for change themselves,” they say. “This means: engaging more fully and openly with lesbian and gay Christians and accepting them as equal under God; examining the way prejudice against gay people has distorted biblical understanding; prayerfully re-thinking church policies of exclusion and acknowledging the harm they cause; and recognising the growing number of evangelicals who have had a heart-change and now affirm faithful gay relationships.”
Ekklesia has the full statement at Evangelicals call for change of attitude on gays.
Simon Barrow has written about this at Comment is free Evangelicals who love their gay neighbours.90 Comments
The Church Times publishes detailed reports on Synod debates. They are normally only available to subscribers for the first week. So far the ones below are generally available; there will be more next Friday.8 Comments
Updated Monday afternoon
Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times that The synod is the place to challenge the unjust and evil.
Sunny Hundal writes in the Guardian that It is worth having a healthy debate on the interaction between faith and violence.
Jonathan Bartley writes at Ekklesia about Hearing what children are saying.
At Comment is free Theo Hobson and Julian Baggini discuss Is Christianity a good influence on British culture?
Giles Fraser’s article in last week’s Church Times is now available, see Why is the Left so anti-Jewish.
For votes on women bishops, see previous item. Other votes in February are available as PDF files as follows:1 Comment
The detailed results of the voting on the women bishops legislation at General Synod last week are now available.
‘That the Measure entitled “Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure” be considered for revision in committee.’
‘That the Canon entitled “Amending Canon No 30” be considered for revision in committee.’
From these simple alphabetical lists I have worked out the voting figures in each house below. It will be seen that each house voted by more than a two-thirds majority in favour each motion. Of course, voting to send the legislation for revision is not the same as voting in favour of its content.
I have also compiled tables of how each member of Synod voted (or abstained or was absent). These tables are available as a web page.8 Comments
Updated Friday morning
Provisional attendance figures for 2007 were released today.
The press release starts:
Figures from the Church of England released today show further evidence that, while some trends in churchgoing continue to change, the overall number of people regularly attending church has altered little since the turn of the millennium. The 2007 figures confirm that attending a Church of England church (including cathedrals) is part of a typical week for some 1.2 million people.
The full figures are available as a pdf file.
Some early press reports
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Christmas church attendance falls by 11% in a year
Jenna Lyle in Christian Today New Church figures show attendance ‘stable’
Bill Bowder in the Church Times More go to church when Christmas falls at weekend7 Comments
The BBC Parliament Channel will show recordings of last week’s General Synod sessions on Friday 20 February. A schedule is available here.
BBC Parliament is shown on UK digital terrestrial television (Freeview) channel 81, on digital cable and on satellite at channel 504, as well as on the broadband media player. More information here.0 Comments
The Anglican Church in North America has previously claimed:
“The movement unites 700 orthodox Anglican congregations, representing roughly 100,000 people…”
Today, a file entitled How many Anglicans are there in the Anglican Church in North America? has been published at this Fort Worth website.
On every Sunday morning, some 81,311 people worship at the 693 congregations of the Anglican Church in North America. These people and parishes are already outside of The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church in Canada. The large majority are temporarily under the oversight of six separate Anglican provinces.
The Anglican Church in North America will unify the parishes and membership of a number of jurisdictions:
• The Anglican Mission in the Americas (Rwanda) reports an average Sunday attendance of 21,600 in 180 congregations (40 of which are churches in formation called “networks”).
• The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (Nigeria) has 69 congregations with a average Sunday attendance of 9,828.
• The Reformed Episcopal Church has 150 parishes and an average Sunday attendance of 13,000.
• There are 51 parishes under the temporary oversight of Uganda with an average Sunday attendance of 7,000.
• There are 55 parishes in The United States under the temporary oversight of the provinces of Kenya and the Southern Cone with an average Sunday attendance of 10,000.
• Four entire dioceses separating from The Episcopal Church, with a combined 163 parishes and an average Sunday attendance of 16,483 (The Episcopal Church congregations and members having been excluded from this count) are temporarily dioceses of the province of the Southern Cone.
• The Anglican Network in Canada (Southern Cone) is composed of 24 congregations with an average Sunday attendance of 3,400.
• One congregation is under the temporary oversight of West Africa.
Based on a firm Sunday attendance average of 81,311 people, it is reasonable to very conservatively project that more than 100,000 Anglicans in North America are active members of a congregation of the proposed province (In many cases, total membership often runs at two to three times average Sunday attendance. For instance, The Episcopal Church reports an average Sunday attendance of 768,476 in 2007 and an active baptized membership of 2,116,749.)
While each individual group is small, as a united body, the Anglican Church in North America stretches from one end of North America to the other and has as many or more (in some cases, significantly more) members than 12 of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces (Bangladesh, Brazil, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Indian Ocean, Japan, Jerusalem & Middle East, Korea, Mexico, Myanmar, Scotland, Southern Cone, Wales)
See the PDF file for further comparison of ACNA with numerous provincial statistics.38 Comments
The Church Times has two articles available without subscription. (There will be many more in the next two weeks as detailed reports become available to non-subscribers.)
Also, the Church Times blogger Dave Walker has some “behind the scenes” pictures.
Justin Brett now blogging as The Dodgy Liberal has written here about the debate on the Uniqueness of Christ last Wednesday.
Martin Beckford wrote at the Telegraph Synod: The temple of money and the altar of multi-faith dialogue.
George Pitcher at the Telegraph wrote Whittam Smith predicts Armageddon.
Justin Brett wrote a further article, see Synodical Ruminations Part 1 (Covenant) and see also the MCU document produced for this debate, at Briefing Paper for General Synod Members February 2009 (PDF).
And also another one on Synodical Ruminations Part 2 (BNP Etc.)1 Comment
In my Saturday roundup of opinion pieces I included the article that Archbishop Sentamu wrote in the Daily Mail. One of the cases that he referred to there was the case of Jenny Cain and her daughter. The Telegraph reported this under the headline Primary school receptionist ‘facing sack’ after daughter talks about Jesus to classmate.
This case has given rise to criticism of the school, for example, according to the Telegraph:
John Sentamu said it was an “affront to the sensibility” of Christians everywhere that Jennie Cain is being investigated for alleged professional misconduct after she sent a private email to 10 friends asking for prayer.
George Pitcher followed up with an opinion piece headed Christians need protection in law.
Other reports of the incident give a rather different picture. See for example:
Exeter Express & Echo Girl, 5, told off at school for talking of God followed the next day by Parents back head’s stance in storm over ‘go to hell’ comment
Simon Barrow has written this comment article at Ekklesia Scaring the hell out of kids?
… Perhaps those Christians who object to the school wanting to maintain a non-threatening environment should ask themselves how they would feel if a son of theirs ended up crying after being told by an atheist pupil that religious people are nuts and should be locked up? Or if their daughter was upset by a Muslim telling her she would suffer eternally for not believing in Allah and his Messenger?
In both these cases, there would be an outcry if the school did nothing, or if it said that that their kids would have to put up with being frightened, because trying to stop this would amount to “not showing respect for beliefs”…