Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Church Times detailed reports

The detailed reports of last week’s Church of England General Synod in the Church Times are now available to non-subscribers.

Stand up to false prophets, says Sentamu
UK a ‘scary place’ for Christians
Synod approves ban on clerics in racist parties
No high hurdle for Anglican Covenant
Catching a vision for mission
Synod considers its understanding of Mary as a woman
No change in law for bishops, but vigilance promised
More ‘accessible’ baptism prayers on the cards
Members call for higher and lower fees
A vicar’s welcome makes all the difference
Minister gives Synod assurance over the commitment to aid
Theology aids ‘relaxing’ on defence
Synod briefs


Study Guide for Anglican Covenant

The Anglican Communion Office announces Study guide on the Anglican Communion Covenant published.

A study guide and a Questions & Answers document was published today to assist people exploring the Anglican Communion Covenant.

The study guide (available as a pdf document) from the Anglican Communion website ( is intended for parishes, deaneries, dioceses or groups of individuals wishing to explore the Covenant and the way it describes Anglican identity. It contains the text of the Anglican Communion Covenant interspersed with summaries of the material. Communion members are invited to download the guide and to adapt it for their own context. There is also a set of Questions & Answers about the Covenant that seeks to address some commonly asked questions. Neither is a definitive commentary on the Covenant.

These resources were produced as a result of a meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) in 2009. A working group of IASCUFO has now completed this commission. There is a suggestion that people may be interested in including some of the material for use in parish bulletins, diocesan newspapers or other church communication channels.

The working group of IASCUFO includes the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch New Zealand (convenor); the Rt Revd Kumara Ilangasinghe, recently retired Bishop of Kurunagala, Church of Ceylon; and the Revd Dr Simon Oliver, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Nottingham.

The Q&A is also available as a PDF.

More about IASCUFO can be found here.


Civil Partnerships and Marriage: comment


Among all the noise about this, there have been some thoughtful articles.

Leading article: A welcome blow against discrimination

Much attention around the expected change to the law will concentrate on whether the churches will now have to allow gay marriages to take place in their places of worship. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how the Church of England, which remains bitterly divided over the ordination of gay priests, responds.

If changes to the law force what is still the Established Church in England to clarify its muddled and often disingenuous thinking on the question of sexual equality, so much the better. But in an age when a growing number of marriages take place in civil settings and have no religious element to them at all, this is at the same time a peripheral matter.

Much more important than anything the churches have to say is that Britain is now a world front-runner in the field of equality for sexual minorities. If the Coalition Government succeeds in following through on Ms Featherstone’s expected proposals, it will be to its credit.

Tom Sutcliffe What’s undermining about gay marriage?

Michael White Same-sex marriage cannot be the same as heterosexual marriage

Giles Fraser 500 years of church intolerance

…But just as the government ought not to impose gay marriage on churches that are still not ready for it, so too the church must not impose its own institutional homophobia on gay Christians who want to use the Bible in a civil marriage ceremony. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, is currently preparing plans for marriage equality. She must not be distracted by a nervous church protecting its control of biblical hermeneutics. People ought to be free to use the Bible as they feel the spirit leads. The word of God exceeds the limited imagination of the church. It always has.


Another good article, which first appeared in The Times has now appeared at the website of the Australian, see Gay marriage is good conservatism by Daniel Finkelstein

When civil partnerships were first suggested, the idea was advanced that providing legal status for gay couples might undermine heterosexual marriage. The means by which this would happen were obscure, but whether or not this was ever a sensible argument, it is apparent the fear is groundless.

The opposite point should recommend itself to Tories. Marriage strengthens commitment between couples and therefore brings stability into the lives of those who enter in it. The advantage of extending that to gay people is obvious. Nevertheless, there is an objection that the difference between marriage and gay civil partnership should be maintained, because marriage is intended for procreation. Another odd argument. Lots of people marry when they don’t intend to have children, cannot have children or are too old to do so. Should these people be forced to have civil partnerships?

Against this is the important fact – that to deny gay people the right to marry in the full sense is to deny people the dignity and respect they deserve. And who better than a Conservative can understand the desire of an individual for dignity, respect and social status?


Civil Partnerships and Marriage Law Reform

Last weekend there was a flurry of speculative news reports about a forthcoming government announcement in this area. These reports prompted several religious organisations to issue statements, even though there was as yet no actual government announcement. For example, the Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, issued this on behalf of the Church of England:

“We have yet to see the proposals, so cannot comment in detail. Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships. The proposal as reported could also lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured.”

Today, the Government Equalities Office has issued a press release which is headed New push for LGB and T equality will allow civil partnerships in religious buildings.

The full text of this is reproduced below the fold. This has provoked a further series of news stories and of statements.

News reports:

Guardian Alan Travis Gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships may soon be welcomed and Gay marriage v civil partnership: what’s the difference?

Telegraph Tim Ross Gay couples will be allowed to marry under Coalition plan

BBC Gay church ‘marriages’ plan to be announced

The Church of England has not issued any further statement. But two conservative evangelical groups have done so.

Reform and several other organisations have made a joint statement: Homosexual marriage and the registration of civil partnerships in churches:

Anglican Mainstream sent out a “press release” which has been reproduced over here.

Earlier this had been published: Statement from Anglican Mainstream on proposals for civil partnerships to be contracted in churches.



Primates Standing Committee

ACNS has published Members of the Primates’ Standing Committee announced.

The following Primates were elected as members of the Primates’ Standing Committee at the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin, Ireland and have agreed to serve:

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Sudan) – alternate Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Burundi)

Central, North, South Americas and the Caribbean
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (The Episcopal Church) – alternate
Archbishop John Holder (West Indies)

Bishop David Chillingworth (Scotland) – alternate Archbishop Alan Harper (Ireland)

Middle East and West Asia
Bishop Samuel Azariah (Pakistan) – alternate Bishop Paul Sarker (Bangladesh)

South East Asia and Oceania
Archbishop Paul Kwong (Hong Kong) – alternate Archbishop Winston Halapua (Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia)

Each Primate serves for a period of three years, and thereafter until the next Primates’ Meeting. Also membership ceases when a member ceases to be a Primate.


Another Anglican Covenant roundup

Paul Bagshaw has written another article about the Anglican Covenant: Doors slammed shut! Windows blown open?

…I stand by my description of how I see the Communion shaping up (centralised in the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion and their respective officials, clericalised, women and laity further marginalised, the distance from centre to edge getting ever greater).

But I will make a significant qualification.

A kairos moment
The end of the civil war gives a brief moment for debate on what the Communion might look like. The idea of changing it has been very widely accepted. Significant changes have already been made. But we no longer need to look at the Communion through the lens of civil war or the foci of sexuality, biblicism and accusations of colonialism. These remain important issues but, fairly abruptly, the steam has gone out of them and the engine driving them has departed on a side-line…

From Peter Carrell we have The Anglican Covenant’s future.

After the change to the life of the Communion marked and underlined by last week’s Primates’ Meeting, it could be fantasy to think the Anglican Covenant now has a future, other than as a piece of paper read by fewer and fewer people and signed up to by even fewer member churches (three to date). But as the days have gone by I have been thinking that the Covenant has a future, and that future could be along two lines (or more)…

Jim Naughton has written The Anglican Covenant is not as dead as it looks and the comments on this thread are well worth reading.

I am wondering if the proposed Anglican Covenant is as dead as many Episcopalians think it is. It seems to me that Rowan Williams is making slow but significant progress toward assembling a notional center that he can then play off against the left (constituted by us, the Brazilians, the Scots and maybe the Welsh) and the right (constituted by Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.)

Consider: The Churches of Mexico, Myanmar and the West Indies have approved the covenant, and the Churches of England and South Africa have embarked on a process that seems almost certain to end in its approval. Mexico and South Africa are two of the provinces that opponents of the covenant within the Episcopal Church hoped might keep us company if we declined to sign up.

The Australians and Canadians are in the midst of processes whose likely outcomes are not clear to me. But both are members of the British Commonwealth, and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia is a leading figure among the Primates, so covenant opponents would be foolish to presume that these two provinces won’t follow where Canterbury leads…

Lesley Fellows got this reply by Joanna Udal to her letter that she had sent earlier to Rowan Williams.


General Synod statistics

James Townsend has published some statistics on the age distribution and gender balance of the current Church of England General Synod.

They are well worth looking at in detail, but a couple of his conclusions are particularly noteworthy.

“only 28% of the convocations [ie clergy] being female”
“Even though 35% of the Synod are newly elected, the bulk of the [lay] membership has simply got older by five years”


General Synod papers

A number of links have been quietly added to the Church of England’s webpage of papers for this past week’s meeting of General Synod: February 2011 Group of Sessions: Papers.

They include this Full summary with links to all papers and audio feeds for each session. this is more detailed than the summaries that were published shortly after the end of each morning and afternoon session.

There is also the official Business Done, and, at the bottom of the page, a full set of notice papers.

1 Comment


Rosie Harper writes for The Guardian about General Synod’s cliquey clergy. “The tribal factions of the General Synod aren’t hard to spot – but they’re supposed to work out God’s agenda, not their own.”

Andrew Brown at The Guardian offers a brief meditation on original sin, Apples, and omnipotent network gods: Augustinian and Pelagian software.

Savi Hensman writes for Ekklesia about Baptism: A new world coming.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Praise from a mouth that waters.

Shoshana Garfield writes in The Guardian about Faith in the darkest of moments. “Many torture victims tell convincing stories of divine intervention in their ordeal.”

Helen Lee writes for Busted Halo about God in Gaga. “Lady Gaga’s latest single is an anthem for the marginalized.” The article has been reprinted by The Washington Post.


General Synod: ACNA

The subject of the Anglican Church in North America was raised twice in the course of last week’s General Synod sessions in London.

First, it was raised in the debate on the Business Committee report. This was not because ACNA was mentioned in that report, on the contrary, it was a complaint by Lorna Ashworth that the forecast of future business showed no plan to bring forward the report that had been requested a year ago. You can hear her remarks by listening to the recording of that debate here (start at minute 34), or there is a longer transcript here.

…I do wonder how is it that we come to this agenda and there is no report back? And there is no indication of the forecast agenda for July either that there will be a report back. So I would like to request the Chair of the Business Committee to see to it, that that there is a report – that we will follow this up – and nothing will be kicked into touch. Thank you.

In his response to the debate, the acting chair of the committee, Bishop Trevor Willmott commented on this request (go to minute 40):

..Finally, if I may say to Lorna Ashworth, again I think the question is that she is – not solely in this chamber that that debate takes place, and I am assured that there will be opportunity for her to listen in to, and all of us to listen in to any comments which are made back by the Archbishops and the House of Bishops on that motion which was passed at that last session of Synod.

Second, a Question was asked, as follows.

The Revd Christopher Hobbs (London) to ask the Secretary General:

Q. What procedure would have to be followed for the Anglican Church in North America to be in communion with the Church of England and/or part of the Anglican Communion?

You can hear the answer given and the supplementary question and answer, by going here (go to minute 34.5). The first answer was as follows:

Mr William Fittall to reply:

A. Under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 a determination by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is conclusive where any question arises whether, for the purposes of the Measure, a church is in communion with, or its orders are ‘recognised and accepted’ by, the Church of England. A decision that the Church of England should enter into communion with another church outside the Anglican Communion would fall to be taken by the Synod. The one legally constituted body for the Communion is the Anglican Consultative Council, membership of which is regulated by its Constitution. That provides that the addition of a church to its schedule of membership requires the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Communion.

The second answer, to a supplementary by Fr David Houlding includes this:

…The archbishops gave a commitment in that motion that they would report back to the Synod in 2011, by my reckoning 2011 is only 5 weeks old, so I am sure that they will be reporting to the Synod in due course on what is indeed an important matter.


ARCIC III participants announced

ACNS has announced the names of participants in the next stage of Anglican Communion-Roman Catholic Church dialogue. See this Press Release for ARCIC III.

The Most Reverend David Moxon, co-Chair, is the Bishop of Waikato and Archbishop of the Dioceses of New Zealand in the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Dr. Paula Gooder, biblical scholar, is Canon Theologian of Birmingham Cathedral, Visiting lecturer at King’s College, London, Associate lecturer at St Mellitus College, London, an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Senior Research Scholar at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, England.

The Rt Reverend Christopher Hill is the Bishop of Guildford and the Chair of the Council for Christian Unity of the Church of England.

The Reverend Dr Mark McIntosh is Van Mildert Canon Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham in England.

The Rt Reverend Nkosinathi Ndwandwe is Bishop Suffragan of Natal, Southern Area, in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The Rt Reverend Linda Nicholls is Area Bishop for the episcopal area of Trent-Durham in the Diocese of Toronto, Anglican Church of Canada.

The Reverend Dr Michael Poon is director and Asian Christianity coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, Province of South-East Asia.

The Reverend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky is retiring as Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey in the Church of England. An ecclesiologist, he served on ARCIC II.

The Reverend Dr Peter Sedgwick is Principal and Warden of St Michael’s College in Llandaff in the Church in Wales, where he teaches theology and social ethics.

The Reverend Dr Charles Sherlock is a consultant to ARCIC III. He has recently retired as Registrar of the Melbourne College of Divinity and lives in the Diocese of Bendigo, Anglican Church of Australia.

These nominations have raised some eyebrows. See ARCIC III members named, and then ARCIC appointment does not violate American ban, ACC says.

…in his Pentecost letter of May 28, 2010, Dr. Rowan Williams stated that members of provinces that were in breach of the three moratoria on gay bishops and blessings and cross-border encroachments of provincial boundaries would no longer participate in the formal ecumenical dialogues in which the Anglican Communion was engaged

“Provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged,” Dr. Williams wrote.

Yet, as the reports note:

One of the Anglican members was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church and was one of the theologians who authored “To Set Our Hope on Christ: A Response to the Invitation of Windsor Report Paragraph 135.”

And it appears that he is still canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago.


General Synod – more reports

The detailed reports in today’s Church Times are only available to subscribers until a week today. But meanwhile this summary by Ed Thornton can be read by all: Synod wrestles with an England that no longer understands.

The Church Mouse looks at what the media decided to publish about the Synod: General Synod in the media – when there are no splits to dig into.


Regeneration Youth Summit – book now!

From here:

The regeneration summit is an event organised by Church Army as a response to some shocking statistics about the numbers of young people in the Church of England. Regeneration will gather together a huge number of Bishops (including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York), some youth leaders and a massive number of young people to discuss how the Church can better equip, resource and reach young people in the UK today.

Church Mouse has more from Mark Russell: Guest post: Mark Russell, CEO Church Army – Young people set to “regenerate” the church at national summit.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will be attending the summit along with more than 30 bishops and 30 youth leaders. Regeneration will provide them with a unique opportunity to hear directly from young people.

The vision for Regeneration is not simply to talk about the problems the church faces regarding youth. Instead, it will be a day for making practical suggestions and challenging the wider church to take mission involving young people more seriously.

Therefore, rather than young people attending an event led by bishops, the bishops will take part in an event led by young people. Regeneration will be overseen by a steering group of five young people who will lead the main sessions of the day and set the agenda for discussion – and I do mean ‘young’! The guy who is chairing the group, Sam Follett, is 20 years old… and has just been elected onto the General Synod.

And the practical details are here:

When, where… how?

The summit is going to be held at St Thomas’ Philadelphia Campus in Sheffield on 3rd March 2011, 9:30am – 5:15pm. You will only be let in if you’re on the guest list, so please apply (by Monday 14th Feb!)…


Our Facebook group can be found by clicking here, and on twitter we’re @regensummit.


General Synod – more Wednesday press reports

Updated Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Baptisms to be given in ‘BBC1 language’
BBC Baptism language to be simplified
Maria Mackay in Christian Today Church of England hopes simpler baptism language will connect with unchurched
Tim Ross in The Telegraph Church of England to rewrite baptism service words in ‘EastEnders’ speak

Independent Catholic News Bishop George Stack addresses Church of England General Synod


General Synod – Wednesday business

Updated at 5.30 pm

Here is the Order Paper for today’s business at General Synod.

Order Paper III – Wednesday 9th February

This is the text of the motion on Common Worship baptism provision as carried by Synod after amendment.

That this Synod request the House of Bishops to ask the Liturgical Commission to prepare material to supplement the Common Worship Initiation provision, including additional forms of the Decision, the Prayer over the Water and the Commission, expressed in accessible language.

In the afternoon there was a debate on the ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ after which this motion was carried unamended.

That this Synod, affirming the aim of Anglican – Roman Catholic theological dialogue “to discover each other’s faith as it is today and to appeal to history only for enlightenment, not as a way of perpetuating past controversy” (Preface to The Final Report, 1982), and in the light of recent steps towards setting up ARCIC III:

(i) note the theological assessment of the ARCIC report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ in the FOAG briefing paper GS 1818 as a contribution to further dialogue;

(ii) welcome exploration of how far Anglicans and Roman Catholics share a common faith and spirituality, based on the Scriptures and the early Ecumenical Councils, with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary;

(iii) request that, in the context of the quest for closer unity between our two communions, further joint study of the issues identified in GS 1818 be undertaken – in particular, the question of the authority and status of the Roman Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Anglicans; and

(iv) encourage Anglicans to study the report with ecumenicalcolleagues and in particular, wherever possible, with their Roman Catholic neighbours.

And here are the official summaries of all the day’s business, with links to audio recordings of the debates.

morning: General Synod – Summary of business conducted on Wednesday 9th February 2011 AM
afternoon: General Synod – Summary of business conducted on Wednesday 9th February 2011 PM


General Synod – Wednesday press reports

Riazat Butt in The Guardian: Church must continue to influence debate, says archbishop of York

Maria Mackay in Christian Today: Church has ‘God-given duty’ to shape Britain’s moral order – Sentamu


General Synod business committee

Yesterday the General Synod failed to approve the proposed appointment of the Bishop of Dover as the Chair of the Business Committee.

Justin Brett has written about this development at On votes, rules and resistance.

…The Business Committee of General Synod is the body that decides Synod’s agenda. It is mostly (I think) either directly or indirectly elected by Synod itself. The rules that govern it state that its Chair must be one of the six people elected from General Synod to the Archbishops’ Council. One of these people is nominated by Archbishops’ Council in consultation with the Appointments Committee, and the name sent to Synod for approval.

As things have fallen out this time round, the person in question is the Bishop of Dover. Needless to say, this has caused some muttering among those for whom a purple shirt often serves dual purpose as a red rag…


background to debate on Mary

In addition to the official papers available for this afternoon’s debate, which can be found here, the following may also be of interest:

Fulcrum Response to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission Agreed Statement (first published in 2005) by Bishop Graham Kings.

Anglican Mainstream has published an article by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Evangelical Mary.


General Synod – Tuesday press previews and reports

The BBC previews one debate: Church debates BNP ban for clergy.

And The Telegraph and The Guardian both carry a Press Association report of the debate.
The Telegraph General Synod backs ban on clergy joining the BNP
The Guardian Church of England backs draft ban on clergy joining the BNP


House of Laity Meeting on Monday

The House of Laity met on Monday before the first session of General Synod.
Justin Brett has reported what happened in What The House Of Laity Did First…

This afternoon the House of Laity was invited to co-opt Dr Priscilla Chadwick as a member of the House so that she could be re-appointed as Chair of the Dioceses Commission. The short version of what happened is that we declined to make such a co-option…