Thinking Anglicans

late January opinion

Nicholas Sagovsky writes in The Guardian The City of God and the City and asks “Where are the reminders of the City of God in today’s market-driven developments?”

Andrew Brown, also in The Guardian, writes The historical Jesus and asks “Just what, if anything, does the earliest source tell us about Jesus as he appeared to non-Christians?”

Giles Fraser in the Church Times writes Go back to controls for casino banks.

Looking forward to Candlemas Geoffrey Rowell has a Credo column in the Times: Simeon’s triumphal cry heralds the coming of the light. “The feast of Candlemas is the encounter of human longing and brokenness with the healing love of God.”

John Packer, the bishop of Ripon and Leeds, writes in the Yorkshire Post Don’t stop the many migrants who have enriched Britain.


God's Call and Our Response

This is the title of a publication from the Chicago Consultation.

As the press release says:

Earlier this month, diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction were formally notified of the election of the Rev. Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Bishop-elect Glasspool is the second openly gay, partnered person to be elected bishop in the Anglican Communion.

The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirmed, through Resolution D025, that God calls partnered gay and lesbian people to all orders of ministry in the Episcopal Church. The Chicago Consultation believes that this position is consistent with traditional Anglican polity and theology. To aid standing committees and bishops with their role in the consent process, we have published a collection of essays by eminent theologians across the Episcopal Church…

God’s Call and Our Response is available as a PDF file.

It is is edited by the Rev. Dr. Ruth A. Meyers, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It includes essays by:

  • The Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall, Ph.D, Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
  • The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
  • The Rev. Dr. John Kater, Professor Emeritus of Ministry Development, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
  • Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor of Historical Theology, Episcopal Divinity School

More about the Chicago Consultation here.


News from Pittsburgh

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has a press release:

Today Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph James accepted a Special Master’s report detailing the properties the Judge has previously ruled should be controlled by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Special Master compiled his inventory following the Judge’s order of October 6, 2009, in which he ruled that a 2005 Stipulation agreed to by former diocesan leaders prevented them from continuing to hold diocesan assets.

Today’s order contains provisions intended to make it clear to the financial institutions holding the assets that they should now take their instructions only from designated representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The order, which takes effect immediately, also requires former diocesan leaders to provide ongoing cooperation to the Diocese to implement the provisions of the Order.

The Diocese plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds that were frozen by financial institutions during the legal proceedings.

A PDF of Judge James’ January 29th order and the public version of the Special Master’s report can be viewed by clicking here.

Lionel Deimel has additional information here, and more here. And even more here.


Equality Bill: Lords revision days 4 and 5

Monday was revision day 4. Wednesday was day 5 and this was originally supposed to be the final day, but now an additional day has been scheduled for Tuesday 9 February (during General Synod, so not so convenient for bishops, perhaps.)

On Monday, following the previously reported debates on Clause 2, amendments to Clause 3 were also considered. Both the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Winchester took part in this debate.

The Hansard report of that starts here. Monday’s PDF is here.

Then, on day 5, the Hansard report of the debate starts here. The PDF file for the day is over here.

Official news report of Day 5.

The day began by consideration of the mandatory retirement age. The Bishop of Chester spoke on that.

Then, amendments relating to faith schools were considered. That part of the debate starts here.

And there was a debate on amendments relating to whether or not the public equality duty should be extended to cover Religion or Belief. That debates starts here.

The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Liverpool both spoke in these debates. No votes were taken on anything.


Equality Bill: church press coverage

Today’s Church Times has three mentions of the bill.

There is a full news report of Monday’s debate, written by me, Bishops win in Equality Bill fight.

There is a leader, titled Opportunities not yet equal.

And there is comment on the secular press coverage of it in the Press Column (subscriber only until next week) by Andrew Brown.

THE Government’s defeat in the Lords over the Equality Bill was covered on remarkably simple left/right lines: for the right-wing papers, the issue was simply one of the freedom of the Churches from the oppressions of Harriet Harman and the European Union; for the Left, it was just as simply the freedom of gays to be employed…

The Church of England Newspaper devoted its entire front page to the bill. The main news story is reproduced over here.

Catholic Herald Anna Arco Government suffers Equality Bill defeat

More to follow.


ACNA motion: amendment

The text of the House of Bishops amendment to the ACNA motion is now available:

Item 14 Anglican Church in North America (GS 1764A and 1764B)

The Bishop of Bristol (the Rt Revd Mike Hill) to move as an amendment:

Leave out everything after “That this Synod” and insert:

“(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011”.


Blessed are the poor

As I sit typing this I can look out of the window over the city of Pune in the state of Maharashtra in India, about 100 miles south-east of Mumbai. The view comprises high-rise tower blocks, green lawns and trees, concrete and glass. It could be anywhere in the developed world (though the 30 °C temperature and sun virtually overhead in a cloudless sky at noon confirm that it is not England!). But I know that just across the road, and out of sight from here, are the shacks, corrugated steel sheds, and tents that everywhere are intermingled with the lives and buildings of richer Indians and their western business partners. Pune today is a rapidly-growing city, the eighth largest in India, with half a dozen universities and growing hi-tech industrial, IT and commercial sectors.

It was in a very much smaller Pune, then spelt Poona, that in 1927 the Christa Seva Sangha made its first real home. Founded in 1922 by five Indians and an Englishman this ashram or religious community — whose name means the Community of the Servants of Christ — intended to form a life of common service and equal fellowship for Indians and Europeans. The Englishman was Jack Winslow and the community soon attracted some attention in both India and England, which enabled it to move to Poona after a few years. Winslow’s account of the Society can be read online. Originally dedicated to St Barnabas, the Society soon added St Francis as joint patron, a dedication that became more important as it adopted a formal rule and vows.

In 1927 the community was joined by a number of new recruits, one of whom was a young priest called Algy Robertson, and by 1930 there were around 30 members. Robertson was convinced that the Sangha should be a Franciscan community, but after a few years his health broke and he returned to England. Still a member of the Sangha, he became vicar of St Ives, a dozen miles north-west of Cambridge, and the vicarage at St Ives became home to several Brothers of the community as well as a refuge for visitors from Poona. There are still those in St Ives (where I have lived and worshipped for twenty years or so) who can recall the Brothers living in the vicarage and cycling around the town and to nearby villlages. In 1936, however, Robertson’s group joined with another Franciscan community in England to form the Society of St Francis, with a rule largely written by Robertson and based on the principles of the Sangha in Poona. In 1937 Robertson resigned from St Ives to move to the new community at Hilfield, near Cerne Abbas in Dorset, where he was based for the rest of his life.

The Franciscan ideal of embracing poverty and the service of the poor is one that comes swiftly to mind in the streets of modern Pune, just as it must have done in the very different Poona of the 1920s and 30s, to Francis in the thirteenth century, and just as it must have done to an itinerant preacher from Nazareth two thousand years ago. The poor are still with us, and the priority of working for the alleviation of hunger, homelessness, disease and injustice is as necessary now as it was then.


Equality Bill: reports and reactions

Updated Wednesday evening

Telegraph Martin Beckford Gay couples should be allowed to ‘marry’ in church, Government minister says

George Pitcher The Church should bless civil partnerships – but they’re not weddings

At Cif:belief

Andrew Brown Secularism and bigotry and May church press officers be gay?

Savi Hensman Church leaders are wrong on equality

Terry Sanderson Let’s fight the church on equality

At Ekklesia

Lords vote to reduce protection for religious groups’ staff and Government to consider legal status for religious same-sex partnerships

Equality Bill and religious discrimination and Misrepresenting equality… and Christianity

What’s so civil about a civil partnership?

Also (this topic should be reached this afternoon):
Equality and employment in faith schools and Public bodies seek an end to religious discrimination against teachers

CARE Religious Liberty upheld in Lords vote on Equality

CCFON Praise God for the victory in the House of Lords!

Christian Institute Lords defeat Govt over church staff

Catholic News Service Britain’s House of Lords backs church arguments on Equality Bill

Catholic News Agency Religious freedom safeguards preserved by defeat of UK Equality Bill


Equality Bill: voting results on Clause 2

Updated twice Tuesday morning

All of the amendments proposed by Baroness O’Cathain and others were agreed today.

See here for what each amendment says.

Amendment 98 216-178 agreed by 38 votes

Amendment 99 agreed

Amendment 99A 174-195 disagreed by 21 votes (government amendment)

Amendment 100 177- 172 agreed by 5 votes

More details tomorrow. Eight bishops participated in these votes.


The Hansard record of the debate on the amendments of Baroness O’Cathain listed above starts here. The PDF version is over here.

Slightly earlier, the amendments of Lord Alli had been debated. That record begins here.

Official news report

Voting details:
Amendment 98
Amendment 99 – no division
Amendment 99A
Amendment 100

Press reports on all this are sometimes inaccurate on the voting figures. But here they are:

Telegraph Equalities Bill: Church leaders defeat Government over gay staff

BBC Government defeated three times over church gay plan

Reuters Government loses its Equality Bill faith proposals

Daily Mail Lords defeat for Harman over forcing churches to hire gays

Independent Peers defeat Government on church gay ban


Inclusive Church Lent Course

Inclusive Church has a new course for new and established Christians: Living Christianity – Everyday Bread.

We are pleased to launch LIVING CHRISTIANITY, a five part programme (ideal for a Lent Course) that takes the shape of the Eucharist to introduce Christian faith in the Inclusive tradition. “Living Christianity is a course to nurture new Christians, to refresh old ones and to catch up with people asking questions about the Christian faith. It has been written by leaders in parish ministry in the Church of England who are concerned to celebrate the breadth and diversity of traditional Anglicanism.”

Available as a book or Digital Download from

Participants’ notes cost £3.99 each, and the Leaders’ notes are £9.99 (or £5.99 to download in .pdf format.

There is an extract from one of the sessions on the web page.

The latest Inclusive Church newsletter is available here.


Equality Bill: media coverage

BBC Churches fear Equality Bill will conflict with faith

Guardian Afua Hirsch Equality bill: churches and campaigners demand clarity on religion’s exemption

Ekklesia Religion on the agenda as Parliament debates Equality Bill and Equality Bill addresses discrimination against Christians

Daily Mail Harriet Harman’s law ‘will force churches to hire gays’

Telegraph Half of older workers want to keep jobs past retirement age (this is not a story about bishops)

From the blogs:

Cranmer supports the amendments about Civil Partnerships, see Equality Bill: European Commission v the Church of Jesus Christ


Equality Bill: Clause 3

The bishops have not expressed any interest in Clause 3, the one which deals with discrimination on the ground of Religion or Belief. Here’s how it reads at present:

Other requirements relating to religion or belief

3. A person (A) with an ethos based on religion or belief does not contravene a provision mentioned in paragraph 1(2) by applying in relation to work a requirement to be of a particular religion or belief if A shows that, having regard to that ethos and to the nature or context of the work—
(a) it is an occupational requirement,
(b) the application of the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, and
(c) the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).

There are five amendments listed.

Amendment 101ZA Baroness Turner of Camden

in para (a) leave out “an” and insert “a genuine”

Amendment 101A Baroness Turner of Camden

at end insert—
“(d) A is not operating as a public authority, on behalf of a public authority or operating in relation to a contract with public authorities.”

Amendment 101B Lord Lester of Herne Hill

at end insert—
“Paragraph 3 does not apply when A is operating—
(a) on behalf of a public authority, and
(b) under the terms of contract between the organisation and the public authority.”

Amendment 101C Baroness Turner of Camden

at end insert—
“The exception under paragraph 3 shall not be used to justify discrimination on any other protected ground.”


Churches panic over Equality Bill

Comment is free: belief has today published an article written by me, see

Churches panic over equality bill.


Equality Bill: the purposes paragraph

The bishops say in their press release that they are supporting three specific amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Equality Bill. Here is the detail of the third one. As before, please remember two things:

– this clause does not deal with discrimination on the grounds of Religion or Belief, that is covered in Clause 3.

– this clause deals with a variety of other requirements as listed in paragraph 4.

Amendment 100 is sponsored by Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

This removes paragraph 8 entirely, thus:

(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the employment wholly or mainly involves— (a) leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion, or (b) promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).

There is no such wording in existing legislation.

Before that amendment is considered, Amendment 99A will be moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, on behalf of the government. This amendment inserts the following wording at the end of paragraph 6, leaving paragraph 8 unchanged. However, Baroness Royall has stated that if Amendment 99A is passed, the government will accept Amendment 100.

”( ) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—
(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or
(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).”

The government says that this is only a clarification of the existing law, and does not constitute any change. It refers to the statement made by Lord Sainsbury of Turville in the House of Lords in 2003:

“When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion.” [Official Report, House of Lords, 17 June 2003; Vol. 649, c. 779.]

The bishops say “the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted.”

What they ask is for candidates for “a small number of lay posts”, or more exactly “certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion” to be required “to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion”.

There are two other amendments being proposed to Clause 2.

In Amendment 97E Lord Alli proposes to delete paragraph (4f) thus

(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.

In Amendment 100A Baroness Turner of Camden proposes to insert three words in paragraph 8, thus:

-(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the purpose of the employment wholly or mainly involves etc.


Equality Bill: the proportionality test

The bishops say in their press release that they are supporting three specific amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Equality Bill. Here is the detail of the first two. Please remember two things:

– this clause does not deal with discrimination on the grounds of Religion or Belief, that is covered in Clause 3.

– this clause deals with a variety of other requirements as listed in paragraph 4.

Amendments 98 and 99 are sponsored by Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

These amendments have the following effect:

(5) The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the application is a proportionate means of complying requirement is applied so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.

(6) The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the application is a proportionate means of avoiding conflict requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

The wording that they seek to delete was not in Clause 7 of the 2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, nor was it in the The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 amending Clause 19 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, both of which are to be replaced by this Schedule.

The proportionality principle is however a requirement of the European Employment Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000.

Article 4

Occupational requirements

1. Notwithstanding Article 2(1) and (2), Member States may provide that a difference of treatment which is based on a characteristic related to any of the grounds referred to in Article 1 shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of the particular occupational activities concerned or of the context in which they are carried out, such a characteristic constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.

2. Member States may maintain national legislation in force at the date of adoption of this Directive or provide for future legislation incorporating national practices existing at the date of adoption of this Directive pursuant to which, in the case of occupational activities within churches and other public or private organisations the ethos of which is based on religion or belief, a difference of treatment based on a person’s religion or belief shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of these activities or of the context in which they are carried out, a person’s religion or belief constitute a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement, having regard to the organisation’s ethos. This difference of treatment shall be implemented taking account of Member States’ constitutional provisions and principles, as well as the general principles of Community law, and should not justify discrimination on another ground.

Provided that its provisions are otherwise complied with, this Directive shall thus not prejudice the right of churches and other public or private organisations, the ethos of which is based on religion or belief, acting in conformity with national constitutions and laws, to require individuals working for them to act in good faith and with loyalty to the organisation’s ethos.

Or in other words, the Directive contains a strict test which must be satisfied if a difference of treatment is to be considered non-discriminatory: there must be a genuine and determining occupational requirement, the objective must be legitimate and the requirement proportionate. No elements of this test appear in Regulation 7(3).

1 Comment

Opinion this week

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times Repent of a theology of blame

Harriet Baber has a Face to Faith article in The Guardian Evangelical US megachurches like Saddleback are market-driven, with transcendence not on the menu

Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times about preachers Spreading the word of preaching, from the transcendent to the bumbling
and about cathedrals in MPs want crumbling cathedrals to get Government cash

Alan Wilson wrote on Cif belief about The media’s trouble with religion


Equality Bill: statement from three bishops

Church of England press release received at 11 am Saturday

Equality Bill: ‘Churches must not face further restrictions’

23 January 2010

A statement issued on behalf of the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and Chair of the Churches Legislation Advisory Service and the Rt Revd Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, as bishops who have taken a keen interest in the progression of the Bill:

“This Monday, as Peers meet to consider the Government’s Equality Bill, they will be asked to vote on an issue of great importance to Christians and all people of faith. At stake is how we, as a liberal democracy based on Christian values, strike the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups to be protected from harassment and unfair discrimination and the rights of churches and religious organisations to appoint and employ people consistently with their guiding doctrine and ethos.

“The Christian Churches, alongside many other faiths, support the Equality Bill’s wider aims in promoting fairness in society and improving redress for those who have suffered unjust treatment.

“However, unless the present drafting of the Bill is changed, churches and other faiths will find themselves more vulnerable to legal challenge than under the current law. When regulations on employment discrimination were passed as recently as 2003, churches and other faiths were granted certain limited exemptions by parliament to be used when recruiting ministers of religion or others to a small number of lay posts. These enabled religious organisations to apply requirements that candidates for certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion are able to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion, as well as sharing the faith.

“The government have said that they share our view – that the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted. Yet they are proposing to modify them. They have produced no convincing case for change. They have now offered to amend their original proposals in the Bill but instead of reverting to the status quo have produced words which will still create difficulties for churches and religious groups. This despite our raising the problem many months ago and offering various ways of resolving the issue.

“We must conclude therefore that the only way to maintain the status quo in exemptions for religious organisations is for Peers to support amendments 98, 99 and 100 on Monday, tabled by Baroness O’Cathain and the Bishop of Winchester, over and above the Governnment’s compromise amendment 99A.”


Equality Bill: Friday update

There are further reports about this today:

In the Church Times there is a report by me, subscriber-only until next Friday, headlined Change fails to silence critics. A longer account by me is below.

In the Catholic Herald Simon Caldwell has a report headlined Equality Bill still a threat, say bishops.

On the other hand, the National Secular Society has a press release, NSS battles to minimise religious opt outs in Equality Bill.

A new Marshalled List of Amendments has been published. I will review the changes in a later post.

What follows is my full account of events of the past week.

The Government’s efforts to clarify the exemption for churches in the Equality Bill have not been welcomed by either the Archbishops’ Council or the Roman Catholic bishops conference. The Bill is due to complete its Committee stage in the House of Lords next week.



Church of England statistics

updated Friday evening and Saturday morning to include more press reports

The Church of England has released provisional attendance figures for 2008: Provisional attendance figures for 2008.

There is a press release summarising and commenting on the figures. The full text of the press release is reproduced below the fold.

The think-tank Ekklesia has published its views on the figures: Church of England sees greater decline in church attendance.
Andrew Brown writes in his blog in The Guardian Church statistics: not many dead.
Riazat Butt writes in The Guardian Church of England attendance falls for fifth year in row.
Andy Bloxham and Martin Beckford in the Telegraph write Average age of churchgoers now 61, Church of England report finds.
Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times Church of England congregations fall again, and half are pensioners.

Also published today is research surveying of the diversity of Church of England congregations: Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England.



General Synod agenda – more press reports

The Church Times reports on the agenda for February, Margaret Duggan writes Synod’s ‘full agenda’ to include pensions, Fresh Expressions, and religion on TV.

And, in a separate article, Pat Ashworth writes Synod to debate the ACNA. More details of that motion with full copies of the two background papers (and our main discussion of it) can be found here.

The BBC reported Anglican dissidents put back decision on Vatican offer.

In connection with the preceding item, the Church TImes also has an article by Bill Bowder on a meeting earlier this week at Westminster Abbey: Rome not ‘escape hatch’ Abbey conference hears.

And the Carlisle-based News and Star reports Retired Cumbrian producer attacks BBC over religious coverage.