Thinking Anglicans

ministerial education inspection reports

The Church of England has announced today:

Church publishes inspection reports

The Church of England today publishes inspection reports on two of its ministerial training colleges.

The Church has a long track record of ensuring the quality of the initial training of its clergy by regular inspection of its training institutions. Theological colleges and part-time training courses are inspected every five years by teams of inspectors appointed by the bishops of the Church of England. Where training is delivered ecumenically, Church of England inspectors work in partnership with teams from the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union.

In the past the reports have been confidential to bishops and church leaders, but from today inspection reports will appear on the Church of England website. Inspection reports on the institutions of partner churches will appear on their websites. At first there will only be a limited number of reports, because training institutions are only inspected every five years. Over the coming years a full set of reports will appear.

See Quality Assurance in Ministerial Education and The Quality Framework for Ordination Training.

The first two reports are available as PDF files from this page:

Wycliffe Hall Oxford

St Stephen’s House Oxford

Wycliffe Hall has published this press release: Bishops’ Inspection 2008 and there is also this PDF file containing Wycliffe Bishop’s [sic] Response:

Statement by the Bishop of Liverpool (Chair of Council)
Bishop of Chester (Chair-designate of Council)
Bishop of Birmingham

17 March 2009: We are grateful to the Inspectors for their work, and for the wide endorsement which they give to Wycliffe Hall and its work. We are pleased that the Inspectors have confidence in Wycliffe, and we note their qualifications. In particular we welcome their recognition that the difficulties of recent years in relation to staff relationships are now largely overcome.

We welcome the recommendations of the Inspectors, and the Council and staff will do their utmost to ensure that they are given very careful consideration, and are acted upon.

We regret that the Inspectors have judged it right to declare that they have no confidence in one area of the Hall’s life, in relation to aspects of Practical and Pastoral Theology. We doubt that the evidence which the Inspectors adduce merits such a stark assessment, but we will ensure that the recommendations which are made in relation to this area are given speedy and particular attention. We share the confidence that the Inspectors have that Wycliffe Hall is fit for purpose, and look forward to maintaining its high academic standards and formation of both men and women for ordained ministry in the Church of England.

+ James Liverpool
+ Peter Cestr
+ David Birmingham

Several downloads are available here, which contain submissions made to the inspectors.

St Stephen’s House has also published a press release: Response to the Publication of the Inspection Report 2008


Communications breakdown

The Diocese of Manchester reports: Bishop silenced by email failure:

1 million spams and a virus bring down Bishop of Manchester & Church of England email systems.

The central offices of the Diocese of Manchester were without email from 3-13 March (10 days) following a virus infecting its servers and an unprecedented amount of spam. The problems have also affected the Bishops of Manchester and other senior clergy in the diocese.

While some emails have now been restored, others are still not getting through, particularly to satellite offices.

Two weeks ago, following continuing concerns over missing e-mails and an unacceptably high occurrence of breaks in service, the diocese changed its IT provider.

The new IT technicians discovered a virus and tried to remove it. While doing so they found that it had severely corrupted systems. This has meant that, since 3 March, e-mails sent to the Diocese of Manchester central offices, its Archdeacons, and the Bishops of Bolton and Middleton have not been received, nor have they been able to send e-mails. E-mails sent via the Diocese of Manchester website have not been delivered either.

In addition, an audit of the 6000 pieces of communications sent by the Bishop of Manchester over the past ten months revealed that a significant amount of electronic mail, though sent by the Bishop, may have been deleted during sending or has simply not been delivered by the system. In addition, many emails sent to the Bishop may not have been received.

A spokesman for the Bishop said, “Given the nature and scale of the problem it is likely that the Bishop will never fully know which e-mails failed to arrive nor the number of emails that were sent by others to him but were never received by his office. If people have written or emailed the Bishop of Manchester during the past ten months and not received a reply, it is likely that a system failure is to blame.”

“The new IT providers have been given the brief of establishing, as an urgent priority, a cast iron IT system for Bishops, Archdeacons and our central administration. If an e-mail is sent to us and a reply or acknowledgement has not been received within three days, then individuals should follow-up the message with a phone call. As a policy, where possible, people should always request a receipt when sending e-mail to us.”

As the Manchester Evening News reports:

The problem is particularly embarrassing because Mr McCulloch serves as the CoE’s communications spokesman.


Does the Future have a Church of England?

Updated Tuesday evening

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, has expressed his opinions on this subject in a lecture, given recently at St Paul’s School of Theology in St Helier, Jersey.
(The Channel Islands are annexed to the Diocese of Winchester.)

You can read the full text of his lecture on the diocesan website, at Bishop Michael on the Future of the Church of England.

Here’s a teaser:

…I am now going to examine some of the specific questions, challenges, realities in the life of the Church of England today which, I think, may be causing people to ask the question that is the title of this Lecture – or at least to think that such a title is worth offering to me, and I to think it worth accepting! I could have arranged them in more than one order; the order that I have chosen is only sometimes that of the importance that I see them having, the level of threat that I see them posing!

Secularisation of politics and public life
Women and the Episcopate
Same-sex sexual behaviour,
Decline from orthodox teaching
Division of the Anglican Communion
Ecumenical developments
Financial Pressures
Absorption in, distraction by, these!

Tuesday update

Andrew Brown has commented on this lecture at Cif Belief in Secularism threatens British Christianity, says bishop.

… I remember debating this last question with him from one of the twin pulpits of St Mary le Bow, and how impressed I was by his utter imperviousness to arguments from educated secular opinion.

Now he has published a talk he gave recently on the threats to the continuation of the Church of England, and it’s clear that he thinks that educated secular opinion is one of the main hostile forces facing his church…


opinions to consider

Terry Philpot wrote for the Guardian about the RC adoption societies, see Face to Faith.

Sara Maitland wrote in The Times about Why the Via Dolorosa can be a powerful experience.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Grounding ideology in people. See New England – Kirsty MacColl at the Church Times blog for background material.

Alexandru Popescu wrote at Comment is free about An iconic power.

James W. Jones wrote in the Church Times last week about Churches talking past each other. Many in the C of E misunderstand the Episcopal Church in the US, he says.

Robert Pigott at the BBC has written another Faith Diary.


more news from Nigeria

Further excerpts from Meeting of the CON Standing Committee: PRIMATE’S OPENING REMARKS:

The Anglican Communion

Early last month at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion had their meeting in an atmosphere of ‘peace and mutual respect’ for five days in Alexandria, Egypt. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the meeting was that the ‘status quo ante’ was maintained. That is to say that we remain as we have been since 2003 when the unilateral revisionist actions of TEC and Canada tore the fabric of our common life, in a state of impaired or broken sacramental communion. We have not been able to deal with the fundamental problems of our brokenness nor see through decisions taken at previous meetings of the Primates.

It seems to me the Communion is playing a game of ‘just keep talking’ until perhaps someone will blink or become weary and give up the struggle. Confident that we are on the LORD’s side contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we can rest assured that: “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” On this vexatious issue, the Church of Nigeria will neither blink nor be weary.

On my return from Egypt, I issued a letter to the faithful titled ‘a wake up call’. I also sent an open letter to our chairman, Dr Rowan. In both, I made it clear that America is not thinking of backing off from its new religion. And the rest of us desiring to keep the unity and structures of the Communion by all means including losing our faith and churches risk the danger of becoming a church that has the appearance of being alive but in reality are no more than what Prof John Mbiti once described as the ‘living-dead.’

The Global South

The Primates and leadership of the Global South also met and decided to call the ‘fourth trumpet’ in the first quarter of 2010, perhaps in the UK. The last one was held in Ein Sukhnan, near the red sea, Egypt. Each of our Provinces will be represented by the Primate, a bishop, a senior priest, lay leaders comprising of a man, a woman and a youth.


GAFCON continues to wax stronger. Membership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is growing in many parts of the world beyond our own imagination. Here at home, some of our senior lay leaders (Fellowship of Christian Patriots, FCP) organised a two-day celebration of the ideals of GAFCON with special lectures and service of praise and thanksgiving to God. We are deeply grateful to the Christian Patriots. I urge all our members to obtain copies of the lecture. The GAFCON Primate’s Council will meet in the UK after Easter. I ask for your prayers.


some reactions to the Nigerian church story

Updated Saturday afternoon

See previous articles here, here, and here.

Andrew Brown has commented about this at Comment is free: Belief in The latest hate speech from the Church of Nigeria.

Pluralist has commented on his blog in Expel the Nigerian Church – Time to Move On.

Episcopal Café has a further article, Nigeria’s legal system adequate for persecution.

The US State Department report mentioned there can be found at 2008 Human Rights Report: Nigeria.

The current legislation is not the same as that proposed in 2006 which was also commended by the Church of Nigeria.

There is no mention of this matter at the website of CANA, but the front page does have this in the sidebar:

Every person is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated that way.
-the Rt Rev’d. Martyn Minns

Episcopal Café points out that Martyn Minns and Robert Duncan are among the bishops at the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops meeting, read Meeting of the CON Standing Committee: PRIMATE’S OPENING REMARK [sic] from the official website of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion):

We are glad to welcome back home our CANA bishop, Martyn Minns. With us at this meeting is Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. Bob leads the Common Cause Partnership that will soon metamorphose against all odds into a new Anglican Province in North America.


the washing machine and what it doesn't mean

According to the official Vatican newspaper, the washing machine has done more to liberate women than anything else in the 20th century. One has to ask where the Vatican gets the information on which to base this kind of conclusion. This is particularly necessary in the light of the public admission that a failure to read the news meant that the Pope committed a major blunder in readmitting to communion someone who denied the Holocaust, Richard Williamson. At least the Pope responded on this occasion to the worldwide outrage which his action had caused.

No such response has come from the Roman Catholic Church to the story that a nine year old girl has been excommunicated. The Brazilian child had been abused for years by her stepfather. She went to hospital to investigate a pain and was found to be four months pregnant, carrying twins. Fearing for her life, doctors gave her an abortion. The response of Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, was that the twins had a right to life and that the mother and those involved in the abortion should be excommunicated. The Church said nothing about the man who raped the girl.

Punishing a nine year old child in this way when she needs all the love and support the Church can give is barbaric. Brazilian authorities, in a country which only allows abortion in exceptional circumstances, had made the reasonable judgement that this case was one in which the mother’s life was the prime concern: it is likely that neither mother nor the unborn children would have survived if the pregnancy had gone much further. But the Church gives the impression that the men in charge will not engage seriously with women’s issues. They imagine that they want washing machines, rather than protection from unwanted pregnancy. They ignore the fact that many people in the world still do not have access to safe water for drinking or washing, and that it is generally supposed that women will be responsible for fetching the water from a contaminated source when there isn’t a clean piped supply. For such people there are many more things that could make life easier than having a washing machine. It is only when there is a power supply and piped water that the machine is usable at all. But the availability of safe contraception requires no great infrastructure to be in place before it can benefit every woman on the planet who needs it. Protection from unwanted pregnancy and from AIDS are part of a woman’s right to life. In a world where men still take advantage of women physically and emotionally it is wrong that the Church seeks to deny them any defence. Rape is a moment’s madness for the man, but can have lifelong consequences for the woman. Requiring women to live with the consequences of being violated is wrong. The support that they need after such an attack should include the ‘morning after’ pill or other means of ensuring that the woman is not required to bear the child of the man who raped her.

Unfortunately in the Roman Catholic Church the fact that the rules are made only by unmarried men means that issues are never examined from a woman’s point of view. It has been necessary for people to formulate a deliberate feminist theology just to attempt the redress centuries of imbalance. If, in the light of the controversy of Richard Williamson the Vatican is seriously interested in looking at the internet to discover world opinion, it might be helpful if some serious attention were paid to women’s issues. It would be good to start with examining why a nine year old child can be excommunicated rather than supported by the Church after being raped.


Church of Nigeria statement on legislation

Updated again Saturday

The full text of the statement submitted by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to the public hearing on the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 is now available. There are five graphics files (click on each image to enlarge) or there is a PDF file here.

Extracts from this are also available at Changing Attitude, see Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Act and the Church of Nigeria’s position paper.

Friday lunchtime update

The full text of the legislation itself is now also available, it occupies only two pages:

See below for two other versions

Further reports of the hearing from Changing Attitude:

Report on the Hearing on the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibtion) Bill 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria which includes this:

…There was a heavy controversy between me and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) when I mentioned how Archbishop Akinola and the bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have committed themselves to the process of listening to LGBT people in the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10. Being committed to listen to LGBT people and coming to the hearing to support the bill is not honest. The representative of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) took offence and denied that.

and Church of Nigeria bussed people in to the Same Gender Marriage Bill hearing:

…On Wednesday, while we were outside waiting to be allowed to enter, some interesting things began to happen. Buses began to arrive carrying members of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Joint Women’s Fellowship together with the Youth Fellowship buses from Jos. They parked right next to us.

The atmosphere became very tense for us lesbian and gay representatives. The church members looked at us with terrible hard faces. They were wearing T-shirts with the slogans saying: IT IS UNAFRICAN, IT IS UNGODLY, IT IS SENSELESS, UNCULTURAL…

…After which a Bishop said that clearly it was a big lie for any gay person to say that he was created by God. He also said from his statement that being gay was an acquired syndrome from the western world.

Friday evening update

Lionel Deimel has made available a more easily readable copy of the legislation, see
Akinola: Anglican Fundamentalist, Fascist, and Theocrat.

Saturday update

And there is a PDF of the legislation available also here.


More Nigerian statements

Mark Harris has collated some further statements by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on the subject of homosexuality at Nigerian Anglicans ramp up the anti-gay rhetoric:

From Celebrating the ideals of GAFCON dated 24 February:

“the fellowship of Christian patriots in collaboration with Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) and the church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) flagged off the service of stand up for Jesus Festival of praise and thanksgiving held at the National Christian Centre Abuja on Saturday.

It brought to the fore the war against homosexualism, lesbianism and same sex marriage being waged by the church lead by the primate of all Nigeria Anglican communion Most Rev Peter Akinola, At the service the fight against union of same sex received a boost following a unanimous support pledged by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and well meaning Nigerians.”




Nigerian church support for legislation

Updated Sunday

The BBC reports under the headline Nigeria gay activists speak out

Church groups spoke in favour of the bill, saying that gay marriage risked “tearing the fabric of society”.

“In the Bible it says homosexuals are criminals,” Pius Akubo of the Daughters of Sarah church told lawmakers.

Rev Patrick Alumake told the National Assembly the top leadership of the Catholic church in Nigeria supported the bill wholeheartedly.

“There are wild, weird, ways of life that are affecting our own culture very negatively, we have people who either by way of the media or travelling around the world have allowed new ideas which are harmful to our nation and our belief,” he said.

According to reports in Nigerian media The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) was outspoken in its support for the legislation. See below the fold for detailed reports.

Changing Attitude reports that its Nigerian members spoke up, see Group leaders from Changing Attitude Nigeria present statement on Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 at public hearing in Abuja.

This is the legislation about which Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch said:

Nigeria’s proposed ban on same-sex partnerships an assault on human rights.

A bill now before the Nigerian National Assembly aims to outlaw marriages between individuals of the same sex – in a country where homosexuality is already criminalized. The bill would punish “the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship” with up to three years’ imprisonment.

If passed, the bill would give licence to the authorities to raid public or private gatherings of any group of people they suspect to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The measure would also increase the risk of violence and other acts of discrimination against individuals who are suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It is simply unacceptable to single out one group of people to be deprived of the rights we all enjoy,” said Aster Van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher. “Legalising discrimination is reprehensible in itself and can only promote acts of hatred.”

In addition to the measures against those thought to be in same-sex relationships, the bill would authorise sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of N2,000 (US$14) for any person who “witnesses, abets and aids the solemnization of a same gender marriage.”

These provisions would violate the rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of private and family life, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of association, guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution and by human rights treaties.



ecclesiology explained

Bishop Alan Wilson has written two blog posts about this.

First, Ecclesiology: What is Church, then?

Saturday I drew the short straw — helping enable a discussion at Diocesan Synod on the ecclesiological dimensions of ordaining female bishops. What then is “Church?” I tried to frame the discussion in four dimensions of being Church.

Every licensing we proclaim “The Church of England is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” What does this really mean?

Second, this supplement, Ecclesiology: fifth element?

5. Church as Pilgrimage

A lot of ecclesiology is based on how the ship is running, but the real question is where the ship is going! Christians do not see history as a giant circular recycling exercise, but a journey which begins in a garden and ends in a city.

All worth reading carefully.


faith schools under pressure

For background to this, see TA articles from last September, here, here and here.

Last week, just prior to a conference of the Liberal Democrats, the Guardian published a letter, defending faith schools and in particular their selection policies, which had again been criticised earlier in the week in a new research report from Research and Information on State Education. (Full report as a PDF here.)

Banning selection of pupils by faith in religious schools would be “perverse and unjust”, a group of religious organisations which run faith state schools in Britain argue today.

In an exclusive letter published in the Guardian today, a cross-denominational group of religious leaders, led by the Church of England Board of Education, defends selection of some students and staff on the basis of commitment to their faith.

The letter comes ahead of a policy debate on 5-19 education in England at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference tomorrow, which calls for a ban on selection by faith in religious schools, and follows a critical report by academics at the London School of Economics…

That critical report was attacked by the same leaders, see for example Religious Intelligence Church hits back at school admission policy claims by Matt Cresswell.

Janina Ainsworth, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, said that a damning report commissioned by the Research and Information on State Education trust (RISE) was based on “out-of-date information that takes no account of the recent changes to the Admissions Code”…

…Commenting on the report Ms Ainsworth said that those with an agenda against popular church schools were using the research as “an opportunity to try and wrestle power from local people and further centralise admissions decisions.”

She continued: “The findings of this report do not support the recommendations made: nowhere does it present evidence that schools are breaking their own admissions policies to select certain types of students.

“It is unclear on what basis this report can obliquely claim that those local people who give their time freely as school governors are in some way acting unfairly.”

She added: “Church attendance is the only measure our schools use when allocating places on the basis of faith, and you can’t get a much simpler way of assessing whether someone has a faith commitment or not.”

As it turned out, the Lib Dem conference didn’t approve the original motion calling for a ban on selection, but did approve the following:

ii) Requiring all existing state-funded faith schools to come forward within five years with plans to demonstrate the inclusiveness of their intakes, with local authorities empowered to oversee and approve the delivery of these plans, and to withdraw state-funded status where inclusiveness cannot be demonstrated.

They also voted for:

iii) Ending the opt-out from employment and equalities legislation for staff in faith schools, except those responsible for religious instruction.

An attempt to extend iii) to also exempt ‘the senior management team’ was defeated.

The BBC therefore reported this as Lib Dems back state faith schools.

On the other hand Ekklesia which is a founder member of Accord reported it differently:
Liberal Democrats vote to demand fairness from faith schools
Lib Dem policy on faith schools is inclusion ‘breakthrough’
People of faith speak out for inclusive schools policy
Why church schools can be less than Christian by Jeremy Chadd


Ethics, Economics, and Global Justice

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a lecture last Saturday in Cardiff.

Here’s the LamPal press release.

Here’s the full text.

Now here’s the press coverage:

BBC Church calls for ‘just’ recovery

The Times Ruth Gledhill Archbishop Dr Rowan William[s] blames government for economic crisis and her blog entry, Don’t blame greedy bankers – blame your own pride, Rowan tells Government. And republished the full text on the web here.

Guardian Sam Jones Don’t blame the bankers – deregulation and spending caused it too, says Williams and sidebar, In the archbishop’s words. Also an edited extract of the lecture, Rowan Williams Deeper than simple greed and also the full text on the web. Analysis by Andrew Brown at Cif Belief Deconstructing Rowan.

Telegraph no coverage so far that I could find.

Ekklesia Archbishop sets out fresh agenda for economic justice


USA: dioceses respond to defections

The Diocese of Quincy is reorganising itself, see ENS report, Diversity embraced as steering committee leads reorganization by Joe Bjordal:

A newly appointed steering committee, representing persons in the Diocese of Quincy who want to remain in the Episcopal Church, has met with the Presiding Bishop in New York, welcomed a bishop as consultant, and released a vision statement and immediate goals for the reorganizing diocese.

Last November, a number of clergy and laypersons in the Peoria, Illinois-based diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church due to theological disagreements and align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The reorganization moves are in preparation for a special synod meeting which has been called by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for Saturday, April 4 to be held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Peoria. In a notice issued February 27, Jefferts Schori called for the synod, saying there was “no bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, or any qualified members of the standing committee of that diocese.”

The notice from the Presiding Bishop can be found in full here.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is seeking to recover control of its assets, see ENS report Continuing diocese requests ‘orderly transfer of assets’ by Pat McCaughan:

The standing committee of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Texas) and Provisional Bishop Edwin Gulick have written to former bishop Jack Iker to request a “peaceful and orderly transfer of property and other assets.”

“Our hope is to work together with those who left the Episcopal Church to make this period of transition as painless as possible in what has been a sad time for all of us,” said the Rev. Frederick Barber, president of the standing committee. “Those who left remain our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we also know we have a sacred responsibility to the Episcopalians of the diocese to be good stewards of property that is held in trust for generations of Episcopalians past and to come.”

The March 3 letter, written by chancellor Kathleen Wells, also asked that Iker and others not interfere with the reorganization of the continuing diocese; refrain from using the diocesan logo and seals and meet with representatives of the continuing diocese “to plan the orderly transition” of property and assets. Last November, Iker and some members of the diocese voted to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The letter itself can be read in full as a PDF file here.


Canada: developments on blessings

Updated Sunday evening

Same-sex blessings are in the news again in Canada.

The Anglican Journal reports that Ottawa diocese appoints committee to consider ‘blessings’ and there is material in the March issue of Crosstalk in a PDF file. See cover story and then on page 2, Bishop John Chapman has written a column. The Journal reports:

The bishop of the diocese of Ottawa, John Chapman, has appointed a doctrine and worship committee to determine whether same-sex unions can be blessed on a limited basis in the diocese.

If the committee recommends that such blessings be allowed “in the spirit of experiential discernment,” Bishop Chapman said it would only be offered in one parish, St. John the Evangelist, an inner city parish which has long advocated for the rights of gays and lesbians.

“In the event that I instruct the parish of St. John the Evangelist to proceed, this is as far as I am prepared to move on the matter until General Synod 2010,” he said in his March column at the diocesan newspaper, Crosstalk…

Update His March column can be read in full as a web page here.

The National Post reported this under the headline Anglican diocese will defy and bless but also reported that the diocese denied it was breaking a moratorium:

…In a press release issued on Monday night, the diocese said: “Just as the Church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the benefits of the ordination of women to the priesthood until it experienced the priestly ministry of women, Bishop [John H.] Chapman has taken the process of discernment with regards to same sex blessings to a place beyond discussion.”

and this was confirmed by a spokesman for the Anglican Church of Canada who said:

…what the Diocese of Ottawa is doing is not a breaking the ban but rather a continuation of their “discernment process.”

The same Anglican Journal report goes on to cover a related development in the diocese of Niagara. Bishop Michael Bird reports here on his recent visit to Lambeth Palace. Here’s an extract:

…In that interview I reviewed with him the multitude of task forces, hearings, Bishop’s statements, regional and parish meetings and the long list of Diocesan and General Synods that have discussed and wrestled with this issue since 1976. I gave him a full account of our dealings with dissenting parishes and the court proceedings we have been involved in. I shared with Archbishop Rowan our experience of the incredible contribution that gay and lesbian people have made and continue to make in every aspect of our Church’s life and witness, and expressed the overwhelming desire on the part of two Synod’s to move forward with the blessing of committed same-sex relationships for couples who have been civilly married. I also indicated to him my intentions with regard to my giving permission for these blessings to begin to take place.

One of the most powerful moments in the course of my fifty minute meeting with the Archbishop was the opportunity to describe the process of how our new Vision has emerged and how we believe that God is calling us as a Diocesan family to enhance and develop our work together under the five key areas of focus that are outlined in the Vision. In fact I indicated that it was my sense that the challenge the Vision offers us around the work of prophetic justice-making has made us even more determined to become a more open and inclusive Church.

Archbishop Williams listened carefully to my presentation and there was no doubt that I had his full attention. He thanked me for such a full and detailed report and he indicated how important this opportunity was for him to hear from me personally. We went on to have a very helpful and frank conversation about the implications involved and I expressed my own personal commitment and the strong desire of the Diocese of Niagara to remain in communication and dialogue with our sister and brother Anglicans around the world. I made it clear that we very much value and hold dear our membership in the Anglican Communion and we are grateful for his leadership and ministry…


women bishops: FiF, Fulcrum, and AffCath

The BBC has a report by Trevor Timpson titled Women ‘to change CofE for ever’ which reports on two groups in favour of women bishops, Fulcrum and Affirming Catholicism.

…What is reported less often, is that many Anglicans in both traditions support the appointment of female bishops.

Some of these believe the proposal is completely in line with their Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic beliefs, and that the ministry of women priests has already brought great blessings on the Church…

Meanwhile, Forward in Faith has published several articles in New Directions following on from the February debate in General Synod, see Bishop of London, Bishop of Chichester Jonathan Baker, and Geoffrey Kirk. and the resolution passed at the FiF Special Assembly on 14 February is here.


opinions to discuss

In The Times John Shepherd writes about Revelation and the straitjacket of human language.

The Guardian has Simon Rocker writing about the Haredim in Face to Faith.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Jade Goody shows how to die.

Nick Baines wrote about Martin Niemoeller in Death of a Hero.

Alan Wilson wrote about How our grandpas twittered…

Simon Barrow wrote at Ekklesia that Faith needs a freedom agenda. Savi Hensman wrote about Moving faith forward on civil liberties. Vaughan Jones wrote about Humanity and justice is ‘modern liberty’ for Christians.


The Church and Mammon

I have been thinking about money. First, a few snapshots:

February’s General Synod had two goes at the Financial Crisis. I was impressed that the debate wasn’t defensive about the impact on the church, but speaker after speaker said that the church needs to stand alongside those who are affected by debt and repossession, and we heard about some good projects.

Then last week, I was at the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee. It was the most interesting and lively Finance Committee I have been to. It was as if the financial crisis had shaken things up and created a new freedom. Someone said, ‘does this mean that we can do things differently now?’ It left me hopeful that good things will emerge from these difficult times.

Last year, one of my churches closed for worship and began the process of merging with a neighbouring parish. The crisis was triggered by money worries, though the causes went deeper. The PCC made its decision prayerfully and responsibly. It was a huge achievement.

I am working temporarily with another pair of parishes, and people are complaining about the parish share. There is a huge amount of ignorance about the purpose of the parish share. Telling them it contributes towards the cost of ministry doesn’t help much, as the benefice has been vacant for over three years, and they think the money would be better spent on maintenance for crumbling buildings.

Each deanery in our diocese is developing a deanery plan. One angry response criticises the process for being driven by money rather than by God’s will. If we pray and do what God wants, we will not lack resources, the critic says. Human, secular ways of planning will fail.

None of these images will surprise you — they are all familiar expressions of the Church’s sometimes uneasy relationship with money.

Just a few thoughts — and I am sure you will offer more:

Money is a language. God will speak to us in whatever language we are able to listen. If there is a crisis with money, what is God saying? When I consider the Financial Crisis on a theological level (and of course it can and must be read on other levels as well), I hear a condemnation of our society’s love of money and insatiable appetites that must be satisfied now. We do need to repent and rebuild our infrastructure on better values.

Money also asks questions of the church about its priorities. In a crisis, money tells us that we can’t do what we thought we wanted to do, and maybe we need to go back to think and pray about what it is that we are called to do in this place, at this time. It may be that we need to do less of something that is good in order to do another thing that is better. It may be that we need to close some churches to make space for fresh expressions. Sometimes we need the challenge that money poses to look again at who we are and what God wants of us. Mostly what I see in the church, particularly at local level, is people avoiding those questions. There is such fear.

But the wrestling is important. When we allow ourselves and our churches to be challenged, I think we shall emerge with new values, new understanding and new vision. We should welcome the opportunities to wrestle with plans that explore our relationships with money and weigh our priorities in a prayerful way. Money in itself is not evil, but we do need to bring it before God.


CofE pensions: a scene-setting paper

A Church of England press release today is titled Update published on Clergy Pensions Scheme.

The Church of England has today published a paper on the impact of the credit crunch and recession on the financial position of the Funded Clergy Pension Scheme and what this might mean for the future of the scheme…

There is also a paper from the Task Group:

The Task Group comprises the Chairman of the Pensions Board (Dr Jonathan Spencer), the First Church Estates Commissioner (Andreas Whittam Smith) and the Chairman of the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee (Andrew Britton) assisted by the Chief Officers of the three organisations and the Chief of Staff at Lambeth Palace. Their initial paper is available via the Church of England website here. (.doc file)

And it is also available as a more accessible web page at Scene-Setting Paper from Archbishops’ Task Group.


Anglican women at the UNCSW

Updated Friday evening

First, ENS has a report Network members support expanded role for Anglican women:

Noting that women make up just six percent of the Anglican Communion’s top decision-makers, the International Anglican Women’s Network urged at its February 22-27 meeting in New York City that the worldwide church study the role of women and find ways to empower female leadership.

Representatives of 30 of the 38 Anglican provinces (national or regional groupings of national churches) and the network’s steering committee met in person for the first time since the network, which represents 40 million Anglican women in 165 countries, was formed in 1996.

Read the full text of the statement issued at the First Meeting of the IAWN Provincial Links and Steering Group.

And the Church of England contact? Check this page.

Now to the UN meeting. ENS also carries this:

In recognition of International Women’s Day, Episcopal Life Weekly bulletin inserts for March 8 outline the work of Anglican representatives to the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The commission will meet this year from March 2-13.

As the bulletin insert says:

A delegation of women from the Anglican Communion will take part in the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), to be held March 2 to 13. The Anglican women, representing some 30 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, are nominated by the Primates (leading archbishops or presiding bishops) of their provinces.

Read the whole insert as a PDF here.

For more information see Ecumenical Women at the United Nations. There is also a helpful guide to the UNCSW here.

See the statement submitted to the CSW by the Anglican Consultative Council.

And there is also this statement submitted by the Mothers’ Union.

Friday update

ENS has a further report, Anglican women find strength at network meeting.