Thinking Anglicans

opinion at the end of July

June Osborne, the Dean of Salisbury, preached at the ordination of the new bishops of Salisbury and of Stepney. The full text and a video of her sermon are available.

George Cassidy, the retired Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, was recently interviewed by the Church of Ireland Gazette about reform of the House of Lords. The printed version of the interview is not available online, but there is a link to an audio recording of the complete interview here.

Read the Spirit has published this interview with Marcus Borg about his new book Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power—And How They Can Be Restored.
You can also read the interview here.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times that If there must be fences, let there be gates.

Adrian Beney writes in The Tablet about The price of a gift: Ethical fund-raising.

Carl Medearis asks in The Huffington Post Why Are We So Angry About Hell?

Matthew Engel writes in the Financial Times, in a series on British Institutions, about The Church of England.


Ireland and the Vatican

There have been many reports of the row between the Irish Government and the Vatican, which has been so severe that yesterday the Catholic Herald published an article titled Debate: Is there any hope for Catholic Ireland?

Here is the full text of what Enda Kenny originally said.

The Church Times has carried two reports by Gregg Ryan. Last week there was Ireland: abuse report leads to Church-State rift. This week there is Irish PM excoriates Vatican as Nuncio is flown home.

This weekend, the Guardian, in its Face to Faith column, has George Pitcher The Vatican response to the child abuse row in Ireland looks like repentance-lite.

And on Cif belief Massimo Franco writes about Sex abuse scandals and the secularisation of sin.

The Tablet has an editorial Ireland needs a healing touch.

Earlier, Ferdinand von Prondsynski wrote The RC Church in Ireland, coming out fighting: a wise strategy?

Even the Financial Times had an editorial: Arrogant Vatican.


John Stott: some obituaries

Here are some of the notices of his death that have appeared.

Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop remembers John Stott

Telegraph The Rev John Stott

Guardian The Rev John Stott obituary

Church Times John Stott: ‘gracious and kind’

New York Times Rev. John Stott, Major Evangelical Figure, Dies at 90


Yorkshire Dioceses Review

We reported last December on the proposals of the Dioceses Commission on the four Yorkshire dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield, and their boundaries with the Diocese of York. In brief the Commission recommended the replacement of the existing Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield with a single new diocese, along with some adjustments of its boundaries with its neighbours.

The Dioceses Commission has today published an interim progress report on this review; it is available online here. The accompanying press release is copied below the fold.

Nick Baines, the current Bishop of Bradford, has written about the proposals: New creation?



General Synod – electronic voting

The detailed results of the electronic votes at this month’s General Synod are now available.

Item 12 Results
private member’s motion on Mission action planning in the Church of England

Item 13 Results
motion on higher education funding changes

Item 14 Results
motion on report on Anglican-Methodist Covenant

Item 19 Results
diocesan synod motion on House of Laity elections

Item 20 Results
motion on report by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns

Item 502 Results
motion to finally approve the Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure

Item 504A Results
That the Parochial Fees Order 2011 be considered.

The full texts of the motions can be found in the official record of the Synod’s business, Business Done July 2011, which is also now available.


Responding to the recent initiative of the House of Bishops

Andrew Goddard at Fulcrum has published a lengthy analysis of the recent document GS Misc 997 (and the earlier GS Misc 992) in a document titled Civil Partnerships & Same-Sex Relationships in the Church of England: What is happening and how should evangelicals respond?

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude has published some comments on this in How to respond to the House of Bishops initiative on Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Relationships.

Both of these documents contain valuable background information and analysis.

See also extracts from the most recent General Synod Question Time:

Update 10.30 pm

Chris Sugden at Anglican Mainstream has published A response to the House of Bishops’ announcement of a review of its Guidelines on Human Sexuality.


General Synod – Church Times detailed reports

The Church Times detailed reports of this month’s General Synod are now available to non-subscribers as a pdf download from this page.

There are also these three news reports.
C of E in ‘ticklish’ position over its Murdoch shares
C of E faces demise in ‘perfect storm’ Synod is told
Williams: Focus on South Sudan to prevent genocide


Nigerian Anglicans issue Human Rights communiqué

We reported back in May: Primate calls for Nigeria to leave the UN.

Then at the end of June, there were some press reports about a national consultation in Nigeria, for example: Homosexuality: Nigeria’s Anglican church calls for pull out from UN or Homosexuality: Okoh urges FG to quit UN.

Now, the actual communiqué from that conference has been published: COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS.

While it is critical of the United Nations, it does not include a call for Nigeria to withdraw.

Jim Naughton’s earlier comments about this are still relevant.


Ghana: Anglican support for homophobia

Updated Wednesday

There are disturbing reports of Christian, and in particular of Anglican, support for attacks on homosexual people in Ghana.

Independent Alex Duval Smith Ghana official calls for effort to ‘round up’ suspected gays

In a new burst of African homophobia, a government minister in Ghana has drawn support after calling on the country’s intelligence services to track down and arrest all gays and lesbians.

The call from Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the Western Region of Ghana, marks the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent, which has previously been seen in Malawi, Uganda and South Africa…

BBC Paul Evans Aidoo’s Ghana gay spy call ‘promotes hatred’

A Ghanaian minister is “promoting hatred” by urging people to report those they suspect to be homosexual, a human rights group has told the BBC…

Africa Review Homosexuality: Ghana churches caution politicians

Ghanaian politicians who may want to push the idea of human rights to include open support for homosexuals will think twice after the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) took a strong stand on the issue.

The latter have and called on the faithful to “vote out lawmakers who show support for homosexuals”.

The CCG’s position stems from fears that international human rights groups want to lobby Parliament to pass a law that would legalise homosexuality in the country.


The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in Ghana, the Right Rev. Mathias Medadues-Badohu, says the Church in Ghana would intensify its teaching on the ills of homosexuality and would use its clinics to help those who want to get “out of it”.

ghana mma Christian Leaders Warn Politicians Over Gays

…Rt. Rev. Matthias Modedues-Badohu, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church and Bishop of Ho, said, “We speak against acts that go against the word of God. It is abnormal and not good. Our objective is to condemn it so that people will not get involved.”

The Anglican Communion Office recently held a Continuing Indaba Hub Meeting in Ghana, see this ACNS report, “The Anglican Communion is one family” Ghanaian bishop tells theologians.


Warren Throckmorton has written about this at Religion Dispatches Ghana’s Government Silent on Investigation of Gays.

…Some observers believe the number of sexual minorities may have been inflated in order to whip up opposition to homosexuality which could advance the standing of conservative politicians. Graham Knight, a British blogger living in Ghana, recently wrote that the claim of 8,000 sexual minorities has little support in fact. Knight concluded, in a blog post titled Did Ghana register 8000 homosexuals? The facts behind the hype that:

the real story is of a rather low-key workshop that has been sensationalized by the press, possibly with the collusion of a local doctor. The press reports are designed to create fear as are the unrepresentative group of Muslims claiming an imminent Sodom and Gomorrah for Africa.

While the accuracy of the original story is open to question, only a spark is needed to get a fire going—intentionally or not. And given the rhetoric in Ghana, it is difficult to avoid comparison to Uganda’s recent history in relation to sexual minorities. In March, 2009, three Americans spoke at a conference on homosexuality and used false and misleading information to inflame public sentiment against gays. Later that year, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled…


Divorce in Jerusalem: Anglicans must convert first

Jill Hamilton writes in the Guardian today, Christians in the Holy Land shouldn’t have to convert to Islam to get divorced.

“We cannot wait for politicians to sort things out, we have got to make a difference ourselves,” concluded Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, at the conference on Christians in the Holy Land co-hosted at Lambeth Palace with archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales.

As they explored ways to support Christians in the Middle East, I sent a query to Lambeth Palace asking why Anglicans in Jerusalem convert in order to get divorced. The reply from the press office was disappointing: “Each province has its own canon law, so the archbishop wouldn’t have any jurisdiction over this in another province … “

Yet it is time that foreign churches, as well as sending money and priests to the Middle East, used their influence to reform family law in the region. Who will bring pressure to bear to modernise the dense muddle of Christian personal status laws in the Middle East? The majority of the 14 million Arab Christians there cannot divorce. Many are locked into dead marriages – or convert to another religion so they can divorce…

And more precisely she reports that:

In the Holy Land, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans can only separate; to remarry they first have to convert to Greek Orthodox or Islam to obtain a divorce. Annulment is possible, but there are only about five cases finalised in the region annually. Converts for divorce, though, are welcomed by the Greek Orthodox church. Metropolitan Cornelius, the Greek Orthodox judge in Jerusalem, has said the majority of divorces he handles are for former Catholics.

Information about the Lambeth Palace conference referred to at the beginning of this story can be found here, then here, and finally here.



Two articles about bishops in the House of Lords
Lord Tyler at Lords of the Blog: Episcopal Eviction?
David Morris at The Commentator: This isn’t the 16th Century: it’s time to kick the Bishops out of the House of Lords

Graham Kings writes for Fulcrum about South Sudan, the promised land (also published in The Guardian).

Lauren R Stanley preached this sermon last Sunday: Step away from the lawn mower …

David L Rattigan writes for Cif belief about How Liverpool’s Frontline church ‘struggles’ with homosexuality.
“While commending the Christian ministry’s work in helping the vulnerable, we cannot ignore its troubling attitude to gay people.”

Bart D Ehrman writes for The Huffington Post about What Didn’t Make It Into The Bible?


Parochial Fees

I reported here that the draft Parochial Fees Order 2011 had been defeated at General Synod earlier this month. This order proposed revised fees for weddings and funerals from 1 January 2012.

I wrote then that the current order (the 2010 Order) would remain in force. William Fittall, the Secretary General, has today issued a paper (GS Misc 999) explaining in detail the implications of Synod’s decision. His paper includes topics such as transitional arrangements for incumbents who have not assigned their fees, what PCCs may and may not charge in addition to the statutory fees, and when fees may be waived.

Our html copy of GS Misc 999 is here.


two more views on the EHRC intervention

Savi Hensman has made a detailed analysis at Ekklesia, see An ill-judged intervention from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

…If the EHRC were to succeed, Christianity’s reputation would be further damaged among those who come to associate it with institutionalised prejudice and abuse of power.

Christians too could find themselves on the receiving end of ‘conscientious’ discrimination. For instance, at present, if a church were vandalised, a police officer sent to the scene would be expected to do his job sensitively and diligently. This would be so even if he happened to be an ardent atheist in his private life who believed that religion was the source of most of the world’s evil. But if he believed that his belief could override his duty, he might refuse to go.

What is more, discrimination against Christians might appear increasingly justifiable, especially among those who do not know that – in practice – many churchgoers are reasonably sensible, accepting people, very different from the most vocal campaigners against ‘persecution’…

A rather different view comes from Alasdair Henderson at the UK Human Rights Blog. See A leap of faith?

…The way forward which the Commission proposes is the concept of “reasonable accommodation” for employees’ beliefs (similar to the ‘reasonable adjustments’ duty employers have towards disabled people). This is an idea that was floated by Aidan O’Neill QC on this blog not so long ago. The EHRC gives an example in its press release of how this could work – “If a Jew asks not to have to work on a Saturday for religious reasons, his employer could accommodate this with minimum disruption simply by changing the rota. This would potentially be reasonable and would provide a good outcome for both employee and employer.”

…The EHRC’s announcement has been welcomed by those who felt the Commission had failed to adequately support the right to religious freedom in the past, or even been anti-Christian. However, it has also provoked fierce criticism from some quarters. Some gay rights activists are concerned that this signals a shift in the Commission’s views that might negatively effect gay equality, given the particular difficulties of potential clashes between protection from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and protection of religious freedom (see our post on this subject here).

…Rather more strangely, the EHRC’s announcement has been heavily criticised by secularist and humanist lobby groups like the British Humanist Association. It is difficult to understand why such groups have any objection, since any argument by the EHRC that there should be accommodation for employees’ beliefs would apply not just to Christians, but equally to people of all faiths, including humanists and atheists.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how these cases, and the EHRC’s involvement, develops in the coming months. There are some important questions that will require significant thought. Is an employee’s religious belief really comparable to disability, such that it can be analysed and approached in the same way? How could employers be helped to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs while at the same time ensuring that there is no discrimination in the provision of services to the public? Whatever the outcome, hopefully this move by the EHRC will produce more light and less heat in a particularly difficult and sensitive area of human rights and equality law.


A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant


press release from


LONDON – Responding to requests for a concise explanation of the Anglican Covenant and the lack of even‐handed discussions of the Covenant from official sources, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has released of A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant. The one‐page primer outlines the history and likely effect of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“Most of the study material that has been produced to date has been designed for readers already familiar with the background and issues involved,” said the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows. “This brief, plain‐language explanation is intended to help ordinary Anglicans worldwide to understand what is being proposed.”
“Many people have complained that the official study material from the Anglican Communion Office has lacked balance and has failed to take seriously the concerns of Covenant critics,” according to the Revd. Canon Hugh Magee, the Coalition’s Scottish Convenor. “Recent study material from Canada has taken a more realistic view. While clearly written in opposition to the Covenant, A Short Introduction seeks to present a fair but critical view of the Covenant.”

A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant may be printed and copied by groups or individuals. It is particularly appropriate for people who know little about the Covenant or are overwhelmed by the available material related to the proposed pact. The document is available formatted both for letter‐size stationery used in Canada and the United States and for A4 stationery used in Britain and elsewhere.


More attractive two-page versions are now also available: A4 stationery; North American stationery.


two church views on Murdoch

Bishop Peter Selby has written When Negative Equity is Social.

The plight of individuals with debts larger than the value of the security that is held for them engages our sympathy, and rightly so. But is there another kind of negative equity that has been at the top of our agenda these last weeks, a kind of social negative equity.

In the middle of the public outrage about the phone hacking scandal (have they hacked into my phone to find out how outraged I am? How do we know the level of public outrage?) there have come to the surface some rather uncomfortable realities that are not being spoken of much.

The fact is that it isn’t just News Corp that has a stake in the negative, in the bad news and the gossip; we all have.

Negativity sells well, and we should not be surprised at how much of it there is. The bad news in which News Corp had such a stake is now overtaken by the stake we all seem to have in the maximum bad news about News Corp and its key players. There aren’t any disinterested players in all this, occupying some principled moral high ground. There are careers and balance sheets at stake – and not just those of the Murdoch empire. Bad news is a good investment…

Canon Giles Fraser delivered this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. The full text of his remarks is now available here.

…The current crisis at News International and deep within the British establishment is much more than the presenting issue of phone hacking. I almost want to say that it’s become a theological issue in so far as it’s become a properly basic question about who gets to wield judgment within our society.

Last Friday the Times headline referred to Rupert Murdoch’s apology as constituting a Day of Atonement. But those who know the Jewish calendar will know that Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, comes before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In other words, judgment comes first, then atonement. And so it is that those media titans who have wielded so much judgment in our society are now to present themselves to the scrutiny of the House of Commons later on today. Those who have judged others will now themselves be subject to judgment…


Problems with the Crown Nominations Commission

Colin Coward has posted at Changing Attitude about The problem with (gay) bishops and the CNC.

I want to revisit Colin Slee’s posthumously published memorandum about the Southwark CNC process in the light of the subsequently published paper Choosing Bishops – The Equality Act 2010 issued by the Legal Office at Church House and the conversations I had at General Synod in York.

These documents were both originally leaked to the Guardian in May and reported there by Andrew Brown in this article: Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops. (Earlier TA article is here.)

Andrew reported then:

…The document reveals shouting matches and arm-twisting by the archbishops to keep out the diocese’s preferred choices as bishop: Jeffrey John, the gay dean of St Albans, and Nicholas Holtam, rector of St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, whose wife was divorced many years ago. Eventually Christopher Chessun, then an assistant bishop, was chosen.

John, an able theologian and gifted preacher and pastor, highly regarded in the diocese and a friend of Williams, is celibate but in a longstanding civil partnership with another clergyman. He was forced by the archbishop to stand down after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading eight years ago, following an orchestrated protest campaign by evangelicals. Holtam’s promotion had been blocked because of his wife’s divorce but he has since become bishop of Salisbury.

At the same time, the Church Times also reported this story, focusing more on the Legal Opinion, in this report: House of Bishops divided on keeping out homosexuals.

Colin Coward goes on to say:

…Colin [Slee]’s memorandum revealed information about the culture of the CNC process and the attitude towards two outstanding candidates for the episcopate, one of whom, Nick Holtam, has now been appointed to Salisbury, thanks be to God. The other, Jeffrey John is now the subject of an attempt to permanently block his preferment by the position outlined and the relevant factors listed in the Equality Act document. It is designed specifically to block any further attempt to nominate and appoint Jeffrey.

Colin Slee’s memorandum provides an inside perspective on the effect of the secrecy of the CNC process. Colin complied with the rules but was as open as possible with the candidates he nominated and with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He wrote to both Jeffery John and Nick Holtam telling them he had nominated them as mandatory candidates for Southwark in March 2010. The Archbishop replied but did not say, please don’t nominate either of them. Other people had nominated both candidates.

I have subsequently learnt that both Jeffrey and Nick have been deliberately blocked, one for Southwark and the other for Chelmsford. Who does the blocking? Lambeth staff at the Archbishop’s request?


General Synod – Chair of the Business Committee

I reported here a week ago that the Bishop of Dover had withdrawn his nomination to be the chair of the General Synod’s Business Committee.

William Fittall, the Secretary General, has today issued a paper (GS Misc 998 Appointment of the Chairs of the General Synod’s Business Committee) explaining the background to the bishop’s nomination. The paper also outlines a proposal from the House of Laity Standing Committee that the chair of the Business Committee should not be a bishop, but should be chosen from a wider pool of clergy and laity than is currently eligible. It concludes by inviting comments on what to do next for consideration by the Archbishops’ Council.

Our html copy of GS Misc 998 is here.


Anglicanorum Coetibus: some history

The Genesis of Anglicanorum Coetibus is the title of a paper which was presented by Dr. William Tighe at the 2011 Anglican Use Conference, which took place recently at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas. It contains some detailed information about its origins, with particular reference to (a) The Traditional Anglican Communion, (b) Forward in Faith/UK and (c) Other Church of England bishops.

The third of these may well be the most interesting. In connection with it, he refers to two other documents:

  • A transcript of the address, “Five Hundred Years after St. John Fisher: Benedict’s Ecumenical Initiatives to Anglicans” that Cardinal Levada delivered at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada on March 6, 2010; and

George Pitcher to leave Lambeth Palace


The Guardian’s Riazat Butt reports Archbishop of Canterbury dismisses spin doctor.

The archbishop of Canterbury’s spin doctor is to leave after just nine months in the role and following Tory protests over a controversial magazine article condemning the coalition.

George Pitcher, an Anglican priest and former journalist, was hired last October as public affairs secretary at Lambeth Palace and engineered Rowan Williams’s stint as guest editor for the New Statesman last month, which saw the archbishop launch a sustained attack on the coalition.

His criticism, seen by Whitehall as the most outspoken by an archbishop in a decade, pitted him against the government and left Lambeth Palace scrambling to minimise the damage as Conservative politicians and peers berated the archbishop either through the media or through channels at the Church of England.

Sunday, Lambeth Palace confirmed that Pitcher was leaving, but refused to say whether the New Statesmen stint had anything to do with his exit. “George was contracted to advise the archbishop on public affairs issues and that contract expires on 30 September when he will have completed projects he was asked to undertake. “When approached by the Guardian about his departure Pitcher said: “I am returning to journalism, a culture to which I am better suited…”

Later, Tim Ross at the Telegraph had Archbishop of Canterbury fires advisor Rev George Pitcher over outpoken attacks on coalition.

Dr Rowan Williams is understood to have lost confidence in the Rev George Pitcher, his public affairs secretary, and agreed that he should leave his post at the end of the summer.

It is understood the situation came to a head when Mr Pitcher made a crude joke about the Archbishop in the Daily Telegraph’s diary column following criticism of Dr Williams’ attacks on the coalition…

…Lambeth Palace confirmed that Mr Pitcher’s contract would end in September, one year after he started, and would not be renewed.

A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said: “George will have finished the project he was working on and he wished to return to journalism.”

Mr Pitcher said: “I have decided to bring things to an end but it is true that I would have stayed with the Archbishop for the duration [of his time in the post].”

Here’s his piece in the Sunday Express Church Must Engage Us All (h/t DW)

Updated Wednesday

Jerome Taylor in the Independent has Who will rid us of turbulent PR man George Pitcher?

His departure will leave Lambeth Palace bereft of a charismatic operator who was keen to see the Church engage with the public on key political issues. In a recent piece for the Sunday Express, he wrote: “The middle classes and MPs are keen to tell bishops to butt out of politics when they’ve something to say about health or education or treatment of our elderly. But our Church isn’t outside politics, only party politics.”

Others say Rowan Williams will now need to find a replacement for Mr Pitcher who will do more to protect him, rather than promote him. “Rowan needs advice, he really does,” said one Westminster lobbyist at a prominent Anglican group.

“His background is thoughtful academia and he doesn’t really spend enough time working out how his words will be perceived in the mainstream press. But at the same time his press team should be encouraging him to get out there and talk about issues, not duck behind safe headlines.”


Church links to the Murdoch business empire

The Church Times has a news article by Ed Beavan headed C of E in ‘ticklish’ position over its Murdoch shares.

During Church Commissioners’ questions, however, the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, admitted that premature sale of the shares would be “very bad”. It was “a ticklish area”.

The EIAG had been quick to consult James and Rupert Murdoch, he said, but the situation “won’t be easy, and I won’t volunteer to be part of the team”. Mr Whittam Smith was founding editor of The Independent.

The statement issued earlier by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group is available here.

Other churches also have embarrassments. The Tablet has two items about the links between James Murdoch and the recent papal visit, but neither is available online. However, Riazat Butt reported some of it in her article for the Guardian James Murdoch’s six-figure gift to UK papal visit.

A shorter version of the comments by Catherine Pepinster who is Editor of The Tablet is available here.

At Ekklesia Simon Barrow has some reflections on all this, see Church investments in the spotlight again.

This tidbit from the Church Times article:

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s spokeswoman said that it was unlikely that Dr Williams was a victim of phone-hacking. Dr Williams does not own a mobile phone.