Thinking Anglicans

Some Anglican Covenant views

The Satirical Christian has written Ecclesiastical Dominos.

How do you get people to vote for something they don’t want?

In the Church of England, it’s easy. You employ the domino effect.

Take the Anglican Covenant, for instance. It is clear that many people in the Church of England are deeply suspicious of it. In the debate in General Synod last November many voices raised deep misgivings about it, even among the House of Bishops. In fact, enough people were sufficiently concerned to mean that if the vote was taken purely on what people thought, it would probably have been chucked out there and then…

Bosco Peters has written Anglican Covenant.

…I have tended towards the approach that if you have a problem because you lost something in the garden, to get a solution that’s where you should be looking – even if the light in the house is better! I do not think that the “Covenant” is the appropriate tool as a solution for the “problem”, just as I do not think that a sledgehammer is the appropriate tool as a solution for screwing two planks together.

The “problem” is the ethics of committed same sex relationships. Discussing that is IMO what should be happening. Of course, for some, there is nothing to discuss…

And he continues with

How to get a province to sign up to the “Covenant”
Lessons from/for the Church of England

1) Make sure that the lowest voting percentage possible be required (2/3 or 3/4 in all houses would be just hopeless to get the “Covenant” through. And involving parliament in the state church’s significant signing away of its autonomy would just be a step too far.) How embarrassing if others signed up to the “Covenant” and the Church of England didn’t!


Squaring equality with religion

Aidan O’Neill QC has written at the UK Human Rights Blog about Squaring equality with religion.

…The relationship between the expression of religious beliefs and practice and equality law is a fraught one, and particular difficulty has been experienced in the matter of the application of the law outlawing discrimination…

And later on he has this:

…Thus, for the religious, their attitudes and judgments on right conduct are the very opposite of “prejudice” which anti-discrimination law was supposed to be aimed at. And, they would say, there can be no proper comparison between those who would discriminate on grounds of a religiously informed conscience, and those who so act simply from unthinking incoherent prejudice or bigotry. The pretended comparison between the religious and the irreligious wrongly treats unlike cases alike. The law should, instead, respect those who act on the basis of religiously informed conscience and make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.

On this analysis, being religious is more akin, for discrimination law purposes, to having a disability. The law does not compare the disabled with the able-bodied and say that they should be treated the same – rather the law requires that account be taken of disability and appropriate measures taken to place the disabled on an equal footing with those without that disability. Similarly, the claim is made that the law should not treat the religious and the irreligious as equivalent; rather, the law should respect the beliefs and consciences of the religious and allow them to act on those beliefs without falling foul of anti-discrimination law…

Meanwhile Alan Wilson wrote Squaring a Human Rights Circle.

So what about religious particularity and freedom from discrimination? Pushed to an absolute degree either could compromise the other. If an atheist could fight a way through the courts to become Pope that would be a magnificent expression of openness, but bad news for the Papacy, which partly exists to define and maintain a particular identity in a way that can only credibly be done by a Roman Catholic. If, conversely, a Police force decided to soft pedal on the misdeeds of some clergy because they are authority figures in the community representing the dominant religion, this is plainly wrong and deprives the victims of a basic justice they have every right to expect.

This becomes even more complicated when people start asserting Christian rights. Jesus’ teaching about non violent resistance (turning the other cheek etc) and the strand of wisdom represented by Romans 13, does not lend itself to crusading militancy. Whenever the Church has ignored this principle it has made a fool of itself and compromised the gospel by behaving in a violent and assertive way to whch it might notionally have been entitled, but which was far from Christlike. People who are being reviled have a notional right to revile back, perhaps, but Jesus tells his followers to do the exact opposite. This being the case it is hard to represent an assertion of that right as something required of his followers by their religon. It damn well is not.

A few preliminary jottings are emerging for me about the ways christians are supposed to apply human rights law to ourselves…


Civil partnerships on religious premises: A consultation


The Government Equalities Office has announced the opening of this consultation.

Press release: Civil partnerships on religious premises: a consultation

Opening date: 31 March 2011

Closing date: 23 June 2011

In February we announced our commitment to enabling civil partnerships to be registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who wished to host them. This will be done by implementing section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This provision removes the legal prohibition on civil partnerships being registered on religious premises, enables regulations to be made setting out the arrangements for these premises to be approved by the local authority and clarifies that there is no obligation on faith groups to have civil partnership registrations on their premises.

Civil partnerships on religious premises: a consultation sets out detailed proposals for this voluntary measure which enhances the freedom of both faith groups and same-sex couples. The proposals are designed to enable faith groups to opt in, respect the different decision-making structures of different faith groups, minimise the risk of successful legal challenges and be straightforward for local authorities to operate. The law will make clear that faith groups are not obliged to host civil partnerships. It would also be unlawful for a civil partnership to be registered on a religious premises that had not been approved for the purpose by the local authority. That approval will be given only with the approval of the faith group concerned.

We propose a two stage process for enabling civil partnerships to be registered on particular religious premises. First the faith group concerned will have to consent to this and the consultation document sets out how this could happen. Then the local authority in whose area the premises is located will have to approve the premises and the consultation document sets out what conditions should apply to the approval. The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises, but a religious service could be held to mark the registration.

This consultation will be of particular interest to:

  • faith groups including religions, denominations and individual independent religious congregations
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) organisations, LGB individuals and their families and friends
  • Local authorities, including registrars and other relevant local authority employees
  • owners and managers of buildings approved for civil marriages and civil partnerships

Comments from other interested parties are also welcome.

Download the consultation

The official CofE response to the second sentence of this paragraph (emphasis added) from the consultation document will be interesting:

1.8 Please tell us whether you are responding as an individual or whether you
are representing the views of an organisation. If you are responding on
behalf of an organisation please tell us whom the organisation represents
and, where possible, how the views of members have been sought.


Methodist minister ruled employee not office holder


A recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is concerned with the employment status of Methodist ministers.

The case is UKEAT/0219/10/DM between Ms H. A. Moore and The President of the Methodist Conference. The judgment, dated 15 March 2011 is available here, and can also be downloaded from here. (49 pages as a .doc file).

Here’s a news report from the Western Morning News Female church minister wins landmark employment rights case.

A sacked [but see comment below] female minister in Cornwall has won a landmark ruling to bring a case against the Methodist Church for unfair dismissal.

The decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal reverses an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal and paves the way for all clergy to challenge their employers in the courts.

The tribunal concluded that Haley Moore, who was dismissed as a minister in Redruth, was an employee under the Employment Rights Act and can take action against her former employer, the President of the Methodist Conference.

The Unite union, which has been fighting for equal rights at work for religious workers for 16 years, said the decision was a “significant step forward”.

but note also:

A Methodist Church spokesman said it would appeal the ruling.

Kenneth Howcroft, assistant secretary of conference, said: “The Methodist Church is seeking an appeal against the judgement that Haley Moore’s case is a matter for an employment tribunal.

“As it stands, Methodist ministers are office holders, not employees, of the Church and have legal rights of redress under long established, procedural channels.”

And a press release from the solicitors: New Landmark Employment Ruling for Clergy.

The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a significant step towards achieving this as it establishes that a Methodist minister is an employee under employment legislation, which is contrary to the Court of Appeal’s decision about Methodist ministers in 1984. The Methodist Church has 21 days from the date of the EAT’s order of 15 March 2011 to make an application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.”

And a press release from the Trade Union: Church of England urged ‘to smell the coffee’ over employment rights, following landmark ruling in Cornwall.

Religion Law Blog carries some comment on this by Neil Addison:

In Moore v The President Of The Methodist Conference BAILII:[2010] UKEAT 0219_10_1503 the Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that a Methodist Minister was an Employee for the purposes of Employment Law, in this case a claim for unfair dismissal. The EAT applied an earlier House of Lords case Percy v. Church of Scotland [2005] UKHL 73 in which the House of Lords decided that a Church of Scotland Minister was an employee.

Prior to Percy the general assumption in law was that religious ministers, of all denominations, were office holders rather than employees and so were not protected under unfair dismissal and/or discrimination law. In Percy however the House of Lords decided that, on the specific facts, the Minister in the case was an employee and the same decision was made in Moore as regards a Methodist minister.

How far this principle will extend is difficult to determine. It is possible that Denominations which have a very sacramental view of the status and role of the Clergy, such aside the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, will continue to be able to claim that their clergy are “office holders” rather than employees. However for Free Church Ministers, Rabbi’s and Immans the position may be different and they may be held to be employees of their respective congregations should they decide to sue for unfair dismissal or discrimination.


The full text of the Methodist Conference statement quoted in part above:

The Revd Kenneth Howcroft, Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: “The Methodist Church is seeking leave to appeal against the judgement that Haley Moore’s case is a matter for an employment tribunal. It is treating the matter with great seriousness as something that would affect all our ministers. The Court of Appeal held as long ago as 1984 that Methodist ministers are not employees. A minister’s role is one which is traditionally based on the ethos and laws of the Church rather than on a secular ethos. Our ministers have legal rights of redress under Church procedures. The Methodist Church cares for all who serve it, whether lay or ordained, paid or volunteer, and we want to ensure that we treat everyone fairly and properly.”



Martin L Smith at Episcopal Café asks What are bishops for?

Bruce Kaye, writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, asks Does Fresh Expressions misrepresent the Gospel?

Mark Vernon gives his answer to last week’s The Question (Who is in hell?) in The Guardian: Rob Bell’s intervention in the often ugly world of American evangelicalism. “In its treatment of hell, the pastor’s book holds two Christian truths in tension: human freedom and God’s infinite love.”

Fred Clark writes on his slacktivist blog about The paradox of pitchforks, a devilish problem.

Craig McQueen at the (Scottish) Daily Record writes about How the King James Bible still influences the way we speak 400 years after it was written.
Meanwhile Giles Fraser has a Thought for the Day about the King James Bible and this comment article in the Church Times: In praise of Shakespeare, not Jesus?

Chris Arnot reports in the Education section of The Guardian that Religious leaders are out of touch with issues of sexuality, survey reveals. “Results also indicate young people are finding it difficult to combine their religion with their sexuality.”

A newly published paper A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation by Daniel M Abrams, Haley A Yaple and Richard J Wiener has prompted these two responses.
Wendy M Grossman in The Guardian: I’ve no faith in this idea that religion is dying out
The Church Mouse: Mathematicians predict religion will become extinct in secularised nations


Irish Colloquium on The Proposed Anglican Covenant

The (slightly shortened) texts of the papers delivered at the recent event in Dublin are now online at the website of Search.

“The Proposed Anglican Covenant – a step forward or a step too far?”

The SEARCH Colloquium on “The Proposed Anglican Covenant – a step forward of a step too far?” took place in TCD on Saturday March 12th and has been judged a great success. Over 50 people attended the Thomas Davis Theatre to hear speakers from England, Wales and Ireland (both North and South) consider the decision on our response to the Covenant to be made at the General Synod in Armagh in May.

After a welcome from the TCD chaplain and secretary of the SEARCH editorial committee, the Revd Darren McCallig, and a brief introduction from the editor, Canon Ginnie Kennerley, the speakers and their subjects were as follows:

The panel discussion which followed was chaired by the Revd Professor John Bartlett, chairman of the SEARCH editorial committee.

1 Comment

Ireland and the Anglican Covenant

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:

Recommended terms of C. of I. response to Anglican Covenant explained at colloquium meeting

At a recent special colloquium in Dublin on the proposed Anglican Covenant, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, told participants that the Church of Ireland General synod’s standing Committee had decided that the General synod next May would be asked to “subscribe” the document, but not “adopt” it.

Bishop Burrows distinguished between the two terms, commenting that “the difficulty with the word ‘adopt’ is that you make the thing you adopt part of yourself”, and pointed out that the Covenant would be “a freely entered into regulation of our external relationships”, but that the Church of Ireland could “walk away”.

He said that, while it had originally been felt that a special Bill would be required, the standing Committee had now opted for a simple motion for next May’s General synod in Armagh. Bishop Burrows quoted the text of the scheduled motion: “seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.”

There is also an Editorial comment titled Approaching the Covenant. Scroll down the same link to read it in full.

The recent colloquium sponsored by Search and the TCD church of Ireland chaplaincy on the proposed Anglican covenant (report, page 1) heard excellent addresses on the subject, but it was Bishop Michael Burrows’ explanation of the procedure being followed in the church of Ireland regarding a formal response to the text that gave rise to most discussion. Indeed, semantics were to take centre stage, with the implications of the words “adopt” and “subscribe” being explored.

Bishop Burrows, hotfoot from this month’s Standing committee meeting when the procedure to be followed had been decided, referred to the three options for the General Synod: a Special Bill, an Ordinary Bill and a motion. A Special Bill, Bishop Burrows reminded everyone, would involve a two-year process and two-thirds majorities at every stage, unlike an Ordinary Bill or a motion, either of which would be taken within one meeting of the Synod and would require only simple majorities. The motion procedure had been chosen, he reported.

Then came the semantics. Bishop Burrows explained that the term “subscribe” had been preferred to “adopt”, as to adopt something involved taking it into one’s being. From a legal perspective, the term “subscribe” apparently is weaker than “adopt”, leaving the Church of Ireland more able, as Bishop Burrows put it, to “walk away”. Nonetheless, Bishop Burrows insisted on the “honourable” use of the term “subscribe” in the Church of Ireland, but that did not prevent the semantic distinction still making the planned motion sound rather like a highly nuanced pre-nuptial agreement arising from doubts about the contract in the first place, or a kind of arms’ length embracing of a loved one. Fine words of commitment may be uttered, but signing on the dotted line is carefully managed in order to try to avoid over-involvement. Bearing all of this in mind, one could be forgiven for wondering to what extent, if the covenant is considered unsuitable for the General Synod to “adopt”, there is any real heart on the part of those concerned even for “subscribing” it…


Church Times Guide to the Covenant

Last week the Church Times published a Guide to the Covenant. This is now available to non-subscribers, but only as a PDF file (4.1 Mb).

Download The Anglican Covenant – A Church Times Guide.

This is highly recommended reading. 🙂

One of the articles has been reproduced at Anglican Mainstream. See Church of Nigeria and the proposed Anglican Covenant.


A Census Dilemma for Clergy

It seems that Clergy have no ‘office-holder’ option when they fill in their census forms.
According to an announcement from St Albans diocese (scroll down), and no doubt others:

The Archbishops’ Council says:

(a) We very much regret that The Office for National Statistics has not provided a box that allows non-employee office holders to respond accurately.

(b) Clergy will have to decide whether to tick employee or self-employed, neither of which is accurate.

Considering all the fuss that has been made about the status of clergy as office-holders, this has to count as a #fail for the Archbishops’ Council.


Church Attendance in England, 1980-2005, and other statistics

Siobhan McAndrew at BRIN (British Religion in Numbers) has just published some interesting statistics.

Church Attendance in England, 1980-2005
Christian and Secular Youth Organisation Membership, 1951-2006
Places of Worship in England and Wales, 1999-2009


creationism in English schools

The government recently made a statement about this. Riazat Butt reported for the Guardian that Free schools will not teach creationism, says Department for Education.

The Department for Education has said Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” after a warning that the government’s new free schools could be exploited by fundamentalist churches looking to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The remarks follow a letter to the education secretary from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) suggesting that creationists planned to use government legislation on free schools to mount a “concerted attack” on science education…

Here is the full text not only of the letter, but also the attached memorandum that they sent.

But the government response is not as simple as the unknown headline writer suggests. As the Guardian article makes clear:

“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences,” said its leader Gareth Morgan. “Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”

The DfE spokesman said groups setting up new free schools in the UK will be vetted to ensure that they have “strong education aims” and “high curriculum standards”. He said: “The education secretary is crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact. Ministers have said they will not accept any proposal where there are concerns about the people behind the project.”

See this website for more information about the proposed new school.

A question was recently asked in Parliament by Julian Huppert MP. Emphasis added.

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on (a) ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum and (b) requiring evolution to be taught as a science in such schools.

Nick Gibb (Minister of State (Schools), Education; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative)

Academies and free schools will benefit from having freedom over the curriculum they deliver. However, we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. Under the Government’s planned reforms to school inspection, there will be stronger focus on teaching. Teachers will be expected to demonstrate that their subject knowledge is secure. If creationism is being taught as a scientific fact in science or any other areas of the curriculum outside denominational RE and collective worship, this would be noted in the Ofsted report.

Why is it that the only people who are expressing public concern about this issue are Humanists?


more about crucifixes in Italian schools

Updated Friday morning

Neil Addison has written at Religion Law Blog about this case, see Italian Crucifix Case – Grand Chamber Judgment.

As I predicted in my earlier Blogs the ECtHR based its decision on the concept of the “margin of appreciation” and decided that it was for individual countries to make these decisions so that just as France is free to ban all religious symbols from state schools so Italy is free to put religious symbols in state schools. In the UK context this is a significant basis for the decision. When UK Courts apply the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporates the European Convention into UK law they apply the “margin of appreciation” so as to give that margin to Government and public bodies. The fact that the display of the Crucifix, or indeed any other form of religious symbol, is governed by the “margin of appreciation” will go a long way to free local and central government, schools etc from the danger of legal cases being brought to ban Nativity Displays, prayers at remembrance parades etc.

Unusually for the ECtHR there were a number of separate concurring judgments and I feel that some of them deserve quoting in detail because they do pick up and question the often unquestioned assumption that Secularism is the same as religious neutrality.

And he includes some quotes from them.

William Oddie wrote at the Catholic Herald that Fr Lombardi is wrong: the judgment on crucifixes isn’t about Europe’s Christian roots.

What is actually much more interesting about the court’s full judgment is that it gives a lengthy account, with generous quotations, of the original judgment in an Italian court which was subsequently set aside by the European Court, a reversal now itself reversed by the highest European Court, the “Grand Chamber” (maybe it doesn’t sound so silly in French). The Italian judgment found in favour of keeping crucifixes, not for their religious value, but because they symbolised the moral values which in the end led to the Enlightenment and the modern Italian secular state. Neat, eh? This the Italian court did by delivering itself of a lengthy disquisition on Italian cultural history which had nothing whatever to do with legal argument at all, long and windy stuff (wonderfully Italian: you simply can’t imagine it in an English courtroom), a lot of which is actually rather interesting stuff.

And he goes on to give an illustrative quote.

Andrew Brown at Cif belief writes Raise high the crucifix!

The decision of the European court of Human Rights that Italian schools may continue to display a crucifix in the classroom is obviously a victory for common sense, of which only fanatics would disapprove. But it is also, in a small way, something to help rescue the European project, and to preserve us from the wilder excesses of American political life.

The idea that human rights legislation should be used to prevent children from being exposed to a crucifix is a profoundly totalitarian and superstitious perversion of one of our civilisation’s best inventions. To understand why, consider another family which would want their children protect from crucifixes, but this time not secular Finns, but Muslims. They exist. One Shia Muslim girl I know was not allowed as a child to walk through much of the Victoria & Albert museum, because to do so would expose her to Christian symbolism…


Shiranikha Herbert writes at the Church Times that Classroom crucifixes can stay, Strasbourg rules.

…The 17 judges of the Grand Chamber de­cided by 15 votes to two that there had been no violation of the rights guaranteed by the Convention. Judge Bonello said that a Euro­pean court should not be called upon to “bank­rupt centuries of European tradition” and “rob Italians of part of their cultural personality”. The court should, “before joining any crusade to demonise the crucifix”, place the presence of that emblem in its rightful historical perspective in Italian schools.

Until relatively recently, the “secular” state had delegated education to Christian institu­tions, who had a virtual monopoly on educa­tion. The presence of the crucifix in Italian schools testified to that historical reality. Now, Judge Bonello said, “a court in a glass box, a thousand kilometres away, had been engaged to veto overnight what [had] survived count­less generations”, and was being “asked to be an accomplice in a major act of cultural van­dal­ism”.

It was “uninformed nonsense”, the Judge said, “to assert that the presence of the cruci­fix in Italian schools bears witness to a reac­tion­ary fascist measure imposed, in between gulps of castor oil, by Signor Mussolini”, whose circulars merely took formal notice of a historical reality that predated him by several centuries.

“Nations do not fashion their histories on the spur of the moment…”

Strasbourg Observers has Lautsi v. Italy: the Argument from Neutrality (H/T 3minutetheologian)

Lautsi v. Italy was destined to achieve legendary status in the ECtHR’s case law. In fact, it became the stuff of legends long before the Grand Chamber’s judgment came out. Rarely has a judgment of a supranational court put such a spell on people. Rarely has it inspired such passionate comments and speculation even before it was released. Rarely have so many people looked forward to a judgment with such anxious anticipation. But why? What is it about the issues involved in this case that causes them to speak so strongly to the hearts and minds of so many? It is a question I have been asking myself for a while now, while reflecting on the tension between freedom of and freedom from religion in the Court’s case law. And the question is haunting me now more than ever, having read the Lautsi judgment and the comments in the blogosphere thereon and preparing a post of my own. I have not been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question. At least not satisfactory to a legal mind. My personal preoccupation with Lautsi seems to stem from a strong conviction that neutrality requires that the state should not hang crucifixes on the walls in public schools. I will attempt to explain my opinion in this post. But I will also explain why this is perhaps not an issue to be decided by a human rights court.


Two deans become suffragan bishops

Two cathedral deans have recently been appointed as suffragan bishops.

The Dean of Exeter, Jonathan Meyrick, has been appointed Bishop of Lynn (Norwich diocese).
No. 10 announcement
Diocesan announcement

The Dean of Rochester, Adrian Newman, has been appointed Bishop of Stepney (London diocese).
No. 10 announcement
Diocesan announcement


The Appointments Committee of the Church of England

There are some brief details of the Appointments Committee of the Church of England (and an out-of-date up-to-date list of members) on the Church of England website here, and I have copied this below the fold.

But much more useful and interesting is the paper GS Misc 963 Appointments 2010-2015 which “provides details about the work of the Appointments Committee of the Church of England and sets out some of the appointments to be made in the quinquennium”. Although dated October 2010 (and presumably issued to General Synod members then) it has, I think, only just appeared on the Elections and appointments page of the CofE website.



Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant

From the Lichfield Diocesan Website

Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant
Date 19/03/11

The Lichfield Diocesan Synod has become the first in the Church of England to approve the Anglican Communion Covenant with overwhelming votes in favour in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity).

The vote at today’s meeting in Longton Hall near Stoke on Trent is in response to the General Synod’s decision to refer the matter to the dioceses. All 44 dioceses in the Church of England are being asked to “approve the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant.” Last week the diocese of Wakefield voted to reject the motion; and the diocese of Hereford voted to refer the matter to deanery synods for wider discussion.

An attempt to adjourn the debate in Lichfield diocese so it could be referred to deanery synods was rejected with 47 voting in favour of an adjournment and 60 voting against.

Before the debate, members heard from the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, lecturer in ethics at Trinity College, Bristol, who introduced the Covenant and outlined some of the arguments for and against it.

The idea behind an Anglican Communion Covenant – the closest thing to a constitution for the worldwide Anglican Communion – was first proposed in the Windsor report of 2004, following developments in relation to same-sex partnerships in North America. It was envisaged that the Anglican Covenant would “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection” which govern the relationships between the churches of the Anglican Communion.

A text of the Covenant was sent to all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion for their approval in December 2009. Each Province has different governance structures and it is expected to be a number of years before all the Provinces complete the process for acceptance or rejection. The Anglican Consultative Council will discuss progress at its meeting expected in November 2012.

In the Church of England, the House of Bishops agreed in May 2010 to commend the Covenant to the General Synod and a draft Act of Synod was debated by the General Synod in November last year and referred to diocesan synods. If a majority of dioceses agree to the draft Act of Synod it will return to the General Synod for final approval, possibly in 2012.

The Anglican Communion is not a single church or a federation of churches but a collection of 44 different churches made up of 34 Provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches, spread across the globe; with an estimated 80 million Christians.

The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality highlighted that there were no formal structures or agreements for handling disputes when they arise. The Covenant is designed to balance the need to define how the churches of the Communion formally relate to each other without creating a formal constitution or federation; continuing to hold the Communion together through mutual relationships.

The Diocese of Lichfield has formal mission partnerships with the Dioceses of West Malaysia, Kuching and Singapore in South East Asia, Matlosane in South Africa and Qu’Appelle in Canada. Churches within the diocese enjoy individual relationships with churches across the Communion.

The result of the vote in the Lichfield Diocesan Synod were:

House For Against Abstain
Bishops 4 0 0
Clergy 39 11 1
Laity 57 9 1
Total 100 20 2

The audio of the Synod debate will be available on the Lichfield Diocesan website on Monday afternoon:


opinion for the equinox

This week The Question at The Guardian’s Comment is free belief is Who is in hell?
There are answers from John Richardson, Mary Finnigan and Roz Kaveney.
Andrew Brown has also written on the topic in his Comment is free belief blog: Hell and linoleum. “What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?”
Andrew Brown also writes about Hooker on grief and hell. “Can wicked and stupid people ever be truly happy? One of the founders of Anglicanism thought they could not.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: I believe in death — not immortality

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian that Gay-friendly Christianity has become a self-righteous subculture. “The Christian gay rights lobby adopts the narrative of ‘accepting who you are’ and diverts the religion towards a flabby liberalism.”

Samira Ahmed at the Three Faiths Forum asks Do they mean us? “Who‘s included and excluded in news coverage and how to make it better.”

Hymns Ancient and Modern was first published 150 years ago. To mark the occasion the Church Times published a series of articles last week which are now available to non-subscribers.
Hymns A&M: National treasure — not royal appointment
Hymns A&M: Savaged by the red tops
Hymns A&M: Let’s make it official
Hymns A&M: A candle in the darkness
Christopher Howse has also marked the anniversary in The Telegraph: A&M: the C of E in words and music.

Giles Fraser also writes in today’s Guardian Unanswered questions on Japan’s suffering. “In the face of great tragedy, we can admit we do not understand without losing our faith.”


ECHR rules in Italian school crucifixes case

Updated Friday evening

Long-suffering TA readers will recall this case.

The Associated Press reports today: European court: Crucifix acceptable in classrooms.

The full text of the judgment is available as a PDF over here.

Here is the official press release from the court also as a PDF.

The ECHR Blog has published Grand Chamber Judgment in Lautsi: No Violation.

Austen Ivereigh at America has written Lautsi overturned: secularization has a reverse gear. Earlier he had written a much longer article, Waiting on Lautsi.

The National Secular Society has reacted with Crucifix case overturned by Human Rights Court.

Riazat Butt writes in the Guardian European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes are allowed in state schools

AFP has Vatican hails ‘historic’ ruling on crucifixes in schools


rumour about the new Bishop of Salisbury

Hugh Muir in the Diary column of today’s Guardian, is straplined A sensible move by the Church of England – will wonders never cease?

Churchill said the Americans do the right thing when all other avenues have been exhausted – but he could just as easily have been talking about the Church of England. Little is achieved without muddle and controversy. And this sadly characterises the way the powers have handled the future deployment of the Rev Nick Holtam, capable vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, who would have been a bishop by now were it not for the fact that his wife of more than 30 years was previously married and divorced. Conservatives on the bench of bishops used the “taint” of the spouse’s divorce to effectively veto Rev Nick’s elevation. The fact that he’s a liberal didn’t help. But God might well reflect that the Church of England works in mysterious ways. Sometimes that’s good. For it does appear that Rev Nick is going to get a mitre after all. We are told to be watchful of Salisbury. And it is probably no coincidence that the next-door bishop Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester – the church’s arch Tory bishop who spoke out against the appointment of bishops with divorced wives last year – is imminently for retirement. We’ll miss him but everything may progress more smoothly in his absence. And we’ll get along just fine with Bishop Nick.


EHRC recommends changes to Marriage law in Scotland

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (Scotland) has issued this press release: New Scottish Government called upon to address Equal Marriage for same sex couples.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland today launched a new report calling for access to equal marriage for same sex couples in Scotland. The report is a result of a symposium recently held by the Commission to investigate perceived barriers to equal marriage and suggest ways forward for legislators.

Scotland currently has a segregated family law system in which marriage is available only to mixed-sex couples, and civil partnership only to same-sex couples.

In England and Wales, the UK Government has announced public consultations on proposals to hold civil partnerships on religious premises and to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples and civil partnership to mixed-sex couples. However, because marriage and civil partnership are devolved issues, these proposals apply to England and Wales only.

The report calls upon the Scottish Government to consider these disparities and to take steps to bring about equal access to marriage in Scotland. The evidence and research contained within the report aims to inform their deliberations…

The EHRC report is available here: Equal Access to Marriage: Ending the segregation of same-sex couples and transgender people in Scotland. (PDF)


Birmingham votes for women bishops


The Diocese of Birmingham voted last Saturday in favour of women in the episcopate of the Church of England.

Press Statement Monday 14th March 2011 from Women and the Church (WATCH)

Massive Support for Women Bishops Legislation in Birmingham

WATCH is delighted by the result of the first Diocesan vote on the law that will allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. In Birmingham on Saturday the Diocesan Synod voted by 75 to 4 in favour of the legislation with its accompanying provisions for those who will not accept women as bishops. To make that endorsement even more clear, two motions that asked for even more provisions for those opposed were defeated, with only a small minority of people voting for them.

Hilary Cotton, WATCH Vice Chair and Head of Campaign, said, ‘This indicates two things to us: firstly, that people in Birmingham want the Church to get on with making women bishops as soon as possible and, secondly, they are satisfied with the provision that this legislation makes for those who will not accept women bishops.’

Hilary Cotton: Campaign Co-ordinator – Home: 01483856827 Mobile: 07793817058
Sally Barnes: Media Officer – Home: 020 8731 0960 Mobile 07759343335

Notes for Editors

WATCH (Women and the Church) is a voluntary organisation of women and men who are campaigning to see women take their place alongside men without discrimination and at every level in the Church of England. This requires the removal of current legal obstacles to the consecration of women as bishops. WATCH believes that the full equality of women and men in the Church is part of God’s will for all people, and reflects the inclusive heart of the Christian scripture and tradition.

The Church Times carried a report on 18 March, Women: yes-vote taken in Birmingham.