Thinking Anglicans

Equality Bill under scrutiny

The Public Bill Committee that held hearings reported earlier and also here, is now engaged in a clause-by-clause review of the text of the bill. The easiest way to follow their deliberations is via this page, or alternatively via TheyWorkForYou (which runs a little behind in its updating, but is more nicely formatted). To keep up with the amendments, you need to check that page.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has announced that it will also hold hearings about this bill. There is a Press Notice available here, which says:

The Joint Committee on Human Rights is considering the compatibility of the Equality Bill with the UK’s human rights obligations.

The Committee has decided to focus on a number of matters in the Equality Bill which it considers are capable of raising significant human rights issues. Further details of the Committee’s concerns are contained in its letter of 2 June 2009 to the Solicitor General Vera Baird QC MP:

During its recent review of its working practices, the Committee agreed that it would be helpful to engage relevant stakeholders in its legislative scrutiny work. Submissions of no more than 1,500 words on the human rights compatibility of this Bill are therefore requested by 17 June 2009…

Separately, the Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on specific public sector equality duties. As explained on this page:

On Thursday 11th June 2009, a consultation document setting out policy proposals for the specific public sector equality duties was published. The closing date for comments is 30 September 2009. Please click below to view the document:

* Specific Duties Consultation Document

There is a lengthy press release which gives more background to this.

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opinions in the middle of June

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times Our longing for truth is implicitly a search for God.

Alan Wilson wrote, in answer to the question Do we expect too much of our leaders? on Comment is free, an article titled Leadership in the age of the quick fix.

Mark Vernon wrote about God, Dawkins and tragic humanism.

Nick Spencer wrote about Measuring British religion.

David Haslam wrote in today’s Guardian about the anti-racism work of the World Council of Churches.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Taking my questions seriously.

Last week, Jonathan Bartley wrote Now is the time for all good men . . .


New Primus of Scottish Episcopal Church elected

The Rt Rev David Chillingworth was today elected Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church – at an Episcopal Synod held during the annual meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Bishop David was the single nomination and his election was supported by all other six bishops.

Bishop David has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005 and succeeds the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway who stepped down as Primus last night following his recent announcement to retire from the office of diocesan bishop…

Read the full press release.

The full text of his statement is here.

See Bishop David’s blog, Thinking Aloud here.

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California church properties returned

ENS reports: California appellate court rules La Crescenta property belongs to Los Angeles diocese.

California appellate court’s June 9 ruling was the latest in a series of recent developments that return disputed church properties to three California Episcopal dioceses.

On June 9, the San Diego-based Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the Diocese of Los Angeles is legal owner of property currently occupied by St. Luke’s Anglican Church. The congregation had cited theological differences when severing ties to the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2006 and realigning with an Anglican diocese in Uganda.

In unrelated agreements, displaced Episcopalians will return July 1 to two other disputed properties, St. John’s Church in Petaluma, in the Diocese of Northern California and St. Paul’s Church in Modesto in the Diocese of San Joaquin…

See also news reports:

Dispute over old church resolved
Breakaway Petaluma congregation returns building to Episcopal Church


Church ruling upheld
Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles wins another property battle


Scottish General Synod reports

The Scottish Episcopal Church is holding its General Synod in Edinburgh right now.

Audio and other reports of the proceedings can be found at the official church website.

There is an audio interview with the outgoing Primus.

There is an overview of the agenda at New Primus to be elected during 2009 General Synod.


When is discrimination "just"?


A comment article, written by me, appears at Cif belief.

See Equality, the church and discrimination. (They changed the title…)

“Unjust discrimination is fundamentally wrong.” So say the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales in evidence to parliament on the equality bill. But doesn’t this terminology imply there might be another category of “just discrimination” which is slightly less awful, or even in some circumstances righteous?

A news report, also written by me, appears in this week’s Church Times. This was filed on Wednesday morning, before the publication of the full transcripts of the Tuesday hearings.

See Churches argue for job discrimination.

REPRESENTATIVES of both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church told the House of Commons on Tuesday that their existing right to discriminate in cases of employment, on the basis of factors other than religion, would be unreasonably limited by the new Equality Bill. A scrutiny committee was taking oral and written evidence this week, before starting its clause-by-clause examination of the Bill, which is scheduled for completion in early July…

(Note that the last part of the article is from another journalist).


churches give evidence about the equality bill

The House of Commons committee continued its hearings on the Equality Bill yesterday.

The first session of the day (third session in total so far) heard first from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church among others. You can read a complete transcript of the proceedings, starting at this page. This part of the session continues for four pages.

Update More user-friendly link to the transcript from TheyWorkForYou here.

The session continued with a second group of witnesses, from business and trade union organisations.

Later in the day, a further session was held, which can be followed from here. And the user-friendly link from TheyWorkForYou is here.

I will have my own comments in a while about the first part of the first session of the day, at which I was present.

There was no written statement from the Church of England. The written statement from the Roman Catholic bishops has been linked previously, and is here.


opinions at Trinity

Gary Wilton wrote about the European Parliamentary elections in last week’s Church Times. See Don’t let the chance of big decisions pass by.

Grace Davie wrote at Cif belief in answer to the question Is Europe’s future Christian? Her answer was: Christian, but not as we know it.

Alister McGrath writes in The Times that A system of belief should not involve point scoring.

Sunny Hundal writes in the Guardian about interfaith dialogues.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that People need something irrational.

Earlier in the week, he wrote at Cif belief about Why I still have faith in politicians.

Andrew Brown wrote there also, about David Hume’s comment policy.

Justin Lewis-Anthony wrote about Why George Herbert must die.


equality bill – committee stage begins

First, there is a Research Paper from the House of Commons Library concerning the bill, available as a PDF, see Research Paper 09/42.

Committee hearings have begun, and Hansard reports can be found linked from this page. A more user-friendly version can be found here at TheyWorkForYou.

Written evidence has been submitted by various organisations, all listed there.

Among them are these:

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

British Humanist Association


Discrimination Law Association

Trades Union Congress

Proposed amendments to the bill can be found here (click on Show+ Amendment Papers and Proceedings).

Ekklesia published on 2 June a study by Savi Hensman The Equality Bill 2008-9 and church responses to it.


mediation ends dispute in Colorado

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports ‘Everyone just agreed to walk away’ from Grace Church dispute.

Litigation over the Grace Church property downtown seemed destined to drag on for years.

But all that changed Tuesday.

In a marathon mediation session, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado agreed to drop its lawsuit against 18 Anglican parish members being sued for damages. Also several motions, including an appeal of the March 24 court decision upholding the diocese’s ownership of the Tejon Street church property, were quashed…

And there is this earlier report, Dispute over Grace church property settled.

A press release found at the website of the CANA congregation says:

June 3, 2009

St. George’s Responds to Settlement with the Diocese of Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – St. George’s Anglican Church issued the following statement in response to the settlement agreement reached with the Diocese of Colorado:

“We are pleased with the settlement, particularly since it relieved our staff and vestry members of the burden and expense of defending against $5 million in unjustified claims brought against them personally by the Diocese of Colorado and The Episcopal Church.

“The settlement reached also means that all the costs associated with maintaining the property of Grace Church and St. Stephens, including payment of the $2,500,000 mortgage, belong to the Episcopal congregation and the Diocese of Colorado.

“Our only remaining obligation is to pay final operational expenses we had incurred during our possession of the property, but were unauthorized to pay until this settled agreement was reached.

“We look forward to fulfilling God’s call to us for mission and ministry.”


RC adoption agency loses appeal

Updated again Saturday

Charity Finance reports Charity Tribunal dismisses Catholic adoption case

The Charity Tribunal has rejected the latest attempt by a catholic adoption charity to circumnavigate rules preventing it from discriminating against homosexual couples seeking to adopt children.

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) had sought to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which suggests that discrimination can occur if it is in pursuit of charitable objectives.

In its preliminary judgment in March, the Tribunal had ruled the exemption could only apply if the charity’s activities were not made unlawful by other provisions.

But at the final hearing last month, the charity was unable to demonstrate that it could operate in such a way.

See also Third Sector Online reports (registration required)

Children’s charity Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) has lost its appeal to the Charity Tribunal against the Charity Commission’s refusal to allow it to change its objects to allow its adoption service to discriminate against homosexual parents.

The charity wanted to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 that permits charities to discriminate on the grounds of “the provisions of a charitable instrument”, such as a governing document.

But in its first ever final judgement, the tribunal’s panel of three legal members, led by president Alison McKenna, concluded that Catholic Care would infringe other provisions in the regulations if it discriminated against homosexual parents and would therefore be operating unlawfully…

Two earlier reports from the same source:
Allow us to exclude gay people, Catholic adoption charity tells Charity Tribunal.
Adoption charities must justify equality law exemption

The decisions of the Charities Commission and the Charities Tribunal are all available online:

Charities Commission:
final decision (PDF) and summary here

Charities Tribunal: (all PDFs)
Directions Order with Ruling (7 January 2009)
Ruling on Preliminary Question (13 March 2009)
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v The Charity Commission for England and Wales decision (1 June 2009)

Other media reports:

Daily Mail Steve Doughty Catholic ban on adoption by same-sex couples is ruled illegal

Telegraph Catholic charities breaking law on homosexual adoption

Neil Addison writes at Religion Law Blog about this in Catholic Adoption Agencies lose case:

…What the agencies were trying to do was to change their objects so as to add the following

“The Charity shall only provide adoption services to heterosexuals and such services to heterosexuals shall only be provided in accordance with the tenets of the Church. For the avoidance of doubt the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from time to time shall be the arbiter of whether such services and the manner of their provision fall within the tenets of the Church”

They argued that this would enable them to operate because of the exemption for Charities under reg 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 which say

“18.—(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if—
(a) he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and
(b) the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument”

Mr Addison goes on to explain where he disagrees with the tribunal, why even if the agency had won it would have been a pyrrhic victory, and he also offers an alternative solution that he had recommended, but which was it seems rejected.

The Catholic Herald has reported on this, Judgment seals fate of adoption agencies. This includes:

However, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator allowed St Margaret’s Adoption and Child Care of the Archdiocese of Glasgow to change its charitable objects to continue its policy of assessing only heterosexual married couples and single people as adopters.

That has prompted a complaint from the National Secular Society, see Scottish Charity Regulator lambasted for caving in to Catholic Charity over gay adoption.

See also SNP and Catholic Church’s secret plan to sidestep legislation on gay adoptions in the Glasgow Sunday Herald.

Ekklesia has reported on the English case, and refers to the views of the LGCM RC Caucus, see Gay Catholics welcome rulings against adoption agency discrimination.

The publication of the proceedings before the Charities Tribunal has publicised the actual drafting of the proposed charitable objects which the Leeds and Birmingham agencies wished to adopt.

Both draft instruments relied upon the following paragraph to gain the desired exemption: “The Society shall provide adoption services only to heterosexuals and only in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic church”.

The Roman Catholic Caucus of LGCM points out that, contrary to the general press comment about the appeals by these adoption agencies, the agencies were not seeking permission to place children only with married couples. They were seeking to exclude all lesbian, gay and bisexual people from the ambit of their services, including those who choose to live their lives celibately in strict accordance with Catholic church teaching.

“This proposed object is blatantly contrary to Catholic church teaching,” comments the Caucus.

The Caucus says it also became clear in various discussions before the Charities Tribunal that the “adoption services” referred to include services to children who are to be placed or have been placed for adoption. The proposed wording would therefore have required the agency to ascertain the sexual orientation of any child who was placed for adoption as a condition of providing services to that child.

As the “adoption services” described include support after the child has been placed, this would also involve withdrawing after-care services to a family in which the adopted child comes out after the adoption has taken place. The LGCM Catholic Caucus says it considers that “most Catholics will find this proposal both offensive and contrary to the values of the Roman Catholic Church.”

The full text of the statement from the LGCM RC Caucus is available at Caucus reacts to Adoption Ruling.


secret theology committee

Updated again Saturday evening

Here’s a very surprising story from the USA about the Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Café Secret theology committee studies same sex relationships

The House of Bishops Theology Committee is refusing to release the names of members of a sub-committee it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. The existence of the panel was first reported in the Blue Book, which contains information relevant to General Convention, 2009. However, the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley of Alabama, chair of the Theology Committee has refused several requests to disclose the names of its members.

The anonymity of the panel raises serious concerns in the Church that prides itself on the transparency of its representative form of governance. In addition, the work of this secret panel has already been cited by some bishops as a reason to delay further legislative action on the issue of same-sex relationships until the panel finishes its work in 2011…

The Chicago Consultation has issued a press release:

…However, we are saddened that the House of Bishops Theology Committee has chosen to begin this important scholarly work without making public the names of the bishops, theologians and scholars who are serving on this panel. The theological study of human sexuality is essential to our common life, to our mission and evangelism, and to our ability to live out our baptismal promises. Such important work deserves to be no less than a model of the transparent governance that the Episcopal Church has upheld for centuries.

As theologians, priests, bishops and laypeople from across the Episcopal Church, we call upon the House of Bishops Theology Committee to release at once the names of those serving on the panel it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. We commit to praying for them by name and to providing our assistance as they continue their work…


EpiScope reports this statement From the HOB Theology Committee:

The following is a statement from the chair of the HOB Theology Committee.

By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops

In response to questions that have been raised about the panel of theologians appointed by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church, I wish to assure those concerned that the panel very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.

This project has been designed in full communication with the House of Bishops. It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage. We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them.

This project is designed to articulate theologically a full range of views on the matter of same sex relationships in the church’s life and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us. It will also be a contribution to the listening process of the larger Communion. It has several stages and is scheduled to be complete by early 2011. We are grateful to the distinguished theologians for their generous service to the church.

We wish to invite any member of the church who wishes to address the panel to send comments to the Theology Committee. We will see that these are communicated to the theologians to enrich their reflection and dialogue.

Comments should be directed to the chair of the committee, Bishop Henry Parsley, at

ENS has a full report now, see Bishops’ Theology Committee chair declines to release names of same-gender study group.

Saturday evening update

Here’s a further twist to this strange tale. Frank Lockwood reports at Bible Belt Blogger that

Facing criticism for withholding information from its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church has quietly removed from its new website assurances that the church is committed to openness and transparency in government.

For months, the site had proclaimed on its home page: “Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections…” (See a copy of the original message here.)

But sometime this week, after the church was repeatedly criticized for concealing key governance decisions from the people in the pews, the “transparency” and “openness” message disappeared.

Mark Harris doesn’t think this change is related to the above story. But even if it isn’t the original story is still very surprising. It even made the Church Times this week, see Name gay study group, say activists.


more Canadian news

Updated Thursday morning

Latest reports from the continuing court case in British Columbia:
Bishop knew of several dioceses blessing same sex unions before the Diocese of New Westminster did
Day 5 – Trial of ANiC Parishes v Diocese of New Westminster

And from the New Westminster diocesan synod:
No more parishes may bless same sex couples for forseeable future

From the Diocese of Toronto:
Bishop asks synod for advice on pastoral response

Anglican Journal

Diocese of Huron moves toward same-sex blessings but not nuptial

CoGS won’t ask for change to marriage canon in 2010

Updates Thursday

From New Westminster:
Bishop testifies he came to being in favour of a same sex blessing slowly

Diocese’s witnesses say they continue to be welcome in the Anglican Communion


Day 6 – ANiC Parishes v Diocese of New Westminster – June 2 09