Thinking Anglicans

Ugandan bishops know where they stand

The Daily Monitor reports, Anglican Church is broken, says Orombi:

The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, yesterday said the Anglican Church today faces many challenges which have made it dysfunctional.

“What I can tell you is that the Anglican Church is very broken,” Bishop Orombi said.
“It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches. It is very sad for me to see how far down the church has gone.”
Speaking at the opening of a three-day provincial Assembly in Mukono, the head of the Church of Uganda noted that the church has lost credibility.

He proposed that the Church of Uganda engages church structures at a very minimal level until godly faith and order have been restored. “I can assure you that we have tried as a church to participate in the processes, but they are dominated by western elites, whose main interest is advancing a vision of Anglicanism that we do not know or recognise. We are a voice crying in the wilderness,” he said at the Church’s top assembly that convenes every two years…

And, according to Icebreakers Uganda in Anglican Bishop in Uganda Vow to Confront Bishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury (H/T this report from Changing Attitude):

In a move to reaffirm their opposition to gay rights and gay acceptance in the Anglican church of Uganda, Bishops from all over the country sitting at Mukono vowed to confront the arch-bishop of Canterbury over his stand on homosexuality and gay Bishops serving in the church.

They promised to let him know where they stand with him and also make it clear that they will never agree with him on the issue of homosexuals in the church.

During the meeting, the arch-Bishop of the church of Uganda said they would not break away from Canterbury but would not cooperate with it until after arch-Bishop Rowan Williams has changed his stance on homosexuality in the church or left the position of arch-Bishop…


Charity Commission rules against RC adoption agency

See earlier reports on this case, here, and also here.

Civil Society reports on the latest decision:

The Charity Commission has again ruled that Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) may not change its objects in order to exclude homosexual couples from accessing its adoption services.

Despite being told in March by the High Court to reconsider, the Commission has stood by its original decision, arguing that there are not “particularly convincing and weighty reasons justifying the proposed discrimination”.

Speaking about the judgement, the Commission’s chief executive Andrew Hind, said: “In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances.

“We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate.”

Read the news reports:

Guardian Riazat Butt Catholic adoption agency loses bid to bar gay parents from service

Telegraph Martin Beckford Last Catholic adoption agency faces closure after Charity Commission ruling

BBC Catholic charity’s appeal over gay adoption fails

Press Association Bid to block gays adopting fails

Mail Online Church loses gay adoption battle as charity commission claims adoption agency’s decision to help heterosexual couples only broke the rules

Associated Press UK: Adoption charity can’t ban gay couples

Third Sector Charity Commission refuses to change Catholic Care gay adoption decision

Press releases from the principals:

Charity Commission
Catholic charity ‘may not restrict its adoption service’, says Charity Commission
Summary of Decision
Full Document (PDF)

Catholic Care
PRESS STATEMENT : 18th August 2010


Covenant update

Paul Bagshaw, whose recent writing on this topic was reported on here, has written A couple of covenant comments.

Commenting on the paper by Stephen Noll, linked here, he writes:

Since 1998, and to some degree before then, the Communion has come to be conceived as a single entity lacking central governance. But it was never intended to be such – it grew as a federation of Churches each of which had, and safeguarded, its own coherent doctrine and effective discipline – accepting the differences in both from one province to another. That it was ‘lawless’ was not a criticism, merely a statement of the obvious. Each member had plenary jurisdiction and law; the Communion never had jurisdiction.

Nonetheless the mood changed. The federal structure (in the shape of the Eames Commission) sought an answer to the dissatisfaction of some by creating a tighter, more unitary structure – and the covenant mechanism can only move in that centralising direction. The SCAC reinforced it. The Anglican Communion is now thought of as a single body which ought to have the apparatus of a single body to make the idea real.

He also makes some comments on the ACC Constitution and the remarks of John Rees, which were reported over here.


Standing Committee does not want Bennison back

Updated again Wednesday morning

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has issued a statement.

Read An Open Letter to the People of the Diocese of Pennsylvania From the Standing Committee of the Diocese.

…We do not believe that Bishop Bennison has the trust of the clergy and lay leaders necessary for him to be an effective pastor and leader of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, nor that he can regain or rebuild the trust that he has lost or broken.

We believe that it would be in the best interest of the Diocese that Bishop Bennison not resume his exercise of authority here.

ENS has two detailed reports at Pennsylvania bishop returns to divided diocese and again at Pennsylvania bishop says he’s listening to lay, clergy leaders.


The Meanings of Communion: Anglican Identities, the Sexuality Debates, and Christian Relationality

My attention has been drawn to this recently published article at Sociological Research Online. [hat-tip to Roland Orr]

The Meanings of Communion: Anglican Identities, the Sexuality Debates, and Christian Relationality by Robert M. Vanderbeck, Gill Valentine, Kevin Ward, Joanna Sadgrove and Johan Andersson, University of Leeds.

Here is the abstract.

Recent discussions of the international Anglican Communion have been dominated by notions of a ‘crisis’ and ‘schism’ resulting from conflicts over issues of homosexuality. Existing accounts of the Communion have often tended to emphasise the perspectives of those most vocal in the debates (particularly bishops, senior clergy, and pressure groups) or to engage in primarily theological analysis. This article examines the nature of the purported ‘crisis’ from the perspectives of Anglicans in local parishes in three different national contexts: England, South Africa, and the United States. Unusually for writing on the Communion, attention is simultaneously given to parishes that have clear pro-gay stances, those that largely oppose the acceptance of homosexual practice, and those with more ambivalent positions. In doing so, the article offers new insights for the growing body of literature on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians, as well as wider discussions about the contested nature of contemporary Anglican and other Christian identities. Key themes include the divergent ways in which respondents felt (and did not feel) connections to the spatially distant ‘others’ with whom they are in Communion; the complex relationships and discordances between parish, denominational, and Communion-level identities; and competing visions of the role of the Communion in producing unity or preserving diversity amongst Anglicans.


mid-August opinion

Johann Hari writes for GQ about Losing our religion. The article has been republished in The Huffington Post under the title The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity.

And David Pollock writes in The Guardian about The onward march of secularism.

In an interview for the Catholic Herald John Hall, the dean of Westminster Abbey, tells Huw Twiston Davies that he is looking forward to welcoming Benedict XVI: ‘It is good that the Pope is coming’.

Timothy Larsen writes at Inside Higher Ed (of Washington DC) about No Christianity Please, We’re Academics.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about Make giving seem more normal.

Sophia Deboick argues in The Guardian that Theology is a crucial academic subject.

In his column Wren’s tall tower in Twickenham in the Telegraph Christopher Howse writes that “More city churches were demolished in peacetime than were bombed by the Luftwaffe.”

This week’s The Question in The Guardian is Can you keep Christ and give up being a Christian? with responses from John Richardson, Rebecca Jenkins, Theo Hobson and Shirley Lancaster.


General Synod – questions and answers

The transcript of the questions (and supplementaries) asked at last month’s General Synod and the answers as given is now available.


still more on women bishops

Updated Friday evening

Last week’s Church Times contained many letters responding to the article about sacramental assurance by Canon Simon Killwick which was linked here earlier.

These letters are now available at RC disapproval undermines sacramental assurance.

The Irish Times recently carried a letter from Canon Dr Virginia Kennerley which was published under the title Women’s ordination.

…On reading the Synod reports it struck me that the demand for “sacramental assurance” – the guarantee that the priest celebrating the Eucharist has not been ordained by a woman bishop, or even by a bishop originally ordained by a woman – is a demonstration of “magical thinking” at its most primitive, akin to ritual rain-making ceremonies and tribal rituals designed to control the uncontrollable…

This letter refers to a sermon on the same theme by Canon Kennerley, delivered at Christ Church Dublin a few days earlier.


The G2 section of the Guardian carried this feature article last Monday: Women bishops of the future?

As the Church of England moves ever closer to allowing the ordination of women bishops, three woman [sic] priests talk about what it would mean to them.


Australian tribunal rules against Sydney

The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia has issued its opinion on the legality of the administration of Holy Communion by deacons or lay persons.

The full documentation from the tribunal can be found here.

News reports:

Anglican Media Sydney Tribunal disagrees with diaconal administration

Episcopal News Service SYDNEY: Tribunal rejects move to allow deacons to preside at Eucharist


ACC Constitution: John Rees explains

The Anglican Communion Office has published an article titled The ACC Constitution: An Interview with ACC’s legal adviser Revd Canon John Rees.

The Anglican Consultative Council has a new Constitution. How did this come about? What does this mean in reality? How will it affect the work of the Instruments of Communion? The Standing Committee? ACNS spoke to John Rees, legal adviser to find out more…

The last two questions are perhaps the ones of most interest to TA readers.

Q. What’s your response to those who say this new Constitution is an attempt to give the Standing Committee and/or the ACC more power.

That’s very wide of the mark. The drafting committee took care to ensure that the plenary meeting of the Council would continue to have the same democratic rights to appoint the Standing Committee that it always had in its unincorporated state. The wider membership attending the plenary meetings of the ACC every two or three years remains the body which appoints its members of the Standing Committee and entrusts the Committee with the Council’s work in between its meetings. I have attended a good many Standing Committee meetings over the years, and I can vouch for the fact that its members are very conscious of the interdependence of the ACC with the Archbishop and the Primates and are careful to respect boundaries.

So it’s also misleading to suggest that the ACC would impinge on the authority of the Archbishop or of the Primates’ Meeting. Neither the Archbishop’s role as the pivotal Instrument of Communion, nor his role in calling together the Primates’ Meeting (which itself has no formal constitution) are in any way restricted by these Articles. As the Archbishop’s Registrar for the Province of Canterbury, I would have been very concerned if I had thought there was any intention to do so.

The definition of ‘Primates’ in these Articles remains essentially as it appeared in Article 3(a) of the earlier Constitution. Indeed, the drafting committee went out of its way (in Article 8.1) to emphasise that the Primates should elect their members of the Standing Committee “in such manner as they shall think fit”. The guidance that they, and the ACC’s membership as a whole, should have regard to the need for regional, order and gender balance was carried over from the earlier Constitution, and at best can operate only as an aspiration.

Q. Doesn’t making the ACC an English company subject the council to UK and applicable EU law including equalities legislation?

The incorporation of the ACC as a limited company does not subject the ACC to UK or EU equalities legislation to which it would not otherwise have been subject. The Church of England has played a major part, with other churches in the UK, in achieving and preserving certain exclusions for itself and other religious bodies in relation to this legislation as it has developed over the last thirty years. The Equalities Act would have been equally applicable to the ACC in its unincorporated form because it was also registered as an English charity. Equally, the ACC in its new structure will enjoy the benefit of exclusions from this legislation to the same extent as any other religious organisation in the UK. I share the unease of many religious people about the impact of this British legislation, but it is not right to say that the restructuring of the ACC will have altered its position viz-a-viz the implementation of this law.


update: civil partnerships on religious premises

The Equality Act 2010 amends the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so as to remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships.

See here for the wording of the amendment, and also see this earlier article for some explanations of the wording.

At the time these amendments were passed, the Church of England which had earlier issued this statement, then also said, as I reported in the Church Times :

A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council confirmed on Wednesday that the amendment took account of discussions held with the Govern­ment. The Church of England’s con­cern, he said, was to ensure that the regulations provided for an opt-in or opt-out at denominational level. The C of E (and other denominations) wanted to be able to nominate a national body to declare a position on this issue, before individual ap­plications could be made. This was what the Quakers themselves had done (Comment, 12 March).

The government is now holding consultations with “interested parties” in preparation for implementing such provisions. As a recent Government document [PDF] said:

An amendment made to the Equality Act 2010 makes it possible to remove the express prohibition on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises. We want to talk to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so.

And on 20 July, the following written answer was given in the House of Commons:

Civil partnership and civil marriage registrations are entirely secular in nature and prohibited from taking place on religious premises or containing any religious language, or religious music.

An amendment made during the passage of the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises. In response to this amendment, the Government committed to talking to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships. This will include consideration of whether civil partnerships should be allowed to include religious readings, music and symbols. This commitment was made clear in the Government’s published document ‘Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality’, published on 16 June 2010.

We will begin this exercise before the summer parliamentary recess.

There are reports of these consultations, which show that some groups are now looking for rather more from the new Coalition government than they were from the Labour one:

The Independent yesterday carried a report that the Liberal Democrat conference next month would consider adopting a new policy, see Lib Dems to vote on full marriage rights for gay couples.


opinion at the beginning of August

Christopher Howse “loves nothing better than a really terrible bit of verse in church.” He writes about it in the Telegraph: An embarrassing poem for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding

Giles Fraser spoke about the cost of weddings on Wednesday’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio4. You can read what he said here, or listen to a podcast here. The broadcast prompted this piece from Andrew Brown in The Guardian: What’s wrong with weddings. And Giles also appeared at MailOnline with: I despair of so many weddings – they’re more about ego than love.

Giles Fraser’s Church Times column this week is titled Why Mary Magdalene is a true apostle.

John Milbank gave an interview to Asia News about the impending papal visit to Britain, see Anglican Theologian: Pope’s visit “crucial” for relations between two Churches.

Colin Coward wrote about the launch party this week for James Alison’s new book, Broken Hearts and New Creation – James Alison’s latest book launched at CA London and Southwark meeting.

A great many people have written about the TV programme Rev but I agree with the criticism of Gillean Craig which you can find first here, and then again here.

Rowena Loverance has written the Face to Faith column in the Guardian: Images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An exhibition at Friends House offers a chilling insight into the suffering wreaked by the A-bombs, 65 years on.

Stephen Tomkins wrote at Cif belief that William Wilberforce was complicit in slavery. Wilberforce and his supporters permitted slave labour in Sierra Leone. But is it a fatal blow to his reputation?


women bishops: more articles and many letters

In The Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s Pastoral Letter – September 2010, Bishop Andrew Burnham writes about Electing a New General Synod.

The full text is copied below the fold.

In last week’s Church Times Simon Killwick wrote about Why sacramental assurance matters.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory is mine!” Anglicans, especially Catholic An­glicans, find “blessed assurance” and a “foretaste of glory” in the sacraments of the Church. After the General Synod debate on women bishops, Stephen Barney wrote asking for an explanation of the doctrine of sacra­mental assurance (Letters, 16 July). Others have questioned whether sacra­mental assurance is an Anglican doctrine.

I would like to try to explain it, and to show that it is an Anglican doctrine. The doctrine of the Church of England is to be found particularly in “the Thirty-nine Articles of Reli­gion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”, according to Canon A5; I will refer to these sources, among others…

Last week’s Church Times (30 July) also carried a large number of letters to the editor on the subject. See Women bishops, sacramental assurance, the mitre: debates continue.

Letters from the three previous weeks are available here (23 July) and over here (16 July) and here (9 July) .



Bishop Bennison wins appeal

Updated again Saturday evening
ENS reports Court rules in favor of Charles Bennison.

An ecclesiastical review court Aug. 4 ruled in favor of Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison with respect to two alleged disciplinary charges stemming from his response to his priest brother’s sexual misconduct some 35 years ago.

The decision by the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop is here… [PDF file]

Read the full article for the background to this decision.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has issued a brief statement, and promised to say more soon.

Update see also An Invitation from the Standing Committee

The Living Church has Bp. Bennison Trusted the Canons.

Update See further ENS article, Standing Committee plans worship, ‘open conversation’ in wake of bishop ruling.

Other press reports:

Philadelphia Inquirer Episcopal bishop can return to head Pa. diocese

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Church overturns conviction of Episcopal bishop

Blog reports and comment:

Episcopal Café Bennison reinstated

Anglican Curmudgeon Court of Review Dismisses Charges Against +Bennison

Mark Harris Bishop Bennison guilty, but time ran out.

Gordon Reid Bishop Bennison wins his appeal


News about the Church of Uganda

Episcopal Café has drawn attention to several articles in Religion in the News about the Church of Uganda and the proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in that country.

Mark Fackler writes about Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill.

Jesse Masai writes about The Word from Kampala’s Anglicans. This is based on interviews with Archbishop Orombi’s communications director, Amanda Onapito, and Assistant Bishop of Uganda David Zac Niringiye.

“The church’s position on human sexuality is consistent with its basis of faith and doctrine and has been stated very clearly over the years as reflected in various documents,” she said. “From a careful and critical reading of Scripture, homosexual practice has no place in God’s design of creation, the continuation of the human race through procreation, or his plan of redemption.

“The Church of Uganda believes that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. At the same time, we are committed at all levels to counseling, healing, and prayer for people with homosexual orientation. The church is a safe place for individuals who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

On the bill itself, she continued, the COU prefers that current law (Penal Code Cap. 120) be amended, clarifying gaps, protecting all parties from uneven enforcement and from the anti-homosexuality bill’s encroachment into family life and church counsel. Currently, the bill outlaws failure to inform authorities of homosexual activity, much as standard criminal law forbids failure to testify concerning wrongful acts observed. Ugandan law protects underage girls from sexual predators, Onapito explained, but not underage boys.

The COU wants the law to protect, not criminalize, confidential relationships of medical, pastoral, and counseling professionals and their clients, she said. An amended Penal Code must, in fairness and for the protection of youth, specify lesbianism, bestiality, and “other sexual perversions” as targeted behaviors. The free marketplace of ideas must have legal boundaries prohibiting material that “promotes homosexuality as normal or as [merely] an alternative lifestyle.”

Onapito added that while the church’s position may be contrary to Western notions of fair treatment for gays, it hardly poses the desperate risk to life and freedom that gay rights advocates fear. There should be no doubt, however, that the COU wants to ensure that “sexual orientation is excluded as a protected human right.”

We also learn, from the Church of Uganda website, that

Church of the Province of Uganda will be hosting the second All African Bishops’ Conference from August 23- 29, 2010 in Kampala, Uganda.

Read lots more about it at the conference website.

Now, as Episcopal Café explains here, this conference is being funded with a grant from Trinity Wall Street to CAPA. This listing of grants includes:

Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

$25,000 over one year to fund the All Africa Bishops Conference, a week long gathering in August [2010] that will address the emerging pastoral and contextual education concerns in Africa.

The Church of Uganda itself does not accept money from such sources but is nevertheless the host of this conference.

The official position of the Church is explained in this FAQ about Church of Uganda, GAFCON, and the Anglican Communion.


Covenant attacked from both sides

Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church has written for Cif belief No covenant please, we’re Anglican.

The Anglican communion has always been inclusive, not confessional. Our differences of opinion are signs of maturity.

Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council has written an article The Anglican Covenant: Major Revisions Required.

This depends heavily on a paper written by Stephen Noll and available as a PDF file.


letter from 15 CofE bishops

Fifteen bishops of the Church of England have written a letter, addressed to those who signed the Open Letter of 2008 to the archbishops on the issue of women in the episcopate.

Another copy of the 2008 letter with the full list of signatories can be found as a PDF file here.

The full text of the new letter is below the fold.