Thinking Anglicans

Reforming the House of Lords

Two recent articles on this topic:

Diversity and democracy: Reforming the Lords by Patrick McGlinchey at Left Foot Forward.

The inclusion in the white paper of a 20 per cent appointed chamber option is a cause for concern. However, it is the proposal to allow 12 Church of England bishops to retain their seats as Lords Spiritual that could fundamentally hold the House of Lords back from democratisation and diversification.

To give special law-making privileges to one faith group over all others is almost unheard of among democratic nations

Indeed, the only global equivalent is the ‘Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran’, which gives Islamic clerics similar privileges to Church of England bishops. In modern Britain, this system is clearly an outdated one which does not enjoy the support of our citizens.

An ICM poll commissioned by the Joseph Roundtree Reform Trust as part of the Power 2010 political reform initiative found that two-thirds of the public think anyone who sits in the House for Lords and votes on laws should be elected, and 70 per cent of Christians believe it is wrong that some Church of England bishops are given an automatic seat in parliament…

Their Lordships should beware: there is an overwhelming consensus behind Lords reform by Alan Renwick at Reading Politics (A blog of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading.)

The government launched its proposals for reform of the House of Lords two weeks ago. At the time, there were widespread rumours that senior Labour and Conservative peers were gearing up to scupper the plans. A survey of peers reported in The Times this week appears to confirm this: 80 per cent of the peers who responded said they opposed a wholly or largely elected second chamber.

As The Times points out, if peers do indeed choose to oppose the government’s plans, they will be acting counter to the manifestos of all three main parties in last year’s general election. Labour promised “to create a fully elected Second Chamber” (in stages). The Liberal Democrats, similarly, pledged to “replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second chamber”. The Conservatives were only slightly less reformist, saying, “We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords”.

But peers tempted to flex their muscles on this issue should be aware that the consensus across the parties surrounding House of Lords reform runs much deeper than this…


Seeking to enshrine exclusion

Updated Saturday

Giles Fraser has written in today’s Church Times The Bishops are seeking to enshrine gay exclusion.

…This advice shows how much the Bishops have been straining every legal sinew to exclude openly gay bishops — even celibate ones — from their number. Do we really think that straight bishops have been chal­lenged to repent of whatever they might have got up to at university, as it were? Of course not. And this double standard is a clear symptom of the fact that what is really going on here is prejudice, pure and simple.

The other weasel construction that those who pick bishops have alighted on is that a bishop must be “a focus of unity”. No: first and fore­most, a bishop must be a man or woman of the gospel. Sometimes this means arguing for the right not to bring peace, but a sword.

To insist that bishops must be “a focus of unity” is a recipe for having bishops whose primary identity is that they are unobjectionable. In­deed, there is something almost heret­ical about this phrase; for it makes the quest for a quiet Church more of a priority than that of the preaching of the gospel.

The trouble is that, at the moment, a whole world of grammar is being invented with the express purpose of keeping gay people out of senior church positions. From the dreaded Anglican Covenant (whose purpose seems to be much the same) to this new advice, our Church is construct­ing its ground rules specifically to exclude homosexuals. And there is another phrase for that: institution­alised homophobia…

And the Guardian has published a series of articles this week, under the title How should gay bishops be chosen? which are all linked in this earlier post More discussion on appointing gay CofE bishops which has been regularly updated, but which has fallen down the page due to the number of other news stories since the start of the week.

The most recent (third) item was this one by Colin Coward: Homophobia has infected the Church of England. Earlier items were by Lesley Fellows and Peter Ould.

Saturday update

The Guardian series has now been completed with this fourth piece from Mark Oakley Gay or straight, allow clergy to reflect the rest of us.

…If the bishops were to follow their lawyers’ checklist in deciding on new colleagues, history will repeat itself as religious leaders make themselves both inhumane and hypocritical.

Why inhumane? Well, gay people have no choice as to their sexual orientation but, when recognised, they do as the rest do – try to find someone to love and grow old with. Although some are drawn to a celibate life, most feel that it is not good for them to be alone and they seek intimacy and a togetherness that, as married people know, is easier to make stable when celebrated and supported publicly and without fear. Priests and bishops are no different. To stop such people being ordained because a group doesn’t like the fact that some people will always be homosexual would be as unjust as not having made John Sentamu the Archbishop of York because there was a theological argument going round for a white man. If talk of unity is to have any authenticity there has to be diversity and bishops should be signs and enablers of both. Instead, to make gay Christians even more afraid to be honest about who they are, and their need to love and be loved by someone, is not only inhumane but shameful.

Why hypocritical? Putting aside the fact that the present bishops were not questioned on their own sexual pasts, it would be an extraordinary policy to pursue this checklist when so many bishops know and privately support gay clergy in partnerships as well as those who are single who have been partnered at some stage. It would be equally duplicitous to imply that such gay bishops would be an innovation. Truthfulness would be the innovation…


Church Times guide to women bishops

Last week’s special feature in the Church Times is now available to non-subscribers for a while.

Glyn Paflin reviews the history in detail in Hoops and hurdles — the long search for agreement.

And there is a note about The Measure and the Code: not yet fixed.

The arguments against are put in two articles:

David Houlding Sacramental assurance: any man won’t do

Jonathan Baker This is not about justice and equality. We agree on those

The issue of male headship is discussed by two evangelical women, Clare Hendry and Lis Goddard in Male headship: two opposing views

John Saxbee is in favour of the legislation, as it stands There is no need to tread on any toes.

Pat Ashworth talks to four women who are serving as bishops in Women in post: the news from overseas.

Paul Handley has a report on a woman bishop already ministering in Britain, Only an issue when it comes to Anglicans.

And finally, there is a Leader: At this stage, it’s not about women.


problems in Zimbabwe for Anglicans

Updated Friday evening

USPG reports 16 arrested as persecution of Anglicans in Zimbabwe continues.

Sixteen church-goers have been arrested and priests have been turned out of their homes in Zimbabwe’s Diocese of Harare – where the Anglican Church is facing persecution at the hands of an ex-communicated bishop.

The Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, Bishop of Harare, said the arrests were illegal and that those detained – including a elderly woman – were traumatised.

The diocese is now trying to arrange bail and has asked for prayers for those in prison and their families.

Bishop Chad, a USPG Regional Manager until 2010, said: ‘I am really concerned about this. We shall be running around to try and bail the whole group out today, if the police will listen.’

The Anglican Church in Harare is under attack from an ex-communicated bishop, Dr Norbert Kunonga, a supporter of President Mugabe, who left the Anglican Province of Central Africa (CPCA) in 2007 to try and set up a rival church.

Kunonga, with the support of police and henchmen, has seized CPCA church property and used violence to break up church services…

And there is a lot more detail in that article, including a full statement by Bishop Chad Gandiya (scroll down).

Earllier, there was a lengthy report in the New York Times by Celia W Dugger Mugabe Ally Escalates Push to Control Anglican Church:

…But it is leaders of the Anglican Church, one of the country’s major denominations, who have lately faced the most sustained pressure. Nolbert Kunonga, an excommunicated Anglican bishop and staunch Mugabe ally, has escalated a drive to control thousands of Anglican churches, schools and properties across Zimbabwe and southern Africa.

“The throne is here,” declared Mr. Kunonga, who has held onto his bishopric here in the sprawling diocese of Harare through courts widely seen as partisan to Mr. Mugabe. He has also been backed by a police force answerable to the president, whom Mr. Kunonga describes as “an angel.”

Chad Gandiya, who was selected by the Anglican hierarchy in central Africa to replace Mr. Kunonga as bishop of Harare, said he was baffled by the support for Mr. Kunonga from state security services since the church that Bishop Gandiya leads is apolitical: “It’s not Kunonga we find at the church gates, it’s the police. It’s not Kunonga who drives us out, who throws tear gas at us, it’s the police. When we ask them why, they say they’re following orders.”

Friday evening update

USPG now reports 16 Anglicans released on bail in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, Bishop of Harare, has told USPG that 16 Anglicans arrested on Wednesday have now been released on bail…


Diocese in Europe votes on women bishops

Updated Friday evening

From the Diocese in Europe website: Diocese votes on women bishops.

Members of the Diocese in Europe Synod have voted to accept the draft proposals for women to become bishops – despite the scheme being rejected by the House of Bishops in the Diocese.

The debate, referred to the Diocese from General Synod, was spread over three sessions during the 4 day Synod meeting in Cologne. First two keynote speakers. Bishops Peter Selby and Martin Warner introduced the topic offering different viewpoints but each sensitive to the effects of any change which would allow women to become bishops.

The following day Synod members met in groups to consider the issue. These groups reported back at a final session during the afternoon of Thursday 2nd June before the formal motion was debated. After that debate there was a short time of silent devotion and prayer before voting, by houses. The result was

Bishops – in favour 0 against 2

Clergy – in favour 11 against 10 abstentions 1

Laity – in favour 15 against 6 abstentions 3

And this:

After the main vote Mrs Ann Turner proposed a following motion that “this Synod desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the Church of England and therefore calls upon the House of Bishops to bring forward amendments to the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration of Women) Measure to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive Episcopal oversight from a bishop with Authority (i.e. ordinary jurisdiction) conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop.”

This was not accepted by Synod (17 votes to 23 with 6 abstentions)

But also:

Important note:- Due to the unique Constitution of the Diocese in Europe the formal response to General Synod must come from the Bishop’s Council (which is a smaller body composed of members of Diocesan Synod – and which will meet in late October).

Go to the diocesan website for audio files relating to this.

Friday evening update

Bishop David Hamid has written on his own blog about this: The decision of Diocesan Synod regarding Women in the Episcopate:

…I am in favour of women in the episcopate, but I do not believe that the provision for those who are opposed to this development, contained in the measure, are sufficient to maintain the highest degree of unity in our Church. I therefore had to vote against the motion. I explained my position in a speech which I post below…


How Americans choose a bishop

Jim Naughton has written a piece for Ruth Gledhill’s blog about this (original behind Times paywall).

A copy of the article also appears at the Daily Episcopalian. See Courting the Holy Spirit by practicing retail politics.

Last week, while the Church of England was dealing with embarrassing revelations about how badly the Archbishops of Canterbury and York had behaved while selecting the current Bishop of Southwark, I was observing the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D. C. as it prepared to choose the successor of Bishop John Bryson Chane, who retires in November.

The process that I witnessed was so different than the one described by the late Dean Colin Slee in his now-famous memo, that it seems almost unfair to draw comparisons. In filling the vacancy in Southwark, the English method of appointing bishops was clearly at its worst. Or so one hopes. A story of subterfuge leavened with a dash of Python-like absurdity, it featured a media leak meant to scuttle two candidacies, clumsy attempts to blame the leak on an innocent party, an investigation into the leak whose findings have been kept secret, and a delicious moment in which the Archbishop of York lobbied for votes while leading a group outing to the toilet. Little wonder that members of the Crown Nominating Committee were reduced to tears during the proceedings.

The process in Washington, on the other hand, has run relatively smoothly so far, although the election will not be held until June 18…

What Jim describes is, I think, what we here would call a “hustings”.


New Bishop of Durham

From 10 Downing Street: Diocese of Durham

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Very Reverend Justin Portal Welby, MA, Hon FCT, Dean of Liverpool, for election as Bishop of Durham in succession to the Right Reverend Nicholas Thomas Wright, MA, DPhil, DD, on his resignation on the 31 August 2010.

Notes for editors

Justin Welby (aged 55) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After a career in the oil industry in Paris and London, he trained for the ministry at Cranmer Hall and St John’s College Durham. He served his title at Chilvers Coton with Astley, Coventry diocese from 1992 to 1995. From 1995 to 2002 he was Rector of Southam and also Vicar of Ufton, Coventry diocese from 1998 to 2002. From 2002 to 2007 he was Canon Residentiary at Coventry Cathedral; and was Co-Director for International Ministry from 2002 to 2005. From 2005 to 2007 he was Sub-Dean at Coventry Cathedral and also Canon for Reconciliation Ministry and in 2007 was also Priest-in-Charge at Coventry Holy Trinity. Since 2007 he has been Dean of Liverpool.

From 2000 to 2002 he was Chairman of an NHS Hospital Trust, and he currently also serves on the Committee of Reference for the ethical funds of a large investment company in the City of London.

Justin Welby is married to Caroline and they have had six children (one of whom died in infancy). His recreations include most things French and sailing.

The Diocese of Durham website has a detailed press release, with photos: NEW BISHOP DESIGNATE OF DURHAM ANNOUNCED.

Liverpool Cathedral has Justin Welby, Dean of Liverpool is to be the next Bishop of Durham.