Thinking Anglicans

Sydney Anglicans

Updated Saturday

ABC in Australia has published this article by Muriel Porter: Sydney Anglicans and the threat to world Anglicanism. It starts:

Sydney Diocese has always been an important player in the Anglican Church of Australia.

It is the oldest and largest of the 23 Australian dioceses, and until its recent catastrophic financial losses, was the richest. It is also the most conservative, and is strident in defence of that conservatism.

But how could Sydney Diocese be a threat to the international Anglican Communion? After all, Australia, with just 3.7 million Anglicans according to the 2006 census – the same number as those Australians who claimed no religion – should be but a small player among the 80 million world Anglicans.

Yet in the first decade of the twenty-first century, under the leadership of Archbishop Peter Jensen, Sydney Diocese has become a force to be reckoned with in the Anglican Communion. As a leader of the alternative international Anglican movement focused in the Global Anglican Future (GAFCON) project, his diocese became what can only be described as a destabilizing influence.

And it ends with:

Overall, Sydney’s influence is of real concern for the future of world Anglicanism.

The article is an edited extract from Dr Porter’s new book Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism.

Dr Porter is a journalist and author, a Fellow of the University of Melbourne School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, and a member of the Australian General Synod.


ABC News has published this response by Mark Thompson Religion & Ethics: Serious flaws in Muriel Porter’s misguided polemic.


opinion for a bank holiday weekend

Hywel Williams writes for The Guardian about Putting our faith in fragments.
“Be it medieval bones or rubble from the Twin Towers, relics affirm our belief in human endurance.”

Tom Wright writes for The Spectator about “How the Church of England can – and will – endure”: Keep the faith.

Riazat Butt of The Guardian is travelling through Afghanistan with army chaplains: Religion on the frontline. Here are her reports so far.
Religion in Camp Bastion: ‘What people are asked to do here can lead to big questions’
Baptism at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan
Life as a humanist with the armed forces in Afghanistan

Matthew Adams writes for The Guardian about Christianity and capital punishment: thou shalt not kill?
“A petition urging the reintroduction of the death penalty in the UK poses some pertinent questions for Christianity.”

Brandon Peach in Relevant Magazine asks Will the Internet Kill Christianity?
Richard Beck at Experimental Theology summarises the article and adds some comments of his own.

Nick Jowett asks in The Guardian Was Jesus judgmental?
“Perhaps Christ was a more normal human being than people have been willing to believe.”


Liturgical consultation on marriage rites also hears about same-sex blessings

Today’s Church Times carries a news report, by me, on the recent meeting of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation.

See ‘Respectful’ hearing for gay-rites debate.

“RITES relating to marriage” was the subject under study by 56 Anglican liturgists at the biennial meeting of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC) earlier this month in Canterbury. Continuing work that was begun two years ago in New Zealand, a report on this topic will be completed by December.

Participants came from 19 An­glican provinces, including Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone. Topics included theology, cultural contexts, and the shape and elements of ritual. Papers were delivered by the Bishop of Central Tanganyika, the Rt Revd Mdimi Mhogolo, and by the Revd Dr Simon Jones, of Merton College, Oxford…

…In addition to the regular sessions, there was a separate presentation by members of the Standing Commis­sion on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church in the United States on their development of a theological rationale and litur­gical principles for same-sex bless­ings. Those who attended were asked to give feed­back by consider­ing specific ques­tions in small work­ing groups.

The chair of the IALC, Dr Eileen Scully, from Canada, said on Thurs­day of last week that the purpose of the IALC meeting was to work on rites related to heterosexual couples only. In countries where civil-marriage laws were changing, how­ever, to allow either civil unions or same-sex marriage, Churches faced challenges. They needed to reflect on the parallels with traditional marriage…

Anglican Communion Office backfiles of material on IALC here.


Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Daily Monitor in Uganda reported earlier this week that Cabinet drops Bahati’s gay Bill.

Cabinet has finally thrown out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 on the advice of Mr Adolf Mwesige, the ruling party lawyer. However, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, insists the proposed legislation is now property of Parliament and that the Executive should stop “playing hide- and- seek games” on the matter.

See also
Daily Monitor Blocking gays Bill is moral corruption -MPs
Reuters Uganda strikes down bid to revive anti-gay bill
Behind the Mask Uganda Parliament meets September 7 to decide on ‘Kill the gays bill’
Radio Netherlands Gay community cautious after Ugandan bill thrown out
The New Civil Rights Movement Uganda: The Stealth Campaign To Quietly Pass The Kill The Gays Bill
Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the Changing Attitude website.



Lesley Crawley writes for The Guardian’s Cif belief that Sexism runs deep in the Church of England.
“I’ve experienced prejudice working as an engineer and as a priest – only difference is, in the church it’s institutionalised.”

Anna Tims writes about the Bishop of London for The Guardian: A working life: the bishop.
“From dawn till dusk, the diocese of London fills Richard Chartres’ exhausting schedule. He’s got an Oyster card, but finds his hybrid car a convenient compromise.”

Judith Maltby writes for Cif belief about The Church of England’s shameful record on capital punishment.
“If parliament debates the death penalty, the church should speak against it with all the authority of a reformed sinner.”

British Religion in Numbers has data on this week’s A-level results in Religious Studies: Religious Studies A Levels, 2011.

Bruce Chilton in The Huffington Post asks (and answers) the question What Does The Bible Say About The Mother Of Jesus?

Also in The Huffington Post Maria Mayo writes about 5 Myths About Forgiveness in the Bible.


Church Times reports on two equality law issues

The Church Times has a report by Pat Ashworth Nurses win abortion battle.

The first part of this deals with the case reported here: Equality Act applied in abortion case.

The second part deals with the EHRC intervention: Equality Commission reveals its views on 4 cases at the European Court. This finishes with a quote from me, which unfortunately got shortened in the editing process. The full quote reads as follows:

Many observers will welcome the EHRC’s suggestion that the rights of Eweida and Chaplin, under Article 9(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest their Christian beliefs, were not adequately considered. It is unclear why claims such as theirs ever came before the courts at all.

However, the EHRC’s view that the domestic courts came to the correct conclusions in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane will be very unwelcome to those who have campaigned so vigorously and so long on their behalf. Most employment lawyers though will breathe a sigh of relief that common sense has again prevailed.


Letter to Rowan Williams from Metropolitan Community Church leaders

Back in June, we noted that a Church Times leader had said this about that Legal Opinion, which was first reported much earlier in May.

In May, our view was a negative one, since the document listed several reasons why the appointment of a gay bishop could be blocked. This week’s positive spin has not changed our opinion. As the leaders of the “gay-led” Metropolitan Commun­ity Church in Manchester wrote to Dr Williams this week, “We note that [unlike a gay candidate] heterosexual candidates for bishop­rics are not asked to repent of any sexual activity with which the Crown Appointments Commission may be uncom­fortable.” More than one serving bishop has said that he would have con­sidered it an impertinence had he been asked about his sexual history.

The legal advice has no more weight now than before it was circulated to Synod members. It was not approved by the Bishops when they discussed it in May, not least because, to many, the brief was not how to remove discrimination within the Church, but how to continue it untroubled by the law.

The full text of the letter to Rowan Williams from MCC leaders mentioned above (and which was published here) is copied in full below the fold.



Dean of York defends Anglican cathedrals

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York has written to the Catholic Herald, responding to an intemperate and ill-informed attack on York Minster’s admissions charges and the Church of England in general.

An entry charge at York Minster is needed to maintain such a gigantic building

SIR – William Oddie makes very hostile comments about York Minster in protest at the entry charge, and many other things. He does not say how otherwise we are to maintain this gigantic building, which is not subsidised by the state, and which employs (proudly) numerous skilled workers in stone and glass, and music and teaching, to maintain York Minster for the nation and the world at large. We are not profiteers, but a charity. We take pains to make our references to our constant worship and Christian witness such that non-Christians will not be put off, but his sneers fail to mention that we give free entry to acts of worship or the fact that hundreds attend Evensong each day.

Then there is his charge of the Minster being “purloined” at the Reformation. As an expression of hard-line opinion he is entitled to utter it, but for those Christians who hope and pray for better it is crude and hopeless. For the record, our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of England under their lawful sovereign. The Dean and Chapter maintain and administer it for them by the same law of the land.

The relationship of the Church of England with the see of Rome has varied in form considerably over the centuries; however, we do not believe that the Church of this land is constituted by our recognition of the jurisdiction of the Pope and we hold to the hope of a union of the Churches in which we can belong together again, the honour (and even primacy) of the Roman see being appropriately recognised. Of course it is a difficult thing, but York Minster is a place where already many traditions of English Christianity meet often in friendship and hospitality, praying together and sharing many things we hold in common. Mr Oddie’s accusations of criminality hardly relate to what we believe to be the guidance, let alone the charitableness, of the Holy Spirit, but rather to the jeers of sectarian strife.

Yours faithfully,
Keith Jones


Equality Commission reveals its views on 4 cases at the European Court

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published Legal intervention on religion or belief rights: seeking your views.

Last month we announced that we had applied to intervene at the European Court of Human Rights and we have now been granted permission to do so.

We are considering using the four cases already before this Court as a platform to advise on and clarify the interpretation of human rights laws. We are seeking your views on our proposed submission on the human rights elements of the four cases claiming religious discrimination, and separately, whether the concept of reasonable accommodation has any useful practical application in cases concerning the manifestation of religion or belief…

And there is a 6 page consultation document (.doc)

The essence of their position is this:

We propose to intervene in:

• Eweida and Chaplin on the basis that the Courts may not have given sufficient weight to Article 9(2) of the Convention.

• Ladele and Mcfarlane on the basis that the domestic courts came to the correct conclusions.


We had suggested that our intervention might put forward the idea of extending the concept of reasonable accommodation beyond disability. However, we also know that this idea needs more careful consideration than the timetable for the European Court of Human Rights allows.

So they won’t now be doing that, but they are seeking views on the subject.


Equality Act applied in abortion case

Neil Addison reports on his Religion Law Blog about a new use of the Religion and Belief provisions in the Equality Act 2010.

See Abortion and the Equality Act.

…From the facts it was clear that the Hospital had not recognised or accepted that the Nurses had a legal right to refuse to participate. EMA has been held by the High Court, in the BPAS case mentioned, to be an Abortion procedure under the Abortion Act 1967 and as such the Nurses had an absolute right to refuse to participate under the conscientious objection provisions of s4 of the Abortion Act.

Abortion Act 1967 – 4. Conscientious objection to participation in treatment
(1) Subject to sub-section (2) of this section, no person shall be under any duty whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection

TMLC wrote to the hospital stating that the Nurses were refusing to work in the Clinic and quoting their rights under s4 Abortion Act. The letter also stated that their belief in the sanctity of life from conception onwards was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act and therefore any attempt to pressure them into participating in the Abortion Clinic or to suggest that their refusal would affect their career would be illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

This particular interpretation of the Equality Act has never, to my knowledge, been argued before however since the Courts have accepted that the philosophical belief in Global warming is protected under Equality legislation, see Grainger Plc & Ors v. Nicholson [2009] UKEAT 0219_09_0311 I could see no reason why belief that human life begins at conception should not be equally protected.

The reason for including the Equality Act in the letters to the Hospital was in order to provide the Nurses with additional protections. Section 4 of the Abortion Act though it is clear does not provide any enforcement mechanism and also does not protect a conscientious objector from being pressurised to participate in Abortion, held back in their career due to their pro-life belief or indeed not employed in the first place. However using the Equality Act as well as s4 of the Abortion Act meant that the Nurses would be able to claim Harassment, Victimisation or Discrimination in an Employment Tribunal if they were put under pressure at work because of their reliance on the conscientious objection protection in s4…

Gavin Drake has some further comments on this.



Helen Berry writes for the OUPblog about Why history says gay people can’t marry…nor can anyone else* (*unless they have kids of their own).

Bishop Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post Why I Am Not An Atheist.

At Cif belief Thomas Prosser argues that Christian teen camps are wicked, innit, whilst Steve Clifford responds that Christian camps are not about indoctrination.

John Dominic Crossan writes for The Huffington Post about The Search for the Historical Paul: What Paul Thought About Women.

Martin Saunders writes for Cif belief that After the riots, my faith-based youth work gives me hope in this generation.
“Faith-based youth work has something special to offer young people, because it offers something distinctive: transformation.”


RC adoption agency persists in its appeal

In June we reported that Catholic Care had been refused leave to appeal by the Charity Tribunal, but noted that the agency’s solicitor had said:

the charity could appeal to the Upper Tribunal for a review of the charity tribunal’s decision not to allow the appeal. He said trustees had not decided whether to do so.

And it is now reported that they have done this. See this from Third Sector Catholic Care given leave to appeal again.

…After a further charity tribunal ruling in June that it would not accept an appeal against the decision, Catholic Care has appealed to the Upper Tribunal, which has the same status as the High Court.

The Upper Tribunal confirmed this week that it would allow the appeal.

Benjamin James, a solicitor at the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, acting on behalf of Catholic Care, told Third Sector the charity would argue in its appeal that the charity tribunal had failed to properly perform the balancing act required to determine whether discrimination was reasonable given that, according to the charity, the alternative was closing its adoption service.

James said the charity would attempt to overturn the charity tribunal’s ruling that it had not provided sufficient evidence to show that losing funds from the Catholic Church would force it to close the service. The tribunal had suggested the charity could raise money from other sources…

The historical background to this case can be found in this excellent article in Caritas from last October, by Michael King and Fraser Simpson Equality v religious belief. They then go on to comment:



more comments on the riots

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the House of Lords yesterday. His remarks are here.

So did the Archbishop of York. Text over here.

The Bishop of London also made comments, after visiting the affected areas. See this.

Today’s Church Times (press date Wednesday) carries reports of church responses.
See Rioters help themselves; Christians help victims by Ed Thornton
and also Bishop contrasts ‘thuggery’ of vandals with soldiers’ sacrifice.

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Bishops comment on London civil disturbances

The Bishop of Southwark has issued a statement: Message to churches about the London riots.

The Bishop of Willesden (an area within the Diocese of London) has issued a statement to his clergy. This is copied below the fold.

The Bishop of London has also issued a statement: London riots: message from the Bishop of London.

The Bishop of St Albans has issued a statement with other church leaders: Bishop leads message of support for Luton

The [RC] Archbishop of Westminster issued this statement: Archbishop Nichols has asked Catholics to pray for those directly affected by the violence in London.



further developments in the ECHR appeal

Two more developments in the previously reported appeal to the European Court of Human Rights of four recent cases involving discrimination in the UK, and the announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it would intervene in the case. That development was recorded here (12 July), and then here (14 July).

Now the Christian Institute is reporting that Angela Mason, one of the EHRC commissioners has said:

“The commission has already decided not to put forward ‘reasonable adjustment’ arguments if we do continue with our intervention.”

Their source is Pink News which carries further comments from Ms Mason:

“The legal issues are complex but it is a question of harm. And we have to be very careful when the issue is of manifesting religious belief that is about discrimination.”

When asked whether she had been consulted before the EHRC made its announcement, she said: “A press release is a press release. I don’t think it fully represented the opinion of the commission.

“It is important to carefully consider all the points and arguments that have been made and take them into account before we decide to intervene. We haven’t actually been given permission to intervene yet and there are sensitive and conflicting issues.”

Speaking about her personal views, she added: “The balance of reasonable adjustment does not deal in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane.

“If we go back to the issue of harm, there is less harm involved in the wearing of crosses than the view that gay men are less equal.”

The second development is the National Secular Society has announced that it is also going to intervene in the case. See NSS given leave to intervene at ECHR in religious discrimination cases.


What Rowan Williams wrote about homosexuality in 1988

This is taken from a Jubilee Group pamphlet, published in 1988, and titled Speaking Love’s Name; Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Perspectives. Several excerpts are available on the web here.

The Introduction to the pamphlet was written by Rowan Willliams. A copy has been placed below the fold.

More about the Jubilee Group starting here.

The General Synod resolution of 11 November 1987 to which Rowan Williams refers:

‘This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and expression of, God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

(1) that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship,
(2) that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(3) that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(4) that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.’

As noted in GS Misc 842b:

Although often referred to as the ‘Higton motion’ (the debate was on a Private Member’s Motion from the Revd Tony Higton) what the Synod passed was in fact a substantially recast motion proposed by way of an amendment by the then Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Michael Baughen.



opinion for the Transfiguration

Pierre Whalon at Anglicans Online asks (and answers) What is Anglicanism?

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about Probing the virtues of economic growth.

Mr CatOLick asks Why does Christianity hurt the young?

Bill Carroll writes for the Episcopal Café: Wounded by God.


friction over the Ordinariate

We reported earlier on the challenge being made in respect of the large financial grant from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to the Ordinariate.

There was a further story in the Church Times on Ordinariate finances: Ordinariate describes its £1-million donation as allowing breathing space.

The correspondence columns have had several letters about this, see last week and also two weeks earlier.

This week there is another story, about another society, see President of CU to quit over its exclusion of Ordinariate. And more letters, but these are behind the paywall until next week.

The Church Union website is over here.


The Future(s) of Anglicanism

Gladstone’s Library is holding a residential event from the evening of Friday 2nd to lunchtime on Sunday 4th September which is titled The Future(s) of Anglicanism.

Is there a distinctive Anglican ethos and does it still survive? What does Anglicanism stand for? Is Anglicanism in danger of splitting apart over contentious issues like gay clergy, divorce, women bishops – the so-called western liberal agenda? The end of Anglicanism as we know it?

Is an Anglican Covenant the answer to our contemporary problems? Amidst all the controversy do we miss signs of hope and vibrancy – and the beginnings of an exciting future?

The speakers are:

  • Bishop Gregory Cameron
  • Jonathan Clatworthy
  • Bishop Gayle Harris
  • Simon Sarmiento
  • Anne Stevens
  • Peter Francis

More details from this page.


Bishop Victoria Matthews on Women in the Episcopate

Victoria Matthews, the Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand addressed a fringe meeting (arranged by WATCH and the Open Synod Group) at last month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod.

Although her address was primarily about Women in the Episcopate, she also spoke about the earthquakes in Christchurch.

The full text of her address is below the fold.