Thinking Anglicans

More discussion on appointing gay CofE bishops

Updated again Saturday

First, there was an item about this on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme.

The radio programme synopsis can be found at this page.

Colin Coward has transcribed the pertinent section at BBC R4 Sunday programme interview with Colin Coward and Canon Chris Sugden by Edward Stourton.

Second, Cif belief has this Question of the Week: How should gay bishops be chosen?

And the first article published in response is by Lesley Fellows:
The Church of England has double standards when it comes to gay bishops
The checklist used to stop Jeffrey John becoming Bishop of Southwark seemed deliberately designed to exclude him.

Thursday update

Peter Ould has added to Cif belief this article: End the cold war over gay bishops.
We know the church is divided on gay bishops. What’s needed is a synod vote after full public discussion of all the issues.

Friday update

Colin Coward has added another article to this: Homophobia has infected the Church of England.
The church must find the courage to deal with the poisonous culture of anti-gay prejudice in its appointment of bishops.

Saturday update

Mark Oakley has added Gay or straight, allow clergy to reflect the rest of us.
We can’t have one morality for laity and one for clergy. An ordination checklist would be inhumane and hypocritical.


Another Anglican Covenant roundup

The Anglican Communion Institute has published The Covenant: What Is It All About? by Philip Turner.

The Living Church has published Recognizably Anglican by George R Sumner.

Mark Harris asks What’s at Stake with the Anglican Covenant. Some questions. And earlier, The Strange Case of the Province of South East Asia and their Letter of Accession.

Jonathan Clatworthy has written two items: Analysis of the Provincial Votes and a letter which has not so far been published by the Church Times but which appears here at Wounded Bird.

The Daily Episcopalian ran a series last week of articles that were first published by the Chicago Consultation:


opinion on a holiday weekend

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief Catholic child abuse analysed
The John Jay Institute report on the child abuse scandals in the USA has been published. It will surprise and discomfort all sides.

Savi Hensman wrote at Cif belief What would Jesus cut?
David Cameron claims Jesus invented the ‘big society’ – but the Christian message has a strong emphasis on social justice.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian The killing of Osama bin Laden may only have turned us into our enemies
Christians lambasted for being wishy-washy are right to be suspicious of the idea of the just war.

AWN Pugin’s finest gift to his country
Sacred mysteries: Christopher Howse in the Telegraph finds that things are looking up for the Victorian architect’s most treasured building.

From last week’s Church Times:
Do God and government US-style
New American models of religious social action could work in the UK, argues Francis Davis.

In praise of normal mysticism
Evelyn Underhill’s writings remain a vital guide to the spiritual life, says Jane Shaw.

The Guardian’s Face to Faith column is by David Bryant: Heavyweight ethics are no way to help the newly bereaved face up to their grief.


General Synod July Outline Agenda published

The outline agenda for the General Synod meeting at York in July is now available from this page, as a PDF file. The information is copied below the fold.



Reactions to yesterday's revelations about CofE bishops

Updated Saturday evening

Here’s some of the responses to yesterday’s Guardian news story.

First, from the journalist who had the original scoop last July, Jonathan Wynne-Jones. He writes at the Telegraph that The Church of England cannot hide from a fight over gay bishops.

Savi Hensman has written at Ekklesia about Equality, prejudice, power and the Church of England.

From Scotland, Kelvin Holdsworth has written Colin Slee’s J’accuse.

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude has written Collusion, dishonesty, ignorance and stupidity are the marks of the House of Bishops.

Lesley Fellows has written How do you stop a brilliant gay man from being a bishop?

Benny Hazlehurst has written Archbishops haunted by a voice from the grave….

Peter Ould has written Leaks and Truth.

Adrian Worsfold has written The Rotten Stink at the Very Top.

Saturday evening updates

The Church Mouse has Gay Bishops, angry Archbishops and Deans speaking from beyond the grave.

Colin Coward has written again, see Campaigning for a healthy human Christian culture.

Peter Ould has written again, see Everybody Out!


House of Bishops tied in knots over gay bishops

Updated again Friday 3 June

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, has a report headlined Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops.

A meeting of Church of England bishops in York this week has broken up without agreement on whether gay clergy should ever be allowed to be chosen for promotion to bishoprics.

The leadership of the established church remains tied in knots over how far it can comply with the Equality Act in its treatment of gay people. Church lawyers have told the bishops that while they cannot take into account that someone is homosexual in considering them for preferment, they also cannot put forward clergy in active same-sex relationships and, even if they are celibate, must consider whether they can “act as a focus for unity” to their flocks if appointed to a diocese.

Conservative evangelicals remain bitterly opposed to the ordination of gay people, even though many clergy are more or less openly gay, and some are in same-sex partnerships…

The report continues with details of

…an anguished and devastating memorandum written by the Very Rev Colin Slee, the former dean of Southwark Cathedral, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer last November. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, vetoed candidates from becoming bishops of the south London diocese…

And it concludes by mentioning that

The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.

The briefing states: “It is not open to a crown nominations committee or a bishop making a suffragan appointment to propose someone who is in a sexually active same-sex relationship; it is not open to them to take into account the mere fact that someone is gay by sexual orientation.”

Original documents:

Colin Slee’s memorandum

Legal memorandum

Friday update

The Church Times has its own report on these documents: House of Bishops divided on keeping out homosexuals (and scroll down for a second article, Slee: tears shed after angry talks).

And a further update, a week later:

There is another copy of Colin Slee’s memorandum that is slightly longer, available via this page.


Church of Scotland considers Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry

Updated Tuesday

The General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland is today considering a report on Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry. The report, and several related documents can be downloaded from here.

This week the Church Times published an article about this written jointly by Andrew Goddard and Giles Goddard. The article, as published, is available at the moment only to Church Times subscribers. But a version of it has been published by Fulcrum and can be read at Wisdom from the Scots: The CofE and Same-sex Unions.

Pending an official web page to link to, here is a summary of what they decided.

Kelvin Holdsworth has written this explanation: What the Church of Scotland decided today.

Here now is the official press release, available as a PDF here.

Tuesday press reports:

The Scotsman has extensive coverage:
Kirk split looms as members vote to back gay ministers
Catalyst that started the great debate
Analysis: ‘A peculiar decision which is unlikely to satisfy anyone’
Leader: Kirk’s vote for gay clergy marks clear divide

Church of Scotland votes on gay ministers
Mood shift points to gay clergy for the Kirk


Virginians form new ACNA diocese

The Anglican District of Virginia has chosen a new bishop and is forming itself into a new ACNA diocese. These congregations, which previously broke away from the Diocese of Virginia, have until now been part of CANA.

Here are some press releases:

Mid-Atlantic Anglicans Vote to Move Forward with Becoming a New Anglican Church Diocese

+Guernsey Elected for new Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

Virginia Anglicans Vote to Become a Diocese within Anglican Church in North America

The new bishop is the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey. The other candidate was the Ven. Julian M. Dobbs.


Gazette interviews Philip Giddings

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports: Anglican Communion ‘quite close to being dysfunctional’, senior English layman tells the Gazette.

In an interview reported in the current issue of The Church of Ireland Gazette, the Chair of the Church of England General Synod’s House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings, speaks to the Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis, about the Anglican Covenant and the issue of women bishops in the Church of England.

The text of the interview report can be found at the link above.

A 23-minute audio of the whole interview can be found here.

(In the audio, the subject of the Covenant runs from 03:00-13:45 and the women bishops issue, including comment on the Ordinariate, runs from 13:45 to the end)


Rapture: don't be silly

Bishop Alan Wilson was interviewed last night on Channel 4 News about the Rapture.
You can see and hear what he said via this page: World fails to end.

The US evangelist who said the world would end on 21 May stands by his prediction, as the Bishop of Buckingham tells Channel 4 News Saint Paul would have said “don’t be silly”.

But the best explanation of why it didn’t happen is undoubtedly this.

A less amusing but very sensible analysis is by Paul Roberts and is titled Life after the rapture – on grabbing the microphone.

The biggest “Christian” internet event of the year so far was the prediction that the world was going to end on 21st May 2011 at 6pm in each time-zone. The reaction by Christians has been either to ignore it, to join in lampooning it as extremely stupid, to protest loudly that they have nothing to do with the speculations of Harold Camping or to grow increasingly depressed at the amount of media interest that such an example of a group of Christians being extremely (and publicly) foolish has generated…


Methodist Church to appeal employment ruling

Remember this? Methodist minister ruled employee not office holder.

This week, it was announced that Methodist Church granted leave to appeal employment ruling.

The Methodist Church has been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judgement of an Employment Appeal Tribunal that Methodist ministers should be counted as employees and cases concerning them heard by Employment Tribunals. Methodist ministers have always been treated by the Church as office holders rather than employees.

Leave to appeal has been granted by the Court on the grounds that the appeal “has a real prospect of success on the basis of the submissions in the skeleton argument dated 14 April 2011. The state of the authorities on the key question of whether a minister of religion is not an employee is unclear and requires further consideration by the court following the case of Percy.”

This case may have significance for British churches other than the Methodists.


opinion for the Rapture

Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that The end of the world comes on the 21 May … well, perhaps. “Christians awaiting the rapture this week are part of a long and curious history in their desire to pinpoint the end of the world.”
Peter Sherlock writes for The Conversation: Judgement Day and the dead are rising: it must be Saturday.
The Church Times has this leader: End of the world? The least of our worries.
Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio writes for The Guardian about Hellfire and ice-cream – alternative visions of the Rapture. “I don’t believe the prediction that today is Judgment Day, but just in case…”

Michael Nazir-Ali writes for The Guardian about A true resurrection in Iraq. “Two Christian communities in Baghdad show real hope for Iraq’s historic diversity – if politicians do their bit.”

Ian Sample reports an interview with Stephen Hawking for The Guardian: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story.’
In response Michael Wenham writes for The Guardian: I’d stake my life that Stephen Hawking is wrong about heaven, and Brad Hirschfield writes for The Huffington Post: Stephen Hawking’s Sin In Denying Heaven.

Jonathan Weyer writes for The Huffington Post about What the Bible Really Says About Doubt.

Symon Hill writes for Ekklesia about Christianity and homophobia in Britain today.

Lauren R Stanley writes for the Episcopal Café In defense of seminaries.


Lords reform (and the bishops)

The Church Times has a report Lords Spiritual could be reduced to 12 bishops by Ed Beavan.

The previous week, prior to publication of the White Paper, it had published two articles about this:

Create a House of Talents by John F. H. Smith.

There is a better way than direct election to make Parliament’s Second Chamber more representative…

House of Lords reform: we are close to selling the pass by Bishop John Gladwin.

There is much inertia on the issue of the Second Chamber, but the stakes in parliamentary reform are high…

There has been plenty of criticism of the government proposals since the White Paper was published, including some that the bishops are being allowed to remain at all.

This post by Obiter J on Law and Lawyers contains a good summary of the proposals: Plantagenet Palliser – after 100 years, will Lords reform arrive?

The Constitution Unit Blog which comes from the UCL Constitution Unit has listed Eight key obstacles on the road to Lords reform one of which is:

4. Bishops. A reduction from 26 to 12 is proposed: possibly a compromise that pleases no one. Many want the bishops to go.


Guidance for parents of gay children

William Crawley recently mentioned on his blog the new pastoral resource published by Changing Attitude Ireland which was launched during the recent CofI General Synod by Bishop Michael Burrows.

The booklet “I think my son or daughter is gay” by Gerry Lynch is available as a PDF here.

Or as a Google document here.


Bishops speak on Reform of the Lords

The Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Chester both spoke yesterday in the House of Lords on the subject of Lords Reform. Their words and the immediate responses from the Leader of the House (speaking for the government) are reproduced below the fold, but to see them in full context, go here (Winchester), and then here (Chester).



Reform of the House of Lords

The government has published proposals for this.

Cabinet Office press release here.

The White Paper can be found here: House of Lords Reform Draft Bill.

The proposal includes reducing the number of bishops from 26 to 12.

The Church of England has issued this press release: Statement on Government white paper on House of Lords reform.


Ireland "subscribes" to the Anglican Covenant


The Church of Ireland has voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant. Here is what the official press release, issued last Friday, says:

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland meeting today in Armagh voted in favour of the following Motion on the Anglican Covenant:

‘Seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General Synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.’

The vote was passed by a large majority of the House of Representatives. The House of Bishops also voted as a separate House, approving the motion, also by a large majority.

The Motion was proposed by the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, and seconded by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller. In the course of the Synod debate it was stressed that the word ‘subscribe’ in relation to the Covenant, rather than ‘adopt’, was important. Subscribing the Covenant is an indication that the Church of Ireland has put its collective name to and aligned with it. The Covenant sits under the Preamble and Declaration of the Church and does not affect the sovereignty of the Church of Ireland or mean any change in doctrine.

So subscription is something different to adoption. And South East Asia used the term accession.

Confused? If so, then these three four blog articles may not help you.

Catholicity and Covenant has Quincy, SE Asia & Ireland: Covenant questions.

Bosco Peters at Liturgy has Anglican Covenant meaningless.

Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction has The Anglican Covenant — Let’s be clear.

Alan Perry has What goes on in the Emerald Isle?


Freemasonry in the Church of England

Updated Tuesday

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has a news article in the Sunday Telegraph today, headlined Archbishop allows freemason to be bishop.

Dr Rowan Williams named the Rev Jonathan Baker as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet despite knowing he was an active and senior mason.

The appointment, announced earlier this month, marked a significant U-turn by Dr Williams who had previously said that Freemasonry was “incompatible” with Christianity and had refused to promote Masons to senior posts.

Last week, as news of Fr Baker’s membership of the Masons began to circulate through the Church, it provoked growing concern and criticism from clergy and members of the General Synod.

When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph on Friday, Fr Baker defended his continued membership of the Masons and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop.

Yet yesterday he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop, adding: “I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.”

The Church of England website has this page on Freemasonry.

July 1987 General Synod considered a report Freemasonry and Christianity: Are they compatible?

The following motion carried a margin of 8 to 1:

‘That this Synod endorses the Report of the Working Group (GS 784A), including its final paragraph, and commends it for discussion by the Church.’

At national level, there have been no formal developments since the 1987 debate.

The final paragraph of the report referred to in the motion reads as follows:

‘(122) This Report has identified a number of important issues on which, in the view of the Working Group, the General Synod will have to reflect as it considers ‘the compatibility or otherwise of Freemasonry with Christianity’. The reflections of the Working Group itself reveal understandable differences of opinion between those who are Freemasons and those who are not. Whilst the former fully agree that the Report shows that there are clear difficulties to be faced by Christians who are Freemasons, the latter are of the mind that the Report points to a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity.’

In April 2003, the Telegraph carried this report: Rowan Williams apologises to Freemasons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been forced to apologise to Britain’s 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese…

…In his letter of apology, Dr Williams tries to distance himself from his own reported comments. He claims that his views were never meant to be public and were distorted by the media.

He wrote: “I have been sorry to learn of the distress of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media coverage.”

He added: “The quoted statements about the ‘satanic’ character of the Masonic ceremonies and other matters did not come from me and do not represent my judgment. Since my late father was a member of the Craft for many years, I have had every opportunity of observing the probity of individual members.”

Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.

He wrote: “Where anxieties exist, however, they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty.”

He ends his letter by stating that Freemasons’ commitment to charity and the community is beyond question.

The Ebbsfleet website has: Personal statement by the Rev’d Jonathan Baker, bishop-designate of Ebbsfleet.

I joined freemasonry as an undergraduate in Oxford, before ordination. Over the years I have found it to be an organisation admirably committed to community life and involvement, with a record of charitable giving second to none, especially among, for example, unfashionable areas of medical research.

Had I ever encountered anything in freemasonry incompatible with my Christian faith I would, of course, have resigned at once. On the contrary, freemasonry is a secular organisation, wholly supportive of faith, and not an alternative to, or substitute for it. In terms of the Church of England, its support, for example, for cathedral fabric is well documented.

Last year HRH the Duke of Kent invited me to serve as an assistant Grand Chaplain, an invitation which I was pleased to accept. This appointment was for one year, and ceased in April.

To be a bishop requires one to review commitments across every area of life; indeed, Archbishop Rowan had invited me, in discussion, to re-consider, amongst other commitments, my membership of freemasonry. I had intended to discuss the issue more fully with friends and colleagues.

I have, however, decided to take the decision now. My absolute priority is the new ministry to which I have been called and to the people who will be in my care. I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.

I wish to pay tribute to the aims and objectives of freemasonry and the work which it carries out. I am thankful for the part it has played in my life and for the many friendships it has nurtured.

I have concluded that, because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden that ministry bears, I am resigning my membership of freemasonry.

The Church Mouse has The Church should update its policy on Freemasonry. He notes that Lambeth Palace does not know how many bishops are Freemasons.


Blogging for the world

Bishop Alan Wilson wrote last week for the Church Times about how Internet social media offer an irresistible opportunity to spread the gospel. The Church should plunge in.

This article is now available without subscription (though not indefinitely so) at Blogging for the world.

Mrs Partington lived at Sid­mouth on the seafront. The Revd Sydney Smith records her gallantry with a mop and pail during the great storm of 1813: “The Atlantic was roused; Mrs. Partington’s spirit was up. But I need not tell you that the contest was unequal; the Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington.”

Confronted by a new wave of communications technologies, some Christians will reach for the mop and pail. Others will just keep calm and carry on. A few will go sailing, seeing the Atlantic as the way to a new world.

New media are the greatest quan­tum leap in communications since the invention of printing. Networked computers are now connecting and reconnecting people all over the world in radical new ways…



Alex Preston writes in The Independent about God’s bankers: How evangelical Christianity is taking a hold of the City of London’s financial institutions.

Mark Vernon writes in The Guardian about Too much heat, not enough light in the creationism war. “The near hysterical way in which intelligent design is treated online only suits those who seek to politicise evolution.”

Marilyn McCord Adams at the Daily Episcopalian: What sort of victory?

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: Uneasy? Dr Williams is right to be.

Jonathan Jones writes for The Guardian about The resurrection of religious art. “The trees placed in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding were typical of how modern artists are transforming churches.”

Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post about Big Media Events and the Churches That Put Them On.

Alan Wilson writes for The Guardian that Outlawing gayness is like ‘straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel’. “Uganda’s bill to ban all forms of homosexuality contravenes basic Christian teaching.”