Thinking Anglicans

The challenge of Islam

Updated Wednesday morning

Michael Nazir-Ali , who retires from his current post on Tuesday, has given his final interview, as Bishop of Rochester, to Martin Beckford at the Telegraph.

See Bishop of Rochester: Church of England must do more to counter twin threats of secularism and radical Islam.

However, he will be continuing to speak out on this topic, as evidenced by this announcement from a right-wing Washington DC think tank, the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

EVENT: Agressive Secularism, Multiculturalism, and the Islamist Threat
A Lecture with Bishop Michael James Nazir-Ali

As Jim Naughton notes at Episcopal Café in CANA and the coming campaign against Islam:

CANA is also announcing a new program on “the Church and Islam” led by Canon Julian Dobbs, formerly of the vigorously anti-Islamic Barnabas Fund.

See the CANA press release: CANA Announces the “Church and Islam Project” and the website The Church and Islam.

Update See also Bishop of Rochester to aid persecuted Christians in Islamic world by Ruth Gledhill.


Akinola's primacy reviewed

Updated Saturday 5 September

The Guardian in Lagos, Nigeria has published a lengthy article: Akinola’s Primacy: The Journey So Far by Gbenga Onayiga.

The article has already been removed from the Guardian website – this is apparently their normal practice, see comment below – but the full article remains available at Anglican Mainstream.

Another copy of the article is currently available here. (H/T titusonenine)

Consequent upon the retirement of the 2nd Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Revd J.A. Adetiloye in December 1999, Most Revd Peter J.Akinola was, by Divine providence, duly elected the 3rd Primate of the Church of Nigeria on Tuesday, February 22, 2000. Archbishop Akinola, who was called from the carpentry of wood and materials to the carpentry of the Church of God, eventually proved to be a master craftman, who visualises a design and then perfectly brings it to reality. Before his election, as Primate, Archbishop Akinola was the Dean, Church of Nigeria, the Archbishop of the Province III (Northern Dioceses) and Bishop of Abuja. He had by divine grace and enablement built the Diocese of Abuja literally from nothing to the most viable Diocese of the Church of Nigeria. Thus for those who knew him, it was little wonder that his emergence as the Primate would definitely take the Church of Nigeria to a very high pedestal…

The article concludes:

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but anyone who does not think that Akinola’s primacy is a resounding success will have an uphill task for a better comparison, as the Church has never had it so good. In fact, Archbishop Akinola has succeeded in putting the Primacy of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) at a level that will take a very long time to equal nationally, regionally and globally. By the foregone indications, he has immensely endowed the future generation of Anglicans in many unprecedented ways.

Perhaps the best we can do is pray for a worthy successor who will be humble enough to continue the good work already started by building on the foundation already laid. Such a successor will, of course, have to identify those areas of the vision that call for a general review, taking cognisance of today’s peculiarities and faithfully implementing them so as to take the church to the next level.

Gbenga Onayiga is the Diocesan Communicator, Anglican Diocese of Abuja.

Fr Jake has provided a helpful supplement to this article, see Akinola’s Primacy: The Rest of the Story. And a commenter there adds a link to the 2006 New York Times article which concludes with:

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”

Anyone who criticizes him as power-seeking is simply trying to undermine his message, he said. “The more they demonize, the stronger the works of God,” he said.


Salvation's goal

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote an essay at Episcopal Life Online under the title Salvation’s goal: returning all to right relationship.

I always am delighted when people listen to what I say in a sermon or address. Sometimes I am surprised by what they hear.

In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the “great Western heresy” of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren’t there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn’t clear!

Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.

The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as “getting right with God” without considering “getting right with (all) our neighbors,” then we’ve got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands…


August bank holiday opinions

The Guardian has two major interviews.
Bishop Gene Robinson I’m not the gay bishop – I’m just the bishop
Nick Gumbel interview transcript
The paper also carries related articles by the interviewers.
Aida Edemariam Gay US bishop attacks treatment of gay and lesbian clergy by Church of England
Adam Rutherford Nicky Gumbel: messiah or Machiavelli?

Jonathan Sacks writes in the Times Credo column on The good tensions between reason and revelation.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser asks Is salvation a bit like bankruptcy?

In The Guardian Andrew Brown writes about Fundamentalists in the police.

Earlier in the week H E Baber wrote in The Guardian Unverifiable God is still good. She says “We know the logical positivists were wrong. So what’s wrong with a God who makes no difference?”


MCU response to Williams and Wright

The Modern Churchpeople’s Union has published a critique of the responses of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham to the decision by the Episcopal Church of the USA (TEC), at its General Convention in July 2009, to abandon its earlier moratoria on same-sex blessings and openly homosexual bishops.

Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future: MCU’s reply to Drs Williams and Wright

Summary of the MCU paper

  • Both papers blame the American church for rejecting a consensus that homosexuality is immoral. There is no such consensus; there is only their dogma.
  • Even if there were a consensus, the institutions of the Anglican Communion have neither legal nor moral authority to impose it on provinces which dissent. Their claim to have this authority is an attempt to introduce a new authoritarianism.
  • The controversy about homosexuality can only be resolved by open, free debate about the ethics of homosexuality. These papers, instead of engaging in that debate, seek to suppress it.
  • A great deal of scholarly literature has recently argued for a revision of the traditional Christian disapproval of homosexuality. These papers deny knowledge of it, thus implying that their position is uninformed.
  • Both papers appeal to an idealising theory of the church in order to argue that it cannot ordain homosexuals or perform same-sex blessings. These theories neither describe what is happening in practice nor express characteristically Anglican views of the church.
  • Both papers deny that they seek to centralise power in international Anglican institutions, while at the same time proposing innovations designed to have exactly this effect.
  • Both papers look forward to an Anglican Covenant which would create a two-tier Anglicanism, such that only those committed to condemning homosexuality would have representative functions or be consulted on Communion-wide matters.

You can read the papers by the Archbishop and Bishop here:
Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future
Rowan’s Reflections: Unpacking the Archbishop’s Statement


SPCK bookshops latest

Staff sacked from the SPCK chain of bookshops have won a “substantial payout” to quote their union USDAW.
Sacked bookshop staff win payout

Pat Ashcroft reports on this in today’s Church Times Sacked staff see cash at last.
The BBC has Victory for workers sacked by e-mail.
The Church Times blog has Former SPCK workers win tribunal case.


mid-August opinions

Updated Monday evening

Catherine Fox writes in the Times Credo column that The Virgin Mary can test everyone’s assumptions.

Hillel Athias-Robles writes in The Guardian that Gay-friendly congregations can provide a nurturing spiritual community.

Also in The Guardian Andrew Brown writes in Heartbreaking progress that “the slow and painful progress of gay rights at the expense of traditional evangelical understandings can’t be stopped, because so many gay people are Christians”.

In his article Andrew Brown refers to a book review at Fulcrum. This review is well worth reading for its own sake, so here is a direct link.
Review of Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community


General Synod – questions and answers

A transcript of the questions asked at last month’s General Synod and the answers is now online.



Alyson Barnett-Cowan moves to ACO

ACNS reports Appointment of new Director for Unity, Faith and Order announced.

The Secretary General, Canon Kenneth Kearon, has announced the appointment of Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan as Director for Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office. The post is a new one in the Communion, and arose after some restructuring following the election of Canon Gregory Cameron, formally Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Deputy Secretary General, as Bishop of St Asaph in the Church in Wales.

Canon Barnett-Cowan is currently Director of Faith, Worship and Ministry of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, a post she has held since 1995. She has wide experience of the life of the Anglican Communion, having been a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion (2003-4) and of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (2000-2008). She is currently a consultant to the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission, and has been a member of the Plenary Commission, Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches…

The Anglican Journal has a report, Canadian woman priest appointed to prestigious Communion position.


South Carolina bishop makes proposals

The Diocese of South Carolina is in the news.

Associated Press via The Sun News Meeting to mull future of SC Episcopal diocese

Living Church S.C. Bishop Proposes Diocese Withdraw from TEC Governing Bodies

The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s Address to the Clergy, August 13, 2009

A summary of this can be found at Episcopal Café, see Bishop Lawrence speaks.


the narrow scope of the "religious exemption"

In considering the Equality Bill and its applicability to the Church of England and other religious organisations, it may be worth noting how narrow is the scope of the existing Clause 7(3) in the current Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. Clause 7(3) is the provision that provides an exemption to parts of the regulations when employment is for purposes of an organised religion.

What I mean by this is not the issue of to whom the exemption may apply, which has recently become a item of controversy, but the separate issue of to which parts of the regulations the exemption applies.

The corresponding wording of the Equality Bill in Schedule 9 is designed to replicate exactly the existing regulations. Here is the relevant wording of the current Regulation 7 (emphasis added):

7. – (1) In relation to discrimination falling within Regulation 3 (discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation) –

(a) regulation 6(1)(a) or (c) does not apply to any employment;

(b) regulation 6(2)(b) or (c) does not apply to promotion or transfer to, or training for, any employment; and

(c) regulation 6(2)(d) does not apply to dismissal from any employment,

where paragraph (2) or (3) applies.

These are the only clauses of the regulations to which clause 7(3) applies.

All other parts of the regulations apply even when employment is for purposes of an organised religion. This includes all other clauses within Regulation 6, and all other regulations, e.g. Regulation 4, Discrimination by way of victimisation, and Regulation 5, Harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. In connection with the latter, Regulation 6, Clause 3 reads:

(3) It is unlawful for an employer, in relation to employment by him at an establishment in Great Britain, to subject to harassment a person whom he employs or who has applied to him for employment.

Regulation 5 defines the term “harassment” for the purposes of these regulations.


Bishop Peter Selby to speak at WOTS

Bishop Peter Selby, the retired Bishop of Worcester and a long term supporter of Inclusive Church, is to speak at the Inclusive Church residential conference, Word on the Street. This will be held Monday 5th – Wednesday 7th October 2009.

His paper will be called “WHEN THE WORD ON THE STREET IS ‘RESIST’ – reflections on the present moment.” His offer follows the publication of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the Episcopal Church – “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future”.

For more information on this conference, see the latest newsletter here. Booking form available here.

In addition to the keynote speakers, as announced previously, the workshop leaders are:



Changing Attitude on the Bishop of Durham

Updated Tuesday

Changing Attitude has published the first of two articles concerning the Bishop of Durham’s comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections.

The first article is titled The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 1.

The Bishop of Durham’s paper claiming to ‘unpack’ the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections is dangerous for the Church of England, for LGBT people and for the worldwide Anglican Communion. People in the Changing Attitude network, gay and straight, are furious at his abuse and dishonesty. The paper reveals a bishop with a megalomaniacal drive to impose his own solution unilaterally on the Communion.

Durham would like The Episcopal Church and partnered LGBT people evicted from the Communion right now. His stand is unprincipled. The bishop has partnered lesbian and gay clergy in his own diocese and knows full well that there are many partnered clergy in the Church of England. Instead of addressing what he says is the impossibility of the church recognising same-sex blessings, he diverts attention away from home and focuses his attack on The Episcopal Church…

Part 2 is now published: The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 2

The Bishop of Durham claims to speak for the House of Bishops and to know the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury better than the Archbishop knows himself. He takes it upon himself to clarify and expand upon what the Archbishop ‘really meant’.


TEC and the CofE


Giles Goddard has written an article at Daily Episcopalian entitled TEC and C of E: the makings of a progressive alliance.

…The big question facing us all is how we respond to the suggestion of a two-track Communion. The feeling within the progressive groups of the Church of England is that such a thing should be resisted, and if the Covenant were to bring this about it, too, should be resisted. However, and this is a new thought for me, there may be another way. The Episcopal Church in Anaheim passed various resolutions which reaffirmed its inclusive polity and brought greater clarity about the way forward TEC may take. In that context, and having passed those resolutions, what is to stop TEC signing the Covenant? We are awaiting a further draft, but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it, as a sign of its mutual commitment and in the context of its present policy of ensuring that it is open to LGBT people both single and in relationships. Result; a Communion strengthened and affirmed in its breadth and diversity and once again bearing a global witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for the Church of England? We still have a long way to go. The measures to bring about full recognition of LGBT Christians are still a few years off, and as presently drafted the Covenant might delay those measures even further. Maybe the Church of England shouldn’t sign it. In which case, I suppose, we would be outside the main body while TEC would be inside. Now there’s a thought to conjure with…..

And there is more from Giles here in a report by Riazat Butt for the Guardian headlined Survey set to reveal number of gay clergy in Church of England.

…The Rev Canon Giles Goddard, rector of St Peter’s , Walworth, in London and chair of Inclusive Church, said: “It’s very early days but we need realistic information on how many LGBT clergy there are. It’s about demonstrating to people that we’re here and we need to be respected and recognised. We want to play our full role in the life of the church…


weddings, baptisms, blessings

The Church of England announced that it welcomed couples who already had children to get married. Last week, the Bishop of Wakefield explained this in an article in the Church Times Why the Church needs to welcome new weddings.

Now the Church is turning its attention to extending an extra welcome to couples with children, following Archbishops’ Council’s Weddings Project research in Bradford and Buckinghamshire, which found that one in five couples who come to church for a wedding already have children, together or from a previous relationship.

Nick Nawrockyi had a letter to the editor in the same issue, questioning the logic.

The House of Bishops stated in 2005: “Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.” What the Church is now saying is that we can offer you liturgical provision celebrating the fact that you’ve had children before marriage, but only because you’re heterosexual…

Meanwhile, Colin Coward wrote Civil Partnerships and gay marriage in England – the church’s nemesis. He concludes:

I think the conservative groups holding the church to ransom on gay blessings and the ordination of women bishops are doing untold harm to mission and evangelism in this country. The arguments for a change in teaching are as strong as those in favour of the abolition of slavery, the ordination of women, the acceptance of divorce and contraception. Change in teaching and practice is driven by Gospel imperatives of love and justice.

The general population and the majority of CofE members have got there more quickly than the senior bishops. The bishops are being held to ransom by the demands of other Provinces in the Anglican Communion and conservative pressure groups in the UK and North America.

The recent interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury and even more so by the Bishop of Durham have been disastrous for the Church of England, alienating it even more from the people inside and outside our churches. People yearn for spiritual resources, creative worship, integrity in leadership and truthfulness in preaching and teaching. They perceive the church to be prejudiced and dishonest.


opinions on other subjects

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that It’s the poor what gets the pain.

And Robin Gill writes No reason to fear the slippery slope.

Last week, Elaine Storkey wrote that The C of E’s theology on weapons is hidden under a bushel. See What does the Church stand for?

Martin Robbins writes in the Guardian that Christian and Islamist extremists in Nigeria are exporting dangerous ideas.

At The Times Roderick Strange writes about Feeding the five thousand, day after day, for ever.

Martin Beckford reports in the Telegraph that Gordon Brown insists Britain is still Christian country. Church Mouse is not impressed.


are war claims justified?

Updated again Monday morning

News coverage of this statement by 13 groups has been interesting.

First was Ruth Gledhill with New push for same-sex marriage, gay ordination in Church of England on her blog and Liberal Anglicans declare war on conservatives in the Church in The TImes .

Then there was Liberals question Archbishop on gay response from Toby Cohen at Religious Intelligence.

This was followed by ‘Not in our name’ pro-gay groups by Pat Ashworth at the Church Times.

Now Jonathan Wynne-Jones on his blog at the Telegraph has written Americans planning to start a civil war in the Church of England.
The Episcopal Café points out in One plus one equals six hundred sixty six, that only one American is identified.
His recent blog posting here is essentially a republication of an earlier article from last November.

Sunday update
Geoffrey Hoare has this further blog entry: The Blogosphere.

Monday update
And Mark Harris has noted what Bishop Anderson of the American Anglican Council said, first here, and then over here. And he also draws attention to the poll Should TEC set up in the UK? at Religious Intelligence.


more views on the Covenant

Andrew Brown wrote Covenant and Schism.

There may be some good reasons for the Church of England to sign up to the Covenant. But the bishop of Croydon’s are absurd.

Lionel Deimel wrote No Anglican Covenant. He has even produced a logo for this, in small and large sizes.

Mark Harris and the ACI have been holding a dialogue.
First, ACI wrote Communion And Hierarchy.

Mark Harris… makes a number of observations and comments, some more accurate and apposite than others. However, one observation/comment in particular stands out and deserves thoughtful consideration, namely his claim that the position about the nature and structure of the Anglican Communion articulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury implies a form of global governance and hierarchy that runs all the way down. Fr. Harris’ claim deserves careful consideration because it has become already the default position of progressive defenders of TEC’s recent actions, and will without doubt stand near the center of TEC’s defense of the actions of its General Convention…

Then Mark wrote Why direct diocesan sign-on now to the Covenant is a bad idea.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said… “the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.”

The Anglican Consultative Council determined that it was asking Provinces to consider the Anglican Covenant. That, of course, is appropriate, for the ACC is an “organization of organizations,” that is, its members are Churches. So the ACC asks its members (the Provinces) to respond to the Covenant. At that point the ACC is clear – it is Provinces, not dioceses, that are being asked to sign-on…

The ACI felt it necessary to respond to this, with More On Communion And Hierarchy.
Mark Harris responded again with Followup on Communion and Hierarchy, my article “Why direct sign on..,” etc.


Who cares about the Anglican schism?

Cif belief has this as Question of the Week: Who cares about the Anglican schism?

Dr Rowan Williams’s characteristically long and ruminative piece on the Anglican schism, or, as he would have it, the futures of Anglicanism, leaves one quite obvious question unanswered: what difference will any of this make?

The responses come from:

Harriet Baber Churchgoers don’t care

Graham Kings Federation isn’t enough

Davis Mac-Iyalla The church must recognise us

and, today, my own contribution: The English care about their clergy

It makes no sense to split over same-sex unions, when we are in communion with churches that already sanction them. And we will not let our LGBT clergy be hounded out.


Does the CofE offer any moral leadership?

Bruce Anderson wrote a column for the Independent earlier this week titled The great ethical questions that society chooses to ignore, in which he discusses assisted suicide and related topics. But he concludes with this passage (emphasis added):

The arguments are finely balanced. But that brings us to another problem. There is no argument. The level of moral debate in modern Britain is pathetically, contemptibly low. That is another undeniable sign of decadence, and we should all be ashamed. This applies a fortiori to the churches, which should be taking the lead. Instead, they appear to be suffering from a collapse of intellectual and theological self-confidence. That is especially true of the Church of England, which has ceased to offer any coherent moral leadership.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is said to be clever. The main evidence for this is his ability to dress up accessible thoughts in incomprehensible prose. Not many years ago, if a question such as attempted suicide had arisen, everyone would have wanted to know what the Archbishop thought. Now, no one is interested, and he is probably too busy anyway, writing another speech about homosexual clergy. He must be the most ineffective Archbishop of all time. Under his lack of leadership, his Church is giggling its way to oblivion.

Other sources of moral guidance must be found. The Roman Catholics have a difficulty: their version of the homosexual imbroglio is still causing difficulties and undermining their self-confidence. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, is an impressive figure, though less good at publicising himself than his predecessor, Lord Jakobovits. If it had not been for a couple of millennia of disputes, Margaret Thatcher would have loved to make him Archbishop of Canterbury.

But even if the Anglicans were in better shape, the churchmen cannot do everything, while too many philosophers are solely concerned with the meaning of meaning. If one wants to find contemporary intellectuals who are capable of addressing the big ethical questions, the best source is the judiciary. We need a Royal Commission, chaired by the retiring senior law lord, Tom Bingham.