Thinking Anglicans


David Lose in The Huffington Post asks Is the Bible True?

James McGrath writes for Religion at the Margins about The Veil That Prevents Fundamentalists from Understanding the Bible.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that The Bible is not like moral sayings.

Here’s an early Easter message from the USA: The Presiding Bishop’s Easter message.

Harriet Baber writes in The Guardian that Religion is not really about ethics. “As a compendium of moral doctrine the Bible doesn’t come off well. Its relevance lies in its teaching of the nature of God.”
Her article is one of several answers to this week’s The Question: What would you add to the Bible?


Martin Rees wins the Templeton Prize

updated Friday morning to add Church Times article and Guardian editorial, and again to add Times interview, and in the afternoon another Guardian article.

It was announced yesterday that the astrophysicist Martin Rees had been awarded the 2011 Templeton Prize.

The Guardian covered this story extensively.
Ian Sample: Martin Rees wins controversial £1m Templeton prize
Templeton Prize 2011: Full transcript of Martin Rees’s acceptance speech
Ian Sample interviewed Martin Rees on Tuesday before the announcement that he had won the Templeton Prize. This is a full transcript of the interview: Martin Rees: I’ve got no religious beliefs at all – interview.

The Guardian also has these comment articles
Mark Vernon: Martin Rees’s Templeton prize may mark a turning point in the ‘God wars’
Jerry Coyne: Martin Rees and the Templeton travesty
Michael White: Martin Rees and the Templeton prize: why are the atheists so cross?
Dan Jones: The Templeton Foundation is not an enemy of science
and this editorial: Martin Rees: Prize war.

But there was other coverage.
Michael Banks at Martin Rees wins £1m Templeton Prize
Daniel Cressey in Nature: Martin Rees takes Templeton Prize
Steve Connor in The Independent: For the love of God… scientists in uproar at £1m religion prize
Chris Herlinger in The Huffington Post: Martin Rees, British Astrophysicist, Wins Templeton Prize
Ed Thornton in the Church Times: Non-believing churchgoer is winner of Templeton Prize
Hannah Devlin and Ruth Gledhill of The Times interview on YouTube: Martin Rees, winner of The Templeton Prize, on God, life, the universe (21 minutes)


Wales and the Anglican Covenant

The Church in Wales is inviting the public to comment on the Anglican Covenant, see this page.

To help in this matter, a commentary provided by the Church in Wales Doctrinal Commission has also been published, as a PDF file, here (link now corrected)


Nigerian bishops ask for help in England

The following passage comes from Archbishop Okoh’s opening address to the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria held on 3 March 2011. (It has only just come to my attention.)

Visit to the UK: In our meeting in Lagos, we were mandated to visit the UK to ascertain the condition of Nigerian Anglicans, and how to help them. Our first attempt was on 17th December 2010, which failed because excessive snow fall, led to the closure of Heathrow airport. We rescheduled for 16th February, 2011. Thank God we were able to go. It was a full delegation. The Group was made up of:

The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh – Primate
The Most Revd Joseph Akinfenwa – Ibadan
The Most Revd Michael Akinyemi – Kwara
The Most Revd Bennet Okoro Owerri
The Most Revd Ignatius Kattey Niger Delta
The Most Revd Emmanuel Egbunu – Lokoja
The Rt. Revd David Onuoha – Secretary
Barr. Abraham Yisa – Registrar

The delegation was well received by the Nigerian High Commission in London. There was a brief meeting and an interactive section. The group also visited the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. Our message:

The need to allow Nigerians to worship “the Nigeria way” in abandoned Church buildings or allow them a scheduled time in parish Churches where they could express themselves unreservedly in worship, to save us from the unceasing and intense bleeding of our young executive Anglicans moving over to the New Generation Churches due to what they describe as “cold” worship style. Our request was viewed positively by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. We also visited the Lord Bishop of London and the Bishop of Southwark. Other places visited include Manchester and Birmingham. In summary the Archbishop requested us to put our proposal into writing. He assured us that it is a practical proposal. We addressed a group of Nigerians of different age brackets in London, Manchester and Birmingham and had a special session with representatives of Nigerian Clergy in the UK. Our visit was said to be timely. But a few had their reservations.

Another issue which has emerged in this visit is the status, sponsorship and future of the Nigerian Chaplaincy in the UK. At the moment they are enjoying the last part of the generosity of the CMS, and the grace and benevolence of St. Marylebone. These are issues requiring urgent attention.


Chicago Consultation publishes The Genius of Anglicanism

press release from The Chicago Consultation


The Genius of Anglicanism includes essays by theologians, church leaders

April 5, 2011—The Chicago Consultation, which advocates for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the worldwide Anglican Communion, has released a collection of essays and study questions on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The Genius of Anglicanism, a 64-page booklet, includes eight essays and study questions, and may be downloaded at no cost at

“We believe that congregations, bishops, General Convention deputations and individual Episcopalians will benefit from this careful exploration of the proposed covenant,” said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation and rector of St. Paul’s Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“The proposed covenant is a complex document that could have a major impact on the Episcopal Church and its many vital and longstanding relationships within the wider Anglican Communion,” he added. “We are grateful that well-respected theologians, clergy and lay leaders were willing to analyze it for us.”

The Very Rev. Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and former dean of divinity at New College, Oxford, wrote the introduction for the guide, which was edited by Jim Naughton and includes essays by:

  • The Rev. Ruth Meyers, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, on the relationship of the proposed covenant to the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church
  • The Rev. Ellen Wondra, editor in chief of the Anglican Theological Review and academic dean at Seabury Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois on how a theological innovation, such as the proposed covenant is received or rejected by a community of faith
  • The Rev. Timothy Sedgwick, Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary, on the concept of episcopal authority in the proposed covenant
  • Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cam bridge, Massachusetts, on how the proposed covenant will affect the participation of the laity in Communion affairs
  • The Rev. Canon Mark Harris, of the Diocese of Delaware, a member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on the proposed covenant and the traditional concept of “the historic episcopate locally adapted”
  • Sally Johnson, chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies on the judicial and disciplinary provisions in the fourth section of the proposed covenant
  • The Rev. Gay Jennings, the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, on the Anglican Communion’s existing covenant, which is grounded in the Five Marks of Mission
  • The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s-Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City and member of Executive Council on the kind of covenant necessary to make the Communion an ally of the poor and the oppressed.

Grisham, who prepared the study questions that accompany each essay, said he believes the booklet will be widely used in the run-up to the Episcopal Church’s next General Convention in July 2012.

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. To learn more about the Chicago Consultation, visit


Religion and the Courts

Aidan O’Neill QC has written about Religious Organisations and Secular Courts: The Ministerial Exception.

Read it in two parts at the UK Supreme Court Blog.

Part 1: The Ministerial exception in US case law

On 28 March 2011 the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Perich v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church. This means that an appeal can be brought before the US Supreme Court in which, for the first time, that court will consider the constitutionality of the legal doctrine known as the “Ministerial exception”.

The “Ministerial exception” is a US court created (common law) principle which is said to be implicit within and derived from the US Constitution’s First Amendment’s prohibition of “religious establishment” and its guarantee of “religious freedom”…

Part 2: The Ministerial exception in UK and EU case law

Perhaps under the influence of this US case law, by the last quarter of the twentieth century the growing tendency of the courts – at least in England and Wales – was to seek to avoid becoming mired in matters of ecclesiastical sensitivity and/or theological controversy by denying that they had jurisdiction to consider (intra- or inter-) religious disputes brought before them.

Paradoxically, this new found uneasiness as to the propriety of the civil courts ruling on matters religious might be thought to reflect the growing secularisation of public life in the UK, with the judges drawn from an increasingly unChurched class who – in contrast to their church-going and religiously literate Victorian and Edwardian forbears – felt uncomfortable and unqualified to sit in judgment on religious matters. Thus, the courts in England and Wales in this period declined to consider applications for judicial review brought by individuals exercising ministerial functions within various non-established religious denominations on the grounds that there was no “public law” element such as to make the case suitable for judicial review, apparently relying on a UK public law principle of separation of Church and State which had, in fact, no place historically with the polities making up the United Kingdom…

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Anglican Covenant section by section

Alan Perry has just written an analysis of Section 3 of the Anglican Covenant, see Life Together.

Section 3 of the proposed Anglican Covenant describes the way in which the Churches of the Anglican Communion collaborate with each other. At the heart of this section is a description of the Instruments of Communion. These used to be know as Instruments of Unity, but for some inscrutable reason the term was changed in recent times.

Section 3.1.2 correctly notes, quoting the Lambeth Conference of 1930, that “Churches of the Anglican Communion are bound together ‘not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference’ and of the other instruments of Communion.” This statement is a little ironic, of course, being contained within a document which is being proposed as central legislation for the Communion, and which gives at least some executive powers to the Instruments of Communion and the Standing Committee. As we say in Quebec, it seems the proposed Covenant is speaking out of both sides of its mouth…

His earlier analyses of Section 1 are called Defining the Faith and Living the Faith.

That of Section 2 is called Vocation and Mission in the Anglican Communion.

And there is lots more analysis of the Anglican Covenant elsewhere in his blog.


Court rejects request to review in Pittsburgh

The Diocese of Pittsburgh reports that the earlier court decision in its favour is upheld.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has turned down a request made by former diocesan leaders to reargue their appeal of a lower court’s ruling concerning diocesan property.

On February 2, 2011, Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision by Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County that found the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church to be the rightful trustee of diocesan-held property and assets, based on a Stipulation the former diocesan leaders agreed to in 2005. Those former leaders had appealed Judge James’ decision to Commonwealth Court, and two weeks after the appeals court affirmed Judge James, they asked the appeals court to reconsider its ruling.

The actual court order is available as a PDF, but the content is reproduced here:

NOW, March 29 2011, having considered appellants’ application for re-argument before the court en banc and appellees’ answer, the application is denied.


opinion for Refreshment Sunday

Maggi Dawn writes for Ekklesia about Recovering ‘Refreshment Sunday’. The article is also on her blog under the title Mothers Day (AKA Refreshment Sunday).

Brett McCracken in Relevant asks Is Church Worth It? “Many of us have been hurt by church. But what if sticking with it actually matters?”

Giles Fraser in the Church Times explains Why I did not march on Saturday.

Becky Garrison writes in The Guardian that Trans clergy are finally gaining greater acceptance. “As we approach Transgender Faith Action Week, progress can be seen in attitudes to trans people within the church.”

Christopher Howse has two Sacred mysteries columns in The Telegraph this week: Why did the king sack El Greco? and Mary’s feet on the dusty ground.


letters about the Anglican Covenant

Letters published last week in the Church Times can now be found at Anglican Covenant: responses to last week’s Church Times guide.