I have not posted here about the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill for a whole month.
However, the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda has this week issued a statement. This body consists of: the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, the Church of Uganda, the Uganda Orthodox Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
See also the analysis of this statement at Box Turtle Bulletin.
The earlier statement from the Church of Uganda was reported here.
Also, this article was published by the Washington Post on Friday In Africa, a step backward on human rights by Desmond Tutu.15 Comments
The Anglican Church of Canada has issued a Communiqué from the Dialogue of African and Canadian Bishops.
For a little over a year, five Canadian and six African dioceses have engaged in diocese-to-diocese theological dialogue on matters relating to human sexuality and to mission. With one exception, each diocese has established a theological working group to prepare papers and responses which were shared with their partner diocese on the opposite continent (see below for list of participants). Ontario and Botswana exchanged documents related to sustainability in the context of mission. These dialogues have emerged from, and are a deepening of, relationships established during the Indaba and Bible Study processes at the Lambeth Conference of 2008…
From February 24 to 26, the bishops of these dioceses met at the Anglican Communion Office, St. Andrew’s House in London, England. In a context grounded by common prayer and eucharistic celebration we reflected together on our local experiences of mission and the challenges facing the Church in our diverse contexts. Though the initial exchange of papers had been related in most cases to matters of human sexuality and homosexuality in particular, our face to face theological conversation necessarily deepened to explore the relationships between the Gospel and the many particular cultural realities in which the Church is called to mission…
There is a further report from ENS by Matthew Davies, see African, Canadian bishops engage in theological dialogue.
…The Rev. Canon Phil Groves, facilitator of the Anglican Communion Listening Process, told ENS he was “delighted” by the dialogue. “This initiative of the Anglican Church of Canada is a direct response to the call of ACC 13 for participation in mutual listening,” he said, referring to Resolution 12 passed by the 13th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policy-making body.
Speaking about the meeting of African and Canadian bishops, Groves said: “It was a privilege for me to be invited to participate in their final day and to hear of their common commitment to mission in the way of Christ. Such dialogues build up trust and are a source of hope for the future of the communion.”
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about In defence of cash and the City.
This week The Question in The Guardian’s Comment is free section has been Should religious leaders tell us how to vote? Is political activism on the part of church, mosque or synagogue, in the run-up to an election, acceptable?
Here are the replies.
Terry Sanderson The dangers of dishonesty. Religious influence on the political process is at its most pernicious when it is hidden.
Harriet Baber Render unto Caesar … Religious groups are free to express their opinions, but these should not be accorded any special privilege in the secular realm.
Nick Spencer Pope Gregory’s ghost. We’re haunted by the idea that religious figures might influence the political process. But would that be such a disaster?
Tehmina Kazi My vote is my choice. General guidance is all very well. But it’s not the place of religious leaders to provide a list of approved candidates.
Austen Ivereigh The Catholic bishops get political. Terry Sanderson paints the Catholic bishops’ pre-election statement as a cliche-ridden ‘damp squib’. Judge for yourself.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, has given a lecture on The finality of Christ in a pluralist world.
In a Sacred Mysteries column in the Telegraph, The way Jesus read the Bible, Christopher Howse looks at ‘Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI’.
In a Credo column in the Times Roderick Strange writes that Penance should not be a burden but the key to joy. Let’s use prayer and penance this Lent to discover a new awareness of the divine presence.7 Comments
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has today published another report which considers the Equality Bill. Read the report starting here, or there is a PDF version here. For their earlier report, see over here.
Here is the summary of their latest findings on the Equality Bill:
In this Report, we return to two issues raised in our autumn 2009 report on the Equality Bill: employment by organisations based on religion or belief and school admissions.
Employment by organisations based on religion or belief
The Bill as introduced (and as passed the Commons) permitted a requirement to be of a particular sex, sexual orientation, marital or partnership status or not to be transsexual to be applied to employment for the purposes of an organised religion, but only if it could be shown to be a proportionate means of complying with the doctrines of the religion. The Bill also included a definition of what constituted employment for the purposes of an organised religion. Both of these qualifications have been removed in the House of Lords and the Government has stated that it will not try to restore them when the Bill returns to the Commons. The original wording of the Bill would have ensured that statute law accurately reflected case law, in the light of the Amicus judgment. The Lords amendments run the risk of generating uncertainty about the law and may mean that this provision does not comply with the relevant EU directive.
We also note further issues concerning the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and question why sections 58 and 60 of the former Act are exempted from the Equality Bill.
We do not find persuasive the argument that it is necessary to allow faith schools to discriminate in their admissions on grounds of religion and belief in order to avoid a breach of the parents’ rights under Article 2 Protocol 1 of the European Convention. Another argument is that discrimination is necessary in order to maintain the distinctiveness of religious schools and so maintain the plurality of provision which, it is argued, is required by both Article 9 and Article 2 Protocol 1. This argument is weakened by evidence which suggests, in relation to Church of England schools, that plurality of provision has been preserved even where those schools do not have faith-based admissions criteria. It carries more weight in relation to other faith schools, however. In consequence, the exemption permitting faith schools to discriminate in their admissions on grounds of religion or belief may be overdrawn in this Bill.
In their subsequent detailed discussion of the first of these issues, they refer to the recent EC Reasoned Opinion and in a footnote provide a link to the complete text of it as a PDF. The concluding paragraphs of that discussion say:
1.11 In the absence of any narrowing or clarification of either Schedule 9(2) or 9(3) we share the view of the European Commission that UK law does not comply with the Framework Equality Directive
1.12 We note that further issues exist in respect of sections 58 and 60 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA), which in reserving a certain proportion of posts in state-maintained or aided ‘faith schools’ for individuals who adhere to the religious beliefs and ethos of the school in question may be in breach of the Framework Equality Directive 200/78/EC, on the basis that the reservation of such posts is not restricted to circumstances where it can be shown that a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement to adhere to a particular religious belief can be said to exist.
Their Conclusions and Recommendations state:
Employment by organisations based on religion or belief
1. In the absence of any narrowing or clarification of either Schedule 9(2) or 9(3) we share the view of the European Commission that UK law does not comply with the Framework Equality Directive. (Paragraph 1.11)
2. We note that further issues exist in respect of sections 58 and 60 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (SSFA), which in reserving a certain proportion of posts in state-maintained or aided ‘faith schools’ for individuals who adhere to the religious beliefs and ethos of the school in question may be in breach of the Framework Equality Directive 200/78/EC, on the basis that the reservation of such posts is not restricted to circumstances where it can be shown that a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement to adhere to a particular religious belief can be said to exist. (Paragraph 1.12)
3. Provisions of Section 37 of the 2006 [Education and Inspections] Act have also widened the ability to reserve certain posts filled by non-teaching staff. These provisions may constitute a breach of the principle of non-regression in EU law. (Paragraph 1.13)
4. We question why sections 58 and 60 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 are exempted from the Equality Bill. (Paragraph 1.14)
5. The exemption permitting faith schools to discriminate in their admissions on grounds of religion or belief may be overdrawn in this Bill. (Paragraph 1.21)
There is a leader today, Legal protection for clerical consciences.
A LITTLE historical perspective might help those who are alarmed at the consequences of the amendment to the Equality Bill passed in the House of Lords at the end of last month. The effect of it, if the Bill survives intact, would be to permit same-sex partnerships to be solemnised in Quaker meetings, Unitarian churches, and Liberal synagogues. Much attention was given last week to the fears expressed by the Bishops of Winchester and Bradford that clerics would be compelled to register civil partnerships, under threat of legal action for exercising discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Political parties are considering the possible consequences on votes in the forthcoming election. There is even a petition being got up to have the amendment thrown out.
Two points are perhaps worth bearing in mind…
The article mentioned in the leader Quakers seek liberty for gay couples is subscription-only until next Friday. So also are several letters, and a discussion of newspaper reports in the Press column.6 Comments
The Church of England has published a note entitled Lord Alli’s amendment – civil partnerships. I am told that this was published on 5 March.
Key points regarding Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill:
- the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament so may not yet be in its final form
- even once Royal Assent is achieved Ministers have to decide when each of its provisions are brought into force
- and in this case there will also have to be fresh amending regulations before there is the possibility of places of worship becoming locations for civil partnerships
- so, there is much that remains unclear for the moment and will remain so for quite some time yet.
Lord Alli’s amendment inserts a new clause into the Equality Bill that would remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships. It does not, however, mean that anyone who wishes to do so will now be able to register a civil partnership in church – the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament.
First, the Government need to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”.
Secondly, the new provision, if contained in the Bill as enacted, would not have effect until it was brought into force by order made by the Secretary of State. Given that existing Regulations make it impossible for religious premises to be approved for civil partnership registration, those Regulations would have to be amended before the new provisions could be brought into force. Amending those Regulations will, itself, require careful consideration.
As matters currently stand it remains the case that civil partnerships cannot be registered on religious premises. Precisely how that position may change remains to be seen.
The Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England has updated its guidance note on “Countering far right political parties, extremist groups and racist politics”. You can read the January 2010 version here: Countering Racist Politics. (PDF also available)
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has very comprehensive information at general election churches getting ready including two resource documents:
These can both be downloaded from here.
And there is a Find a Hustings page.
CCFON has announced that the former Bishop of Rochester, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is to host a series of General Election Hustings across England in order to help local Christians question candidates for Westminster seats.1 Comment
Ekklesia has a press release, Bishops urged to play leading role in reform of House of Lords.
The religion and society think-tank Ekklesia has today teamed up with democracy campaign Power2010 in an initiative to urge Church of England bishops to take a lead in reforming the House of Lords.
Local churches and others are being encouraged to contact bishops, and ask them to continue in their support for the ‘bottom up’ campaign to reinvigorate democracy, which saw 100,000 votes cast, many in support of a reformed Second Chamber.
Several bishops have previously spoken favourably about Power2010, which aimed to identify five key political reforms.
A public vote, which finished on 22 February 2010, saw an all elected second chamber supported as the third most popular reform…
And a further article is titled Come on board for Lords reform, bishops urged.
From today, people are able to email all the bishops with a fully customisable message set up through the Power2010 website: http://www.power2010.org.uk/faith Hundreds have done so already, say organisers.
(At the time of writing this article, over 16,000 emails have been sent.)
From the Power2010 blog, there is Join our call for Bishops to back reform of the Lords.15 Comments
From Los Angeles, we learn that Mary Glasspool has now received the required number of consents from standing committees of TEC dioceses. Consents from the bishops with jurisdiction are still awaited. See Los Angeles diocesan report here, and ENS report over here.
From South Carolina, there is news of resolutions to be considered at the 26 March diocesan convention. See the full text of these resolutions (also available as a PDF). ENS has a report titled Convention to consider resolutions on Episcopal identity, diocesan authority.
Hearings are due soon in lawsuits in both Fort Worth and Virginia:
In Islington registrar loses appeal we reported on the Court of Appeal decision last December.
Now, Lillian Ladele has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
See Martin Beckford Telegraph Christian registrar denied leave to appeal gay wedding refusal.17 Comments
Updated Tuesday evening
The diocese has issued a press release: Bishop of Liverpool calls for Anglicans to “accept a diversity of ethical convictions about human sexuality”.
Ekklesia has reported the address as Evangelical bishop “in sympathy” with same-sex partnerships.
Colin Coward of Changing Attitude has welcomed the bishop’s address in James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool calls for Anglicans to “accept a diversity of ethical convictions about human sexuality”.
But Andrew Goddard at Fulcrum does not agree with most of what the bishop has written: Accepting Ethical Diversity?: A Critical Appraisal of the Bishop of Liverpool’s Presidential Address.
And Anglican Mainstream has Bishop James Jones muddies the waters again.
Colin Coward has written a response to Andrew Goddard’s article: Reactions to the Bishop of Liverpool – Andrew Goddard on Fulcrum.
Lord Alli has written on the Telegraph website about the amendment passed in the House of Lords last week, and the ensuing discussion, see A victory for religious freedom. It reads in part as follows:
…There was nonetheless huge concern from the Church of England and the Catholic Church that they would be forced – against their will – to host Civil Partnerships.
But we had included a specific provision in the amendment to ensure religious freedom which stated quite plainly: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host Civil Partnerships if they do not wish to do so.”
Religious freedom means letting the Quakers, the Unitarians and the Liberal Jews host Civil Partnerships: a decision that they had considered in prayer and decided in conscience.
But religious freedom also means respecting the decision of the Church of England and the Catholic Church – decisions also made in prayer and taken in conscience – that they do not wish to do so.
That is what we agreed during the debate, and trying to pretend otherwise is to entirely misrepresent the way which this decision was taken.
I was therefore saddened by the Bishop of Winchester, who tried to characterise this debate by suggesting that Church of England vicars will be forced to host Civil Partnerships in their building.
Let’s not pretend that this amendment forces anything onto anyone. Let’s not pretend that individual clergy are going to face litigation. Let’s not pretend that churches will have to close just for obeying Church of England law.
This amendment was all about allowing religious groups to obey their own law, and the Bishop of Winchester should be above sensationalising the issue.
I was also saddened that the Bishop of Winchester was able to condemn our decision in the press, but didn’t turn up to listen to the debate, or indeed to cast a vote.
Out of the 26 bishops entitled to be there, only two made the effort to join the discussion – despite it being an otherwise well-attended debate.
You have to ask the question: if it was so important, if the consequences of this decision were to be so catastrophic, why were they absent from a debate which had been on the diary for weeks?
So let me assure the Bishop of Winchester and all those concerned: unless their religious organisation wants it, or unless Parliament changes the law, there is absolutely no risk of being forced to carry out any ceremony if they do not wish to…
The newspaper edition reports the story in a separate article, see Lord Alli attacks bishops in ‘gay marriage’ row.27 Comments
Lord Carey has complained that Christians are being bullied in the UK; see for example this Church Times report.
In response Riazat Butt in The Guardian asks Who’s bullying who? Lord Carey thinks Christians are being bullied by the political establishment. In reality, they enjoy many privileges.
And Frank Skinner in the Times writes Persecute me – I’m after the Brownie points. We Christians thrive as a minority. A bit of strict us-and-them keeps up the quality.
Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian about The whited sepulchres of Anglicanism
Bishops praising religious liberty are as phony as Thatcherites praising compassion
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Gormley leaves a note at St Paul’s.
Richard Harries writes in the Times How could I be a Catholic, stuck in the past?
and Dwight Longenecker responds with Is there any such thing as a “Catholic-minded Anglican?”
Edward King, bishop of Lincoln, died on 8 March 1910. To mark the centenary, the archbishop of Canterbury had spoken to Crosslincs, the Lincoln diocesan magazine: Bishop of the Poor: Edward King reinvented the role of diocesan bishop.
Christopher Howse in the Telegraph asks How can God be inside us?
Peter Townley in a Times Credo column writes For human endeavour, we should read divine initiative. The key theme is power and how we use it as we journey with the Lord into the desert this Lent.
James Jones, bishop of Liverpool, gave an address to his diocesan synod today about allowing a variety of ethical conviction in the church.
Just as Christian pacifists and Christian soldiers profoundly disagree with one another yet in their disagreement continue to drink from the same cup because they share in the one body so too I believe the day is coming when Christians who equally profoundly disagree about the consonancy of same gender love with the discipleship of Christ will in spite of their disagreement drink openly from the same cup of salvation.
The Quaker position is admirably explained in a booklet, available starting here: We are but witnesses: same sex marriages (also there is a PDF version linked from there).
Ekklesia has two items:
Symon Hill writes about Scaremongering and religious liberty and he concludes:
…Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, has predicted (with no evidence whatsoever) that the Bill will lead to clergy being sued for refusing to carry out such ceremonies. It is frustrating that the media should pay so much attention to such an unfounded prediction, let alone that a national daily paper should lead with a headline wording this prediction as fact.
Since the vote in the Lords, those who are afraid of religious same-sex partnerships have latched on to Scott-Joynt’s wild warnings as an excuse for opposing the legislation. Knowing how mean it would appear to refuse religious liberty to others, they claim instead that it is their own religious liberty which is under threat.
It is sad that some seem to think that a thing must either be prohibited or compulsory, and cannot be optional. It says a great deal about their world view that they are unable to envisage a situation of real religious liberty, in which different groups can promote their views and values through dialogue and persuasion rather than coercion and the misuse of law.
Iain McLean A reply to Michael Scott-Joynt over religious civil partnerships and here is an extract:
…The issues which still divide us seem to be:
Does passing the Alli amendment send us down a slippery slope? The Times and Telegraph reports on what you say about this are, I think, rather uncritical. I am surprised that the Government Equalities Office has not commented on them, since, as you know, Lord Alli and the three denominations that sought his amendment all insist that it is designed to apply only to those denominations that request it, hence the ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ clause that he added in the version that was carried in the Lords.
Neither the Quakers nor the Church of England are congregationalist. Our Yearly Meeting decided to seek what is now the Alli amendment. It is, presumably, for your Synod to discuss the same subject and come to its own view. If it does not wish to offer civil partnerships in church, how might your (and/or Lord Tebbit’s) nightmare unfold?
Case 1: an incumbent conducts a civil partnership ceremony in defiance of his/her bishop. But the ceremony would have no legal standing unless the incumbent had applied to be a ‘religious organisation’. I am sure the regulations can be drafted so as to ensure that applications to conduct civil partnerships are only entertained from the highest judicatory of the denomination.
Case 2: a militant same-sex couple apply to a church for a partnership purely in order to sue the vicar after the application is refused. First, I deplore the efforts of Ben Summerskill, Peter Tatchell and others to use the Alli amendment as a wedge to drive civil partnership into an unwilling Church of England. Nor was the letter to The Times that some of your colleagues signed so intended. I drafted it to make clear that it was not about the Church of England.
Second, I cannot see how such an action would get anywhere in a UK court in the face of the clear wording of the Alli amendment. In recent discrimination cases, the courts have been unsympathetic towards politically motivated anti-discrimination claims.
Case 3: a loving same-sex couple do the same, in sorrow rather than anger. It would be very peculiar for them to put their litigiousness ahead of their love. If they are comfortable with the usage of Friends and willing to follow the (quite onerous) requirements laid down in Quaker Faith and Practice to test their commitment, then I hope they would choose that route. I am sure the Unitarians would also welcome them.
In none of those three cases do I see any road to Strasbourg.
Maintaining the distinction between civil partnership and marriage….
First, the Church Times has this report, written by me, on this week’s debate in the House of Lords, Religious bodies can host gay ceremonies, say peers.
Last week’s report, also by me, is now available to non-subscribers, see Civil partners: call for religious option.
This morning, Martin Beckford reports in the Telegraph that Harriet Harman could kill off ‘gay marriages in church’ plan.
In the same paper, Norman Tebbit writes about Why I tried to stop Lord Alli forcing through same-sex church ‘weddings’.
Church Society has a press release, Religious Ceremonies for Civil Partnerships.
Changing Attitude has Changing Attitude’s goals and bishop’s changing attitudes.
Jonathan Bartley has Gay Church blessings and a crisis of faith: Fisking Damian Thompson.10 Comments
The District of Columbia in the USA recently became the sixth jurisdiction in the USA to enact a change to its civil marriage laws, to permit same-sex couples to get married. The five others are New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont.
The law went into effect this week, after the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court declined to order a delay.
Episcopal Bishop: Priests may preside at civil marriages in D. C.
Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Washington may preside at civil same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia under guidelines released today by Bishop John Bryson Chane. No priest is required to preside at such ceremonies.
“Through the grace of Holy Baptism, there are no second class members of the Body of Christ, “ Chane said. “We are of equal value in the eyes of God, and any one of us may be called by the Holy Spirit into holy relationships as well as Holy Orders.”
At its General Convention in July, the Episcopal Church granted bishops with jurisdiction where civil same-sex marriage is legal the discretion to “provide generous pastoral responses to meet the needs of members of this church.” Chane joins bishops in Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in permitting clergy to preside at civil same-sex marriages. Diocesan clergy in Washington have long been permitted to offer liturgical blessings to same-sex couples.
Chane’s guidelines do not specify what rites clergy may use when officiating at a civil marriage. “I would prefer to work that out in consultation with the clergy who will be performing these services,” he said…
For more background, see the ENS report by Mary Frances Schjonberg WASHINGTON: Priests may preside at civil marriages in D.C.
See Swords crossed over a crucifix for what this is about.
Lautsi v. Italy (application no. 30814/06)
CRUCIFIX: THE CASE OF LAUTSI v. ITALY WILL BE EXAMINED BY THE COURT’S GRAND CHAMBER
The five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber, meeting on 1 and 2 March 2010, accepted the referral request relating to the case of Lautsi v. Italy submitted by the Italian Government on 28 January 2010. The case will therefore be examined by the Grand Chamber, which will give its ruling in a final judgment…3 Comments
Bruce Kaye, who is an Australian theologian, has published a series of articles about the Anglican Covenant. Here are some links:14 Comments
There’s some more writing about this. Earlier items here.
Martin Beckford and Heidi Blake Clergy could be sued if they refuse to carry out ‘gay marriages’, traditionalists fear and later version Vicars could be sued if they refuse to carry out gay marriages
Bradford Argus Kathie Griffiths Concerns are expressed over gay partnership debate in Lords
Ekklesia Campaigners and faith groups welcome same-sex partnerships vote and Simon Beard How can I keep from singing? and Jonathan Bartley “It’s all about us”: Ethnocentrism over religious civil partnerships
Christian Institute Clergy may face court over civil partnerships18 Comments
Updated Sunday evening
The amendment passed by the House of Lords earlier this week affects two sections of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. One of these sections, 6A, was itself an amendment to the Act, and came in the Civil Partnership (Amendments to Registration Provisions) Order 2005. That order also amended Section 6 itself.
Below the fold is the full text of sections 6 and 6A, as previously amended, and marked up with Lord Alli’s amendments:
(1) The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is amended as follows.
(2) Omit section 6(1)(b) and section 6(2).
(3) In section 6A, after subsection (2), insert—
“( ) Regulations under this section may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.”
(4) In section 6A, after subsection (3), insert—
“( ) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.”
The main, if not the only, other piece of legislation that would need to be revised to implement this change is The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.
Clause 11 of The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 which reads as follows, will not be amended, however.
(1) Any proceedings conducted on approved premises shall not be religious in nature.
(2) In particular, the proceedings shall not—
(a) include extracts from an authorised religious marriage service or from sacred religious texts;
(b) be led by a minister of religion or other religious leader;
(c) involve a religious ritual or series of rituals;
(d) include hymns or other religious chants; or,
(e) include any form of worship.
3) But the proceedings may include readings, songs, or music that contain an incidental reference to a god or deity in an essentially non-religious context.
4) For this purpose any material used by way of introduction to, in any interval between parts of, or by way of conclusion to the proceedings shall be treated as forming part of the proceedings.0 Comments