Thinking Anglicans

More comment on Civil Partnerships & Marriage

An open letter to the Prime Minister regarding Homosexual Marriage and the registration of Civil Partnerships in places of religious worship has been sent by three organisations, The Council of the Protestant Truth Society with the support of the Council of Church Society and the Management Committee of Christian Watch.

The Living Church has an article by John Martin Erastianism Debate Rears its Head.

The British Humanist Association published Church of England’s opposition to gay marriage highlights need for disestablishment.

At Episcopal Café Jim Naughton is still trying to unravel What exactly is Rowan Williams saying about the new civil partnership bill?

Cranmer has The Government are NOT about to force ‘gay marriage’ on the Church of England.

Andrew Carey wrote for the Church of England Newspaper Redefining what marriage means.


Court upholds ban on foster couple

Updated twice Monday evening

The BBC reports Court backs decision to bar Christian foster couple.

The full text of the judgment can be found here. The language used by the judges is really quite extraordinarily strong.

It has seriously upset Christian Concern whose article is over here. Another version of this appears as a Christian Legal Centre press release.

Andrew Brown has published an analysis, at The law of England is not Christian.

The Christian Institute and similar bodies have mounted a series of court cases over the alleged persecution of Christians in the last five years. Almost all have been based around the claim that Christians are entitled to discriminate against gay people. Each one has ended in defeat. From the cross worn by Nadia Eweida to the attempts to allow religious exemption to the registrants of civil marriage, or the owners of B&Bs, the cases have been pitched as matters of high principle, and the judges have responded with increasing asperity. None, I think, has been so brutal as Lord Justice Munby in his judgment on the case of Owen and Eunice Johns, a couple of Sheffield pentecostalists who were turned down as foster carers because they would not accept homosexuality…

…[T]hey wrote to the council “We take these statements and others to mean that it is either your policy, or your understanding of the law, that Christians and other faith groups who hold the view that any sexual union outside a marriage between a man and a woman is morally reprehensible are persons who are unfit to foster. In short you seem to be suggesting that Christians (such as us) can only adopt if we compromise our beliefs regarding sexual ethics”.

This is the view that Lord Justice Munby has described as a “travesty of reality”.

He quotes some substantial excerpts from the judgment, and then concludes:

Obviously, these judgments will have a considerable effect on evangelical protestantism in this country, which has always taken the view that we are, or should be, a Christian nation. But I think the greatest effect will not be on pentecostalists like the Johnses. They can adjust quite easily to the idea that they live under a heathen or godless regime. It is the old-fashioned evangelical wing of the Church of England which will be most upset and confused by these clear statements of principle.

Others have issued statements:

Stonewall Stonewall welcomes ‘landmark’ fostering decision

British Humanist Association High court upholds decision to bar anti-gay Christian couple from fostering: BHA comments

Gavin Drake has also written an analysis, see Misplaced outrage over High Court “ban” on Christian foster parents which makes some good points. One thing he says is this:

The Christian Legal Centre have issued a press release about the case which they open: “In a landmark judgment, which will have a serious impact on the future of fostering and adoption in the UK, the High Court has suggested that Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics are unsuitable as foster carers, and that homosexual ‘rights’ trump freedom of conscience in the UK.

This is nothing less than a lie and I am appalled that a Christian group should seek to misrepresent the truth in such a way. I’d go so far as to suggest that the Christian Legal Centre’s press release may amount to a contempt of court.

Lawyer Neil Addison has commented at Religion Law blog see Johns v Derby Council – Christian Foster Carers Case and he concludes:

All in all this does appear to be a case that should not have been brought and which, from the point of view of orthodox Christians has done more harm than good.

Perhaps in fulfillment of Andrew Brown’s last sentence (see above) Chris Sugden has weighed in at Anglican Mainstream with High Court ruling on Foster-Care parents.


Anglican Covenant: call for fair process and honest debate

press release from No Anglican Covenant Coalition

LONDON —The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has criticized church officials for attempting to suppress honest discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“Instead of fostering a free and open discussion, church officials are trying to ensure that this radical document is endorsed without serious debate,” according to Coalition Moderator, Dr Lesley Fellows. “Unfortunately, this is entirely consistent with what has been happening throughout the process.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed officially in 2004 as a means of addressing divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft, which has been unilaterally designated as “final”, has been referred to the Communion churches for adoption. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms that would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion. The draft must be either accepted without amendment or rejected entirely; no other options are allowed.

A series of decisions demonstrate a pattern of bias and manipulation designed to facilitate Covenant adoption:

  • November 2010 — When the Church of England debated the Anglican Covenant, official materials prepared for General Synod members made no reference to the concerns of critics or to the case against the Covenant. This was in marked contrast to what happened in 2007, when the House of Bishops agreed that an additional briefing document presenting opposing arguments should be circulated to all General Synod members in advance of the debate.
  • November 2010 — When Modern Church and Inclusive Church placed advertisements critical of the proposed Covenant in the church press, and when the No Anglican Covenant Coalition was launched, Covenant sceptics were criticized by senior church officials for going public and “campaigning” instead of remaining silent.
  • December 2010 — When the draft Covenant was formally referred to English dioceses, the referral document provided a random list of quotations from the last General Synod debate, with pro- and anti-Covenant remarks mixed up together, followed by a purely pro-Covenant presentation.
  • January 2011 — A request by Covenant opponents to the Business Committee of General Synod to circulate material setting out the case against the Covenant was rejected.
  • February 2011 — The Anglican Communion Office issued an official study guide and list of questions and answers for international use that neither provide a balanced look at the issues nor fairly represent the views of those critical of the Covenant.

“In the history of General Synod, we know of no instance where such an important matter (designated as Article 8) has been referred to diocesan synods without the case for both sides being clearly set out,” according to Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church and a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. “Both sides were represented regarding the most recent plans for unity with the Methodists. That was the case at every stage of the debate over the ordination of women as priests, and now, as bishops. The material concerning the Covenant falls far short of the ideals of justice, of the Anglican tradition. Even in the House of Commons, all sides of an issue are allowed to be heard.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition website,, provides a wealth of resources for those seeking to understand the proposed Anglican Covenant. Material specifically designed for use by Church of England dioceses is also available from the Modern Church Web site at

“Diocesan synods in the Church of England deserve to hear all sides of the debate,” said Dr Fellows. “We are not afraid of an open, fair, and honest debate. If the supporters of the Covenant had a stronger case, perhaps they wouldn’t be either.”


Civil Partnerships: Guardian editorial

The Guardian has published a strongly worded editorial, which criticises both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, for the public statements made by some of their leaders.

Read it (and follow the excellent links) at Civil partnerships: bluster in bad faith.

The heart sinks at the prospect of another battle between faith and the state, in which the churches wring their hands and find themselves sustaining discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. But such a dispute has begun with the government’s confirmation that it plans to lift the total ban on holding civil partnership ceremonies in religious buildings. First, the Church of England warned of “unexplored impacts”, “confusion” and “difficult and unintended consequences for churches”. In sum, because the church can’t make up its mind, everyone else ought to hold back. Now the Catholic church has joined the fray, railing against the proposal in even more strident terms…

It concludes with:

…This is a proposal which the Church of England – whose own bishops split on the issue in the Lords last year – should find unexceptional. Equality, one bishop claimed in that debate, is not the same as making the laws for everyone the same. But nor should the principles of some faiths be imposed on others. The blanket ban on religious institutions hosting partnership ceremonies is a lawful infringement of their liberty. It must be swept away. Doing that will not eradicate every ancient prejudice or protect everybody from them, it will merely give progressive believers the right to do things in new ways. As such, it will strengthen and not compromise freedom of conscience. Claims to the contrary are illogical bluster.


Civil partnerships in churches: Archbishop speaks


Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph that Archbishop says the Church will resist Government moves on gay marriage.

…Dr Rowan Williams has refused to be drawn on the issue publicly, but has broken his silence to tell MPs he is not prepared for the Coalition to tell the Church how to behave.

He told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England would not bow to public pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships…

And in more detail:

…Challenged by Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kempton, to explain what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union, he said that the Church is welcoming to homosexuals and permits its clergy to enter civil partnerships.

However, he stressed that it would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage and said that it would not be dictated to by the Government.

But Mr Kirby said that the Dr Williams’s comments threaten to alienate homosexual churchgoers and would give rise to accusations that the Church out of touch with society.

“I hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one sided,” he said.

“Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.

“Obviously it is a difficult issue for the Church, but it has many gay men and women who want to be treated the same way as everyone else.”

Doug Chaplin has written a detailed analysis of this story on his blog, see A politician’s PR, or, stitching up the Archbishop. And I have commented there.


Civil Partnerships & Marriage: further opinions

Judith Maltby writes in the Guardian today (in the Face to faith column) that Churches should celebrate bringing God into civil partnership ceremonies.

…Some leaders in my own church, the Church of England, as well as the Roman Catholic church have described this as an assault on religious liberty – and no doubt there is an aggressive secularist agenda to embarrass the churches, though aggressive secularists should note that we are pretty good at doing that ourselves without their help. Indeed, the religious liberty defence has a patronising and hollow ring to it when Quakers and Reform Jews are asking precisely for the liberty to register and bless civil partnerships in their own places of worship. They do not need Anglican or Roman Catholic bishops to “save them from themselves” – especially since both our churches have a shameful history of persecuting these very same faith groups.

So why does the liberty to introduce God into civil partnership ceremonies devalue marriage? It would appear that there just isn’t enough of God to go around. One cannot, apparently, honour and bless one pattern of living a faithful and committed life, without somehow devaluing another. It is the theological equivalent of printing too much money…

Some other opinions that we failed to report earlier:

LGCM LGCM welcomes another step towards full marriage equality

Peter Tatchell Religious civil partnerships welcome, no progress on gay marriage

Quakers Quakers welcome government move on civil partnerships

Cutting Edge Consortium Cutting Edge Consortium asks Government to press ahead with Marriage Review

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Stephen Tomkins writes for The Guardian about How biblical literalism took root. “The Bible doesn’t state that it should be read literally – yet an all-or-nothing approach is the core of many Christians’ faith.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: Get to grips with banks’ morality.

David Wolpe writes in The Huffington Post Why Everyone Should Study the Bible.

This week’s The Question in Comment is free belief in The Guardian is What is marriage for?
There are answers from Harriet Baber, Roz Kaveney, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed plus one from Austen Ivereigh that we linked to here.

The Evangelical Alliance has published 21st Century Evangelicals: A snapshot of the beliefs and habits of evangelical Christians in the UK.

Bob Siegel asks in The Washington Times Does Jesus belong on the college campus?


Judgment in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports Armstrong sentenced to probation, $99,247 restitution.

A judge Friday sentenced the Rev. Donald Armstrong to four years probation for his no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor theft of funds from the Colorado Springs church where he once served as rector.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner also ordered Armstrong to pay restitution in the amount of $99,247 that was diverted to pay for his son’s and daughter’s college education. The money came from a trust fund originally set up to pay for the education of seminary students…

And the Colorado Springs Independent has Armstrong avoids jail time, must pay $99,247 in restitution.

The Rev. Don Armstrong won’t have to serve any jail time for misusing funds while he was rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

That ruling came Friday afternoon from 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner, who upheld an earlier plea agreement that gives Armstrong two concurrent four-year probation terms for no-contest pleas involving his stewardship of a Grace scholarship fund called the Bowton Trust.

Werner did order Armstrong to pay $99,247 in restitution to Grace for money that went from the Bowton Trust to pay for his children’s college-related expenses. Werner singled out those funds because, he said, Armstrong had fiduciary responsibility over the trust as Grace’s rector.

The judge also ordered that, during his probation, Armstrong will have to do 400 hours of community service outside his current church, St. George’s Anglican Church. The 61-year-old rector also must disclose all of his current finances and is prohibited from managing the finances of any church or group in a fiduciary role…

An earlier and very long article in the Independent Judgment day for the Rev. Armstrong reviewed the whole background to this case in considerable detail. Worth reading. It also reports that:

The 61-year-old is as comfortable as ever in pushing his conservative theology from the pulpit, as in his sermon Feb. 6 when Armstrong chastised the daughters of George W. Bush and John McCain for “speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage,” adding, “how quickly we should see it as human-centered thinking, not God’s teaching.”

Armstrong remains a priest in good standing in CANA, under Bishop Martyn Minns, which is part of either ACNA, or part of CoN (Anglican Communion) or possibly both.


Religion or Belief – statistics

From BRIN (British Religion in Numbers)

A Perfect Companion

Anybody feeling a little at sea in the plethora of religious data may find a new briefing paper from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) a great boon. Written by EHRC’s research manager, David Perfect, and simply entitled Religion or Belief, it is available to download from:

The 25-page paper brings together a selection of key national statistics on religion in Great Britain, sometimes as time series. The document is short enough for BRIN readers to consult directly, so no summary of findings will be attempted here. However, an annotated listing of the 19 tables may be found useful.

Follow the link to A Perfect Companion for the annotated listing.

Thanks to The Church Mouse for drawing my attention to this.

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CANA now belongs to ACNA not Nigeria?

Updated Friday afternoon (? added to headline, see below)

From a report in the Vanguard CANA no longer a Nigeria mission, says Archbishop Okoh.

The Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), says the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), is no longer under the jurisdiction of Nigeria.

Speaking during his recent visit to London , Okoh said: “CANA is now part of the Anglican Province of North America (ACNA).

ACNA is a breakaway province from the Episcopal Church headed by Archbishop Robert Duncan.

“We are not interested in territorial ambition; our main reason for going to America was to provide for those who were no longer finding it possible to worship in the Episcopal church.

“A new structure has been put up in the U.S. which is ACNA.

“CANA now belongs to ACNA even though they still relate to us;but essentially it now belongs to Anglican province of North America,” he said.

Archbishop Okoh visit to London was reported by George Conger in the Church of England Newspaper as Nigerian archbishop in Lambeth meeting with Dr Williams.

The head of the Anglican Communion’s largest province will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury this week at Lambeth Palace.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria is scheduled to meet with Dr. Williams on Feb 17, and will also meet with officials from the Nigerian High Commission and Nigerian expatriates during a three day pastoral visit to the UK.

A spokesman for Archbishop Okoh said this week’s visit will be his first to London since his election as primate. A trip set for December 2010 was postponed due to inclement weather. The trip will also provide an opportunity for Dr. Rowan Williams to mend fences with the Nigerian Church, which along with a majority of the African church has become estranged from Lambeth over the past three years.

(As an aside, this report also contains information about the reason for the absence from the recent Dublin primates meeting of the Kenyan primate.)

And Archbishop Okoh was also quoted recently in a Nigerian Observer report Nigeria Anglicans Re-Affirm Stand On Gay Marriages.

Episcopal Café has commented on the status of ACNA in Abp Okoh says CANA belongs to ACNA, not CoN.

…Okoh’s statement illustrates the ability to redefine the relationship between CANA and the Church of Nigeria to meet the circumstances. The Province of the Southern Cone has been sanctioned by the Anglican Communion Office for crossing provincial boundaries into the United States. The question has lingered, why did the Church of Nigeria escape the same sanctions on the same grounds?

The question remains whether CANA and the Church of Nigeria will be allowed have it both ways as suit the circumstances. See CANA’s self definition on its website

…and Frequently Asked Questions about Dual Citizenship in CANA & ACNA, updated 2010-12-16.

And the Church of Nigeria’s own website contains this on its FAQ page:

Q5. What is CANA?

CANA is the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Initially started to provide worship centres for Nigerians in North America, it is now a Missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion catering for many who feel alienated as their former church walks away from the faith once delivered…

Update Friday afternoon

There are developments in this story. Anglican Mainstream reports: Clarification of CANA under the jurisdiction of Nigeria.

A recent article in Vanguard Online states that CANA is no longer a Nigeria Mission. This is incorrect. Bishop Martyn Minns’ Archdeacon, The Ven Julian Dobbs, writes:

CANA’s Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns (who is currently in Singapore en route to Nigeria for the Church of Nigeria’s House of Bishops’ meeting, which is to be followed by a meeting of the Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee) has asked me to pass along this information to you:

Earlier this morning Bishop Minns heard from both Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and Registrar Abraham Yisa who were surprised to see a recent statement in the media that suggests that CANA is no longer part of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

Both Archbishop Okoh as well as Registrar Yisa told Bishop Minns that such reports are erroneous. They assured him that there has been no change in the status that exists between CANA and the Church of Nigeria, that Bishop Minns and CANA’s suffragan bishops continue to serve as members of the House of Bishops in the Church of Nigeria, and that the Church of Nigeria at the same time continues to promote the full recognition of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as a province in the Anglican Communion.

Information regarding the relationship that exists between CANA, the Church of Nigeria, and the ACNA can be found on the CANA website.


Anglican Covenant: more documents

A new set of documents has been published by Modern Church as Church of England resources intended for use in forthcoming diocesan synod debates on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The resources can all be found at this page which notes that:

On 24 November 2010 the General Synod of the Church of England voted to consider adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant. As this would constitute

“a permanent and substantial change of relationship between the Church of England and another Christian body”

it may not receive final approval unless first approved by a majority of the dioceses at meetings of their diocesan synods.

These documents have been produced as resources for presenting the case against the Covenant in these debates.


New Zealand earthquake

updated Friday

I am sure that readers of this blog having been following the story of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in New Zealand on Tuesday this week.

The websites of Christchurch Diocese and Cathedral have photographs and news.

And here are a few media stories with a particular Anglican slant.

Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal (Canada) Former Edmonton bishop safe

The New Zealand Herald No survivors in cathedral after earthquake – police

Marites N Sison in the Anglican Journal (Canada) ‘Pray for confidence that God will see us through’

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans begin to pick up the pieces

BBC World Service Dean of Christchurch Cathedral on New Zealand quake and New Zealand: Fears after Christchurch cathedral tower collapse

Nine News (Australia) NZ quake destroyed ‘symbol of hope’

Marc Greenhill in The Age (Australia) Pianist survives collapse

Friday Update

Dan Parker at 3 News (New Zealand) Cathedral a symbol of Christchurch survival

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans assess damage, reach out to others

Ed Beavan, Muriel Porter, Australia Correspondent and Helen Saxbee in the Church Times ‘Sense of despair’ as buildings collapse in NZ earthquake

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, which is an almost exact twin of the cathedral which has been damaged in Christchurch, is holding a benefit concert on Monday evening, 28 February.

The Diocese of Christchurch has this Respite Accommodation & Quake Appeal.


Civil partnerships in churches: legal analysis

Will churches really be sued for not allowing civil partnerships? is the title of an excellent, detailed analysis by Matthew Flinn at the UK Human Rights Blog.

Matthew provides a detailed explanation of the wording of all the relevant sections of the applicable statutes and regulations, with links to the text. I may reproduce some of that detail in a later article here.

He then goes on to discuss whether or not there is any risk of a successful discrimination claim being brought against anyone for refusing to make religious premises available for such an event. His conclusion:

In the round, the concerns of religious institutions that the changes will, in themselves, require them to facilitate civil partnerships are probably unfounded. Although this is certainly not the only question posed by the changes; there are other dilemmas which may arise pursuant to the operation of ecclesiastical law. For example, the Church of England, which has made clear it will forbid its churches to be used to facilitate civil partnerships, may face difficulties in preventing rectors who have freehold title to parish property for using their premises for that purpose, and there may be issues in disciplining a clergyman who invites a civil registrar onto his premises to conduct a civil partnership ceremony.

And he ends by saying:

…In the meantime, it is possible that some religious institutions are really more worried about the ever closer prospect of full marriage equality for homosexuals, than of the risk of being sued.


ACNA priest on Communion-wide body?

Previously, questions were asked about the participation of Mark McIntosh in the work of ARCIC III.

Now, some questions have been raised about the participation of Julian Linnell in this Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative of the Anglican Communion Office.

See the recent news report: More than 60 evangelism resources soon available for the Anglican Communion.

Questions are asked here:

Paul Bagshaw Who is the Anglican Communion Office working for?

Mark Harris Is Julian Linnell an ACNA member on an Anglican Communion group? and later ACNA priest part of Anglican Communion evangelism group

Episcopal Café Jim Naughton Of dubious appointments


Civil Partnerships & Marriage: yet more comment

Updated Wednesday

Ruth Gledhill has interviewed Giles Fraser on YouTube, watch Canon Giles Fraser tells Ruth Gledhill why Church should celebrate gay marriage.

Austen Ivereigh has written a further article about this for America see Bishops to challenge UK laws allowing gay marriage in churches.

Colin Coward has written about Changing Attitude England’s campaign for civil partnerships to be held in Church of England churches.

Michelle Hutchinson has written at Practical Ethics about Civil Partnership, Religion and the BNP.


Riazat Butt reports in the Guardian the remarks of RC Archbishop Peter Smith, in Catholic archbishop accuses coalition over gay marriage in church move

The Catholic church is on a collision course with the government after declaring it will oppose in the “strongest terms” changes to the Equality Act that will allow gay couples to register civil partnerships in places of worship.

A statement from the archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, said it was neither “necessary nor desirable” to allow gays and lesbians to have civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises and accused the government of “considering a fundamental change to the status of marriage”.

You can read the full statement made by the archbishop over here.

Austen Ivereigh has continued (see link above) to defend the archbishop’s position on this, at Cif belief, see In marriage we trust.

…But civil partnerships are not marriage. The last government made that clear when it said they could not be religiously solemnised. Implicit in that restriction was a final vestige of recognition that marriage is a natural institution, beyond the state or churches to redefine. Now a Conservative government (committed, now there’s the irony, to restoring the vigour of civil society) wishes to use the power of the state to refashion the primary cell of civil society. Allowing churches to solemnise gay marriages is one of the most statist acts ever attempted by a government, and an assault on religious freedom.

The fact that Quakers and Unitarians are happy to host this government’s totalitarian fantasy is neither here nor there; they have no more right to redefine marriage than has the state…


Anglican Covenant: more opinions

Updated Wednesday

Anglicans Online has taken a public stand on the Anglican Covenant. You can read this by going over here.

…In the nearly 20 years that this website called ‘Anglicans Online’ has existed, we’ve tried to be a place outside politics, a via media centre where Anglicans of every stripe, opinion, background, and churchmanship (remember that word?) could come and be at home. We shunned the shrill, avoided invective, and cleaved to reason, moderation, and what we’ve trusted is a genuine Anglican sensibility. We’ve not voiced our opinion on controversial matters, holding to that fact that reasonable people can disagree — and we’re proud to call many of those reasonable people our friends.

But it’s time for Anglicans Online to state that we’re not in favour of the Covenant and cannot imagine a Communion bound by it.

At the end of its cumbrous process for approval, we hope it will fail and be heard of no more. If such isn’t the case, we fear for what the quondam Ecclesia Anglicana will become.

Also, Paul Bagshaw points out that views about the Covenant in Japan are not straightforward, see The view from Japan.

And for those who want to trace the development of the text of the Covenant, this page from Tobias Haller should prove invaluable: A Comparison of various drafts of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

Paul Bagshaw has comments on this, see The Synoptic Covenant.

Meanwhile, Pluralist is not impressed with the documents coming from IASCUFO, see Not a Whiff of No and also Not a Whiff of No: the Q and A.

And neither is Paul Bagshaw, see Study Guide, Q&A, C-


Civil Partnerships & Marriage: more comment

The Economist has published I thee bless.

BRITAIN took a small step this week towards eroding the legal distinction between gays and straights in the matter of matrimony. The civil partnerships that came into force in 2005 grant same-sex couples essentially the same legal rights (over property, pensions, inheritance and parenting) as opposite-sex marrieds; but the law stipulates that the ceremonies must be secular. Last year, after fierce opposition, Parliament voted to remove the prohibition on civil partners tying the knot in churches, synagogues and other religious settings. On February 17th the government said it would begin consultations on implementing that decision—with a view to changing the regulations this year…

Fulcrum has published a statement: On the Use of Religious Buildings for Registration of Civil Partnerships.

The Evangelical Alliance has this statement: Religious liberty must be guaranteed – Alliance responds to proposals to enact section 202 of Equality Act 2010 and also Government proposes allowing civil partnerships in religious settings.

The Tablet has this editorial: Marriage a La Mode.

Throughout the West, the issue of gay marriage has been used as the spearhead of a secularising agenda, propelled by those who want to rid modern civilisation of all traces of its Christian roots. Paradoxically, within the gay community itself the most vociferous supporters of gay marriage have been gay Christians, who want to be given an equal place in the life of Christian institutions rather than to overthrow them. Both these views are reflected in church reactions to government proposals in response to gay pressure, for instance for allowing a religious element in civil partnership ceremonies – at present forbidden by law – and even allowing a partnership or marriage ceremony in a church or synagogue. The Quakers, some liberal synagogues and the Unitarian Church would welcome that permission…

Austen Ivereigh has written in America The Church will have to fight this attempt to redefine marriage.

It’s hard so far to see the tempest behind the first clouds and hastening winds. But an announcement yesterday by the UK government that it intends to lift the ban on civil partnerships being celebrated in places of worship is set to unleash a storm which could well redefine the relationship between Church and state; and have profound long-term consequences — especially for Anglicanism…

The Plymouth Herald printed Will gay church marriages end up in the courtroom?



updated Monday

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian about Evangelicals turning to Jewish customs? It’s complicated. “Evangelical Christians have become increasingly admiring of the sacramental richness of Judaism.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about A false ideal that erodes self-worth.

Scott McLemee writes for Inside Higher Ed Let Us Now Praise KJV.
Wayne Clarke asks Should we revere the Authorised Version?
And at The Guardian Jeanette Winterson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Alexander McCall Smith, Michèle Roberts, David Crystal and Diarmaid McCulloch each write about The King James Bible’s language lessons.
Also in The Guardian David Edgar writes The King James Bible reconsidered. “We are steeped in the idioms and phrases of the King James Version. On its 400th anniversary, David Edgar questions how revolutionary it really was.”
The Guardian also asks its readers to Help us spot phrases from the King James Bible. “As the King James Bible celebrates its 400th anniversary, help us build a picture of how its phrases are used around the web today.” It provides a list of Phrases from the King James Bible, although as the first commenter points out many of these are not original to the KJB, but come from Tyndale.

Johann Hari writes in The Independent Get bishops out of our law-making. “Is Nick Clegg even going to abandon his atheism, and give the forces of organised religion yet more power over us?”
update: The Church Mouse has written this response to Hari’s article: Fact check: Johann Hari’s attack on the Lords Spiritual in the Independent.

Mark Vernon writes in The Guardian about Ultra-Darwinists and the pious gene. “Richard Dawkins won’t like it, but he and creationists are singing from similar hymn sheets, according to a new book.”

Gordon Brown has given a lecture on Faith in Politics?

Carl McColman writes for The Huffington Post about After a Century, Why Mysticism Still Inspires.


Why do the Primates meet?

Savitri Hensman writes in the Guardian about the Ascent of the Anglican primates.

More than a third of those invited to a recent Anglican primates’ meeting were unable or unwilling to attend. There has been much debate about whose fault this was. But there are more basic questions. How useful are such meetings (which aim to bring together the most senior bishops from each province) and how much power should be given to bishops and archbishops?

Paul Bagshaw has commented further on this in Ascent of the Primates.

The voice of the laity has almost no place in the centralised and curial world envisaged in the Covenant, as was evident from its inception. This is from a report to General Synod in 2007, responding to the Nassau draft which Jonathan Clatworthy and I wrote with John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln:

4.8 The absent laity

Apart from a brief, factual, mention in §5 para. 6 the laity are invisible in this Draft Covenant. If the Draft’s processes were to be implemented the voice of the laity would be utterly peripheral and rendered inaudible. This is a contradiction of an ecclesiology in which the Church is ‘the blessed company of all faithful people’ (Book of Common Prayer, 1662). To marginalise the laity in decision making would be to hobble the body of Christ, to undermine the faithful work of the people of God, and to diminish the quality of ecclesial life.

It’s worth looking back to what the primates themselves said about this in Dublin (scroll down for the full text of Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates’ Meeting: A working document)

And here is yet another view, from Benjamin Guyer at Covenant The Primates’ Meeting, 2011: Mis-Representation and the Failure to Resolve.

If we are going to enter into these kinds of necessary critiques, then we ought to do so while recognizing the institutional ends and the limits of the Primates’ Meeting. Otherwise our critiques will be rooted in expectations and assumptions that are either unfair or, what is worse, false.


Civil Partnerships & Marriage: Church Times report

The Church Times website has a report by Ed Beavan and me, Civil partnerships will not be forced on Church, says May.

This expands the earlier report by Ed which appears in the paper edition, to include an interview with Lynne Featherstone which I conducted on Thursday. The portion of the report containing the interview is copied below the fold.