Thinking Anglicans

opinion at the end of the civil year

This week’s articles in The Guardian’s Comment is free belief section include:
Mark Vernon Is Christianity compatible with wealth? “The Christian tradition is not anti-money. Rather, it is excess and luxury that pose the spiritual problems.”
Giles Fraser Bethlehem’s church of the punch-up. “The latest brawl between Armenian and Orthodox monks in Bethlehem is a product of Christianity’s romance with buildings.”
Pope Benedict XVI Europe’s crisis of faith “In hard times, Europe could learn much from Africa’s joyful passion for faith.”

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes in The Independent that Christianity deserves better worshippers.
“Too many are like Cameron, part-time Christians of convenience who use religion as a weapon.”

N T Wright writes for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about Suspending scepticism: History and the Virgin Birth and in response Andrew McGowan writes about Greeks Bearing (Christmas) Gifts.


Christmas Sermons

Today’s Church Times has reports of several Christmas Day sermons: ‘Atomised’ Britain is urged to seek God’s forgiveness.

The full texts of some are available online.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Wales
Bishop of Salisbury
Bishop of St Albans
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Archbishop of Westminster, also available here
Archbishop of Dublin
Archbishop of Sydney
Archbishop of Perth
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow

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St Thomas Becket

Barton being about as far away from Canterbury as it is possible to be in England’s southern province, it’s slightly odd that we have a mediaeval altar-dedication to Thomas Becket. But the presence of an artesian spring by the churchyard may hint at a connection: the healing associations of such pools is well-documented, and the mediaeval pilgrim-saying ‘Optimus aegrorum medicus fit Thoma bonorum’, ‘Thomas is the best physician for the pious sick’ suggests we might have a franchise of the saint’s healing cult, with convenient miraculous pool nearby.

Bede tells of Oswald’s relics ability to work miracles, so this link between saints, particularly martyr-saints, and healing is hardly newsworthy. But it does invite reflection on the relationship between death and wholeness.

They present as polar opposites: though in their different ways both hospice and euthanasia movements try to make death a better experience, both are counsels of last resort, of how we manage the transition from life into not-life. Neither challenges the polarisation of the two. That life might somehow spring out of death isn’t considered.

It is a commonplace of Christian belief that suffering unites us with the crucified Lord — ‘in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,’ Paul writes. I suggest that the long association of martyr-shrines with healing take us one step further, that these who are united in Christ’s suffering are also somehow channels of the first-fruits of the Resurrection, signs of the wholeness that is to come. This bids us hold up a prism to the mystery of death which transforms our vision of future, present and past.

My father died a week ago, and my response to the inevitable, ‘I suppose you’re going to cancel Christmas this year?’ was found in this proliferation of martyr-days between Christmas and New Year, in turn underscoring ancient carols which see in the Nativity the seeds of the Crucifixion, inviting us to consider the truth that in the Incarnation death and life become co-workers in the story of redemption.

We may see Thomas as political victim, as meddler in State affairs, as prophetic figure, whatever. Saints have their fads and their fashions. But the cult of Thomas as Physician surely points us to this great paradox of the Christian faith, that in the midst of death, we are in life, and that death is not merely a gateway into life, but a gateway back through which life comes — and transforms.


Sudan bishops like ACNA and snub TEC's Presiding Bishop

Updated Friday
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Sudan has issued a statement, and also sent a letter to the Presiding Bishop of TEC.

See the news report by George Conger in the Church of England Newspaper Sudan breaks with the Episcopal Church.

The American Episcopal Church’s support for gay bishops and blessings has led the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) to ban Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from visiting the church. The dis-invitation to Bishop Jefferts Schori follows a vote by the ECS House of Bishops last month to swap its recognition of the Episcopal Church for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the legitimate expression of Anglicanism in the United States…

The letter reads as follows:

“The Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church United States of America
Thursday 15th December 2011

Dear Bishop Katharine,

Advent greetings to you in the name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is with a heavy heart that I write you informing you of our decision as a House of Bishops to withdraw your invitation to the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS). We acknowledge your personal efforts to spearhead prayer and support campaigns on behalf of the ECS and remain very grateful for this attention you and your church have paid to Sudan and South Sudan. However, it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality.

Find attached a statement further explaining our position as a province.


—(The Most Rev.) Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop Primate and Metropolitan of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of the Diocese of Juba “

The statement, which has appeared on various blog websites reads as follows:


The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan in its meeting held in Juba from 14-16, November 2011 in the context of General Synod has reaffirmed the statement of the Sudanese Bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 2008 as quoted below:

“We reject homosexual practice as contrary to Biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships.”

We are deeply disappointed by The Episcopal Church’s refusal to abide by Biblical teaching on human sexuality and their refusal to listen to fellow Anglicans. For example, TEC Diocese of Los Angles, California in 2010 elected and consecrated Mary Douglas Glasspool as their first lesbian assistant Bishop. We are not happy with their acts of continuing ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations in the church by some dioceses in TEC; it has pushed itself away from God’s Word and from Anglican Communion. TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.

The Episcopal Church of Sudan is recognizing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) fully as true faithful Orthodox Church and we will work with them to expand the Kingdom of God in the world. Also we will work with those Parishes and Dioceses in TEC who are Evangelical Orthodox Churches and faithful to God.

We will not compromise our faith on this and we will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and has refused our advices.

(The Most Rev.) Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop and Primate of Episcopal Church of Sudan, Juba, 12th December 2011

Responses from American dioceses are recorded by Episcopal Café in Dioceses respond cautiously to latest letter from Church of Sudan.

The report on this from last week’s Church Times is now available, see Sudan chides US and backs ACNA.


More AMiA correspondence from the Rwanda House of Bishops

The previous report on this: AMiA will negotiate with ACNA was updated with a link to one additional letter last Thursday.

Other correspondence has now emerged, and can be found here: Communique from House of Bishops of Rwanda. The original letter is dated 9 December, but was issued with a covering letter from two AMiA bishops, only on 16 December.

From the covering letter:

We also have delayed sending these letters because we needed to clarify with the Rwandan HoB the second bullet point in the letter to clergy and churches. While AMiA affiliated congregations are under the pastoral oversight of Archbishop Rwaje, they are also affiliated with the U.S. non-profit corporation, The Anglican Mission in the Americas. As a result, churches have had a type of “dual citizenship” with Rwanda and the AMiA. Unfortunately, while many of us had been led to think differently, the churches in the AMiA have never been canonically resident in the Anglican Province of Rwanda or anywhere else in the Anglican Communion. We are currently working with the Rwandan HoB to discern ways to rectify this for those congregations that desire a true membership in the Anglican Communion. At the same time, the canonical status of the clergy is clear. If you are clergy in the AMiA, (other than the 8 active bishops who resigned*) you are canonically resident in PEAR.


St Stephen

Poor St Stephen, not only the first martyr to Christ but also the first martyr to Christmas, his feast day lost as most clergy enjoy their first decent day off for ages and even the most avid churchgoer feels sated after Carols, Christingle, Crib Service, Midnight Mass and Christmas morning Eucharist.

Even in the bible he appears only briefly on the scene; ordained deacon by the apostles in Acts 6, he is dead by the end of Acts 7 after one recorded sermon. Accorded the position of patron saint of deacons during the early centuries he finds his own transient ministry echoed in the way that for much of that time (and still largely today) the Western church has seen the role of deacon as a one year preparation for priesthood.

Yet for one brief moment it is Stephen rather than one of the twelve who is at the centre of the story. And in that moment he does two remarkable things.

Accused of speaking against Moses and the temple, Stephen draws a clear distinction between the two. Moses is a man in relationship with God, the temple a much later addition. The latter cannot hold God but the former may hold on to him, even when rejected by his own people. The fulfilment of what Moses proclaimed is not a building, or any other human construct, but a man, Jesus. Stephen has broken the link between Israel’s faith and its institutions.

Meanwhile somewhere at the back of the crowd stands another man, young Saul from Tarsus. Driven by Stephen’s words to attack the new Christian communities, he will find that his efforts to bolster his religious orthodoxy through ever greater degrees of aggression have backfired. Stephen has planted a seed in his heart that will not lie dormant. Saul will need to reassess what his faith is about, and he like Stephen will discover it centres purely on relationship with God. This is the context we need to set Saul in, lest his need later to speak so much on matters of practical church organisation lead us to think that is what he thought really mattered.

Holy Stephen, first of Christ’s martyrs, remember us, and redirect our thought and hearts, when we, like the Jewish council and like Saul, are tempted to place our institutions and their wellbeing ahead of relationship with God.


What would Jesus do… today of all days?

What would Jesus do… today of all days?

Lo within a manger lies
he who built the starry skies…

Doing what? Sleeping? Staring at the ceiling? Filling the first century equivalent of nappies? an occasional infantile gurgle or puke?

What did Jesus do? Not much, I’d say — certainly nothing out of the ordinary. The manger scene reveals the Son of God in a state of almost complete passivity.

The baby in the manger is almost as helpless as the tortured body on the cross.

And yet Christian theology says that in these two episodes of utter helplessness Jesus accomplished his life’s work, far beyond our capacity to describe let alone understand the implications. They are the heart of the good news, the foundation upon which everything else rests.

Jesus’ passivity is however, in itself, good news because it puts the boot firmly into into three pervasive pictures of God that are familiar but distinctly bad news. Disposing of these unwanted visitors to the manger can only clear the air.

First out the door is the “Action Man” Pocket God, always busy seeing people and doing things, fixing up the world, zapping the baddies and blessing the goodies real good. It’s a compelling, natural picture of God; indeed it’s the way most of us would tackle the job of being divine — it’s just not God’s. If God were like that, we’d have to say, with Woody Allen, he was something of an underachiever, as the good go unblessed and the innocent suffer. These facts, as much as the sleeping baby in the manger, indicate that this image is false.

Another god the sleeping baby disposes of is the absent Deist watchmaker, designing and setting everything off then letting it run. Whatever else he is, Jesus in the manger is the heart of the scene, present in the engaging way that babies become the centre of attention by not doing very much.

Finally out the door goes the old Gnostic God of Spirit, who’s around the world in some creepy mysterious way, but hates the place along with all unsanitised human beings. All that matters to him is Religion. Experience? Money? Work? Sexuality? Art? Science? He’s above all that. Jesus isn’t. He’s in the middle of it. Taking Jesus seriously involves laying aside the snooty assumption that the world is somehow beneath divine contempt. We may despise the world but Jesus’ two bouts of helplessness say the living God so loved it that he gave everything for it…

Finally among unwanted visitors to the stable, tell that pervasive old English hypocrite Pelagius to go away. “Don’t you realise the world is going to hell in a handcart?” he whines. “Do something! Pull your socks up! Sing Louder! Get Christians ideologically aligned! Get us back to the good old days, when God was safely back in his heaven and all was well with the world…!”

The baby in the manger sleeps on. And nothing will ever be the same again.

Alan Wilson


opinion on Christmas Eve

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Christmas is meant to be shocking and in the London Evening Standard that We owe Dickens a great debt for his Christmas vision.

Here are some of the articles in the Comment is free belief section of The Guardian this week.
Chris Chivers Why vicars like me are handing out leaflets this Christmas
“Not only does it up attendances, but it reminds us all what churches are for.”
Mark Vernon Christian morality has the power to bring all things to account
“Objectivity in ethics is valuable not because of what it might tell us to do, but because of where it suggests we might be heading.”
Eddie Arthur The Bible should be available to read in every Christian’s native language
“As an adviser who helped create a New Testament translation for an Ivorian village, I saw what an impact such work can have.”
Denis Alexander Evolution, Christmas and the Atonement
“We are not descended from Adam and Eve – but still, Jesus was born to save us.”
Jonathan Freedland The story of Jesus is the ultimate political drama
“I shouldn’t be interested in the life of Jesus, but I can’t help it – his story makes for gripping entertainment”

Richard Beck writes on his Experimental Theology blog about A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

Andrew McGowan writes for Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine about How December 25 Became Christmas.

And finally, a small selection of Christmas messages
Archbishop of Canterbury In Congo or in Croydon, God is there for us
Bishop of Chelmsford One person can make a difference. That person is Christ
Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Christmas reflection
Archbishop of York’s Christmas Message for YouTube (including a transcript)
Bishop of St Asaph Christmas message
Bishop of Ely Christmas and New Year Message
President of the Methodist Conference Challenge your pre-suppositions this Christmas
Bishop and Archbishop of Liverpool
Archbishop of Wales

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Burnt porridge

You think you’d like to see an angel, do you? No. Not something to like.

The very fag end of a long, knackering day with the sheep. We were boiling up a bit of gruel on the fire. To this day when I smell gruel burning I feel … it takes me there. Burned porridge, and, — look, I’m not one of your religious types. I’m trying hard to keep this clean, not use bad words.

This thing was there, and yes, we were all s — we were all — This thing was there. Bigger than a house. Burning light. A lot of wings, claws, legs, a terrifying face. Then something like a human shape, wavering like looking at fire. That’s not why I nearly peed myself. Not the claws, not the face. It was a sense — look, I don’t do touchy-feely, woman’s stuff? OK? Don’t do it. But I just wanted to hide. Wanted the ground to swallow me. Found myself thinking of things I’d decided to forget.

And then it spoke. It told us not to be afraid. It was quite clear this was an order. You ever tried to stop being afraid because something terrifying gave you an order? I knew I couldn’t — and it made me even more afraid. And the thing spoke of the Messiah — and we all know what the day of the Messiah is like, don’t we? Fine for you holy bods, sure. People like me? Darkness, that’s what. Threat.

And then the thing told us to go to the village and find the Messiah.

Look it was like the burned porridge. It was so f, flaming ordinary. Not a Messiah like what I expected. Not darkness. A baby, wrapped up just as all little ‘uns are — and lying where busy mothers put them, in the work room, safe in the manger during the day while the beasts are out. It was so — look you don’t expect great masses of flame and when you get them, you don’t expect a message about a baby all safely wrapped up. You just don’t.

And you don’t expect one blooming great mass of fire to turn into countless masses of fire, none of them any smaller, all singing in complex harmonies. I like a song — I’m one they always call on to sing at weddings and the like — you may well think us a rough lot, but we have our songs. And I ain’t never heard the like of this. I can’t tell you what I’d give to take a part in a song like that. A good deal more than I possess — that’s what.

Then an empty hill — well, it seemed empty. Just us, the sheep and the burned out saucepan.

First published in Love Blooms Bright.

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Global Christianity

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has this week published a major report on the size and distribution of the world’s Christian population: Global Christianity.

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

A century ago, this was not the case…

John L Allen Jr has written about this for the National Catholic Reporter with The Laws of Christian Thermodynamics and concludes

Based on the study, here are three rules of thumb about Christian growth and decline — extrapolations which go well beyond the contents of the Pew report, but which can be supported by the data it contains:

  • If you want Christianity to shrink, give it wealth and privilege and back it up with the power of the state.
  • If you want Christianity to show surprising resilience, suppress its structures and persecute its people.
  • If you want Christianity to thrive, drop it into a free market environment and force it to hustle.

The Washington Post carries this Associated Press summary of the report: Study: Christian population shifting away from Europe, still largest faith group worldwide and this article by G Jeffrey Macdonald: Report shows Christianity shifting to Africa.

Myles Collier in Christian Today Australia writes New study: Christianity is the largest religion in the world, decentralized.

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O Emmanuel

The last Evening Prayer of Advent is the context for this final ‘O’ Antiphon, O Emmanuel. When Evening Prayer comes round again, tomorrow, he will come. And that is the hidden message in these seven antiphons. Working backwards from today we have seven titles addressed to the coming baby: Emmanuel, Rex Gentium, Oriens, Clavis David, Radix Jesse, Adonaï, and Sapientia. Taking the initial letter of each of these invocations yields the words ‘ero cras’, a couple of Latin words that mean ‘Tomorrow, I will come’.

And the identity of who it is that is coming is to be found in all those titles: the divine Word or Wisdom; the LORD, the ‘I AM’; a shoot sprung from the family tree of Jesse; the successor of David; a Light shining in the darkness; the true ruler of the world. And Emmanuel.

Emmanuel, or God-with-us, was a name used by Isaiah when he tells King Ahaz that the royal house of David will flourish despite the great danger that it faced from Damascus and Samaria. Isaiah foretells that before a child who is still in the womb is able to choose between right and wrong, the kings of Damascus and Samaria will fall, and the threat to Jerusalem will fall with it. Isaiah gives this unborn child the name ‘Immanuel’, a sign of hope in the future and trust in the divine will.

And Matthew, in his proclamation of the good news about Jesus, takes this message out of Isaiah and makes the parallel with Jesus’s birth, seeing it too as a sign of hope and trust in God, and of liberation from oppression and tyranny.

To us, the name Immanuel signifies even more. It tells us of the immanence of God: El in Hebrew, so we can make a pun and say that Immanu-el means the immanence of El — that God, the creator of the universe, lives among us, lives a human life, a humble human life, born to an ordinary family, in a far-off colonial outpost. God is not some remote cosmic being, and God is not some fickle pleasure-seeking divinity who masquerades in human form on occasion. No, this is a God who puts off the divine attributes to live within the limits of a human life and a human death. Here the human and the divine mingle in a way that poetry and theology are better at describing than science. And in a day or so’s time we shall be, as it were, witnesses to this mingling, this incarnation, as we celebrate the birth of that baby and ponder its meaning in our hearts.

O come, O come Emmanuel!


Child protection enquiry in Diocese of Chichester

Updated Saturday morning

Lambeth Palace has issued this “press advisory”:

The Archbishop of Canterbury today set up an enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester.

He has appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry. They will advise the Archbishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible standards of safeguarding in the diocese. This will involve examining current child protection arrangements as well as making recommendations for the future. They will make a preliminary report to the Archbishop by the end of February 2012.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, has given his full support to the enquiry.

The step which the Archbishop has taken is an Archiepiscopal Visitation under Canon C 17. Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC have been appointed as the Archbishop’s commissaries under Canon C 17.

The Diocese of Chichester has issued Archbishop’s Child Protection Enquiry:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today set up a visitation of the operation of the Church of England’s Child Protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester.

He has appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry. They will advise the Archbishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible standards of safeguarding in the diocese. This will involve examining current child protection arrangements as well as making recommendations for the future. They will make a preliminary report to the Archbishop by the end of February 2012.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, has given his full support to the enquiry. He said: “Our diocesan staff have been in constant touch with Lambeth Palace over the last year and this is now the outcome of those discussions. We welcome this Visitation as an opportunity to resolve a number of issues in the implementation of best safeguarding practice in the Diocese and more widely, and should also contribute to the response of the Church to the pain victims have experienced as a result of abuse. We trust that it will add to the progress the Diocese has already made and will help to continue to establish robust safeguarding practices.

I expect full cooperation with the Archbishop’s Commissaries. I hope that after my retirement at the end of April 2012, the Diocese will have firm foundations on which the new bishop will be able to build in leading the Diocese in the future.”

Neither of these press releases refer to any earlier events, which were last reported here in this article: BBC challenges accuracy of Chichester sex abuse report which includes a link to this diocesan page responding to the earlier reports from Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.

And most recently by the BBC in this: Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn may face misconduct probe.

Today’s announcement is reported by the BBC as: Lambeth Palace launches diocese child protection inquiry.

Canon C 17 can be found here (PDF).

Further press reports:

Press Association Church child policies probe set up

AFP Church of England orders child abuse inquiry


February General Synod – women bishops legislation

The Business Committee report on the reference to diocesan synods of the legislation to allow women bishops was emailed to synod members today. It is also available online as GS 1847.

The report includes the detailed voting figures on the motion in favour of the legislation (42 dioceses in favour and two against). Five diocesan bishops exercised their right to have a statement of their opinion recorded in the minutes of their diocesan synods and, as required by General Synod standing orders, these are included in the report. The report also gives details of all the following motions (whether passed or not).

The outline agenda for the February meeting of the Church of England General Synod includes these three items concerned with the legislation to allow women bishops.

Women in the Episcopate: Draft Code of Practice: Presentation and questions (Tuesday afternoon)

Women in the Episcopate: Manchester DSM (Southwark DSM as an amendment) (Wednesday afternoon)

This is the Manchester diocesan synod motion as it will have been submitted to General Synod.

That this Synod [i.e. the General Synod] call upon the House of Bishops, in exercise of its powers under Standing Order 60(b), to amend the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure in the manner proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at the Revision Stage for the draft Measure

and this is the motion from Southwark

That this Synod:
(a) noting the significant support the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure has received in the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of diocesan synods; and
(b) desiring that the draft Measure be returned to the Synod for consideration on the Final Approval Stage substantially unamended so that it can be seen if the proposals embodied in it in the form in which it has been referred to the dioceses can attain the level of support required to achieve Final Approval
request the House of Bishops not to exercise its power under Standing Order 60(b) to amend the draft Measure.

Women in the Episcopate: Final Drafting (Thursday afternoon)

At final drafting the steering committee can propose amendments that deal with matters previously overlooked or that clarify the wording. Members of the Synod no longer have the opportunity to propose amendments. Also this is not the point at which the House of Bishops can exercise its powers of amendment.


February General Synod outline agenda

The Church of England General Synod will meet in London from 6 to 9 February 2012. The outline agenda is available online and is copied below.


Monday 6 February
2.15 p.m. – 7.00 p.m.

2.15 p.m. Prayers, introductions, welcomes, progress of legislation
Loyal Address
Report by the Business Committee
Dates of Groups of Sessions in 2014-2015
Appointments to the Archbishops’ Council
Private Member’s Motion: Mrs Sarah Finch: Independent Commission on Assisted Dying
[brief evening worship]

Tuesday 7 February
9.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.

9.30 a.m. Worship
Legislative Business
    Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2012
    Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure – Revision Stage
    Diocese in Europe (Amendment) Measure – First Consideration

2.30 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.

2.30 p.m. Women in the Episcopate: Draft Code of Practice: Presentation and questions
Legislative business not completed in the morning sitting
Presentation by Sally Keeble on the Anglican Alliance for Relief, Development and Advocacy, followed by questions
5.30 p.m. Session ends
6.15 p.m. Joint service with the United Reformed Church at Westminster Abbey

Wednesday 8 February
9.15 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.

9.15 a.m. Holy Communion in the Assembly Hall
Chichester DSM: Appointment of Archdeacons
Legislative Business
    Women in the Episcopate: Report on Reference to Dioceses

2.30 p.m. – 7.00 p.m.

2.30 p.m. Women in the Episcopate: Manchester DSM (Southwark DSM as an amendment)
Report of the Standing Orders Committee
[brief evening worship]

Thursday 9 February
9.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.

9.30 a.m. Worship
Liturgical Business
    Additional Eucharistic Prayers
Legislative Business
    Women in the Episcopate: Final Drafting
Higher Education Funding Changes: Presentation and questions

2.30 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.

2.30 p.m. Private Member’s Motion: Professor Anthony Berry: Reform of the House of Lords
Health and the Church’s Mission:Report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council

Contingency Business
PMM: The Revd Stephen Trott: Manifestation of Faith in Public Life

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Two more provinces adopt the Anglican Covenant

Reports from ACNS

Papua New Guinea approves Covenant and says it is “proud to belong to the Anglican Communion”

The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea has announced that its Provincial Council last week approved and accepted the Anglican Covenant.

Writing to the Secretary General of the decision on behalf of the House of Bishops, the Bishop of Port Moresby, the Rt Revd Peter Ramsden, said the decision was based on their understanding of the name Anglican Communion.

“Anglican” was one of the styles of Christianity brought to this land and people near the end of the nineteenth century”, he wrote. “It never pretended to be the only form of Christianity, but it did reflect how one part of the Christian family had developed, built on the importance of scripture, creeds, sacraments and episcopal order. Today we try to combine our Anglo-Catholic theological heritage and personal discipleship to the Lord Jesus in the way we witness to the five marks of mission with our ecumenical partners in PNG and our Anglican partners overseas…

If you aren’t sure where Papua New Guinea is, here’s a map.

Southern Cone approves Anglican Communion Covenant

At its recent November (3 to 11) meeting in Asunción, Paraguay, the Executive Committee of the Province of the Southern Cone of America, together with its Bishops, voted to approve the Anglican Covenant. The Province views the covenant as a way forward given the difficult circumstance of watching certain Provinces of the Anglican Communion propose novel ways of Christian living in rejection of Biblical norms.

In response to these novel practices the Southern Cone had held churches in North America under its wing for some time while the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) was formed. However, the Province has not maintained jurisdiction over any local churches there for over a year. As a result, all so called ‘border crossings’ by any provincial members ceased (as of October, 2010) even though the Southern Cone still remains in impaired communion with US and Canadian Provinces. It is hoped that the Covenant can now provide Communion stability.

One of the Bishops commented, “We believe that life in the Communion must be maintained by a basic level of accountability if, in fact, we are a family of interdependent churches. The Covenant helps fulfill this role. Naturally, house rules should be kept to a minimum. But being a member of a family has responsibilities that must be ‘lived into’. Right now, a small faction in the Communion continues to do ‘its own thing’ enjoying many privileges and few responsibilities of family.”

There is commentary on this:

Preludium Province of the Southern Cone adopts Covenant, give or take a clause or two.

…The Province of the Southern Cone has adopted the Anglican Covenant, but with its fingers crossed. Apparently the PSC hopes that no one will notice that it still has the deposed bishop of Recife under its wings, along with a sizable number of congregants constituted as a diocese.

The PSC claims that it is no longer doing those things it ought not to have done in Canada and the United States, but makes no apology for having done so.

I suppose this counts as a “yes” in the score card on the acceptance of the Anglican Covenant, but there will not be much joy in Anglican-Land over this one.

The No Anglican Covenant scorecard on provincial voting is over here.


O Rex Gentium : O King of the Nations

Back in the 1980s when I was in seminary in upstate New York, it had become fashionable to talk, not of the Kingdom of God, but of the Commonwealth of God. As a recent arrival, both to the country and to that particular concept, I was fascinated to hear familiar phrases in bible readings and liturgy where Commonwealth supplanted Kingdom. I had no trouble understanding why this would be; Kingdom is associated with heredity, class, privilege and self-interest where the identity of a nation, or a race was embodied by, even ceded to, a particular family which had the means to both maintain its supremacy by force, along with the illusion that its primacy was underwritten in the heavens. Yes, I could see it, Kingdom: bad concept, with dodgy associations, particularly in a republic, Kingdom out, Commonwealth in. It would take me years to figure out why this just didn’t sit right with me.

A commonwealth of God is indeed much closer to what the gospel writers envisaged. It is about the welfare of everyone, attested to in scripture from the creation of the world, where all of humanity, not simply the ruling elite, was made in the image of God. Again and again the overwhelming justice of God is described, not as retribution, but as a demand for proper distribution of the resources of the land. The first lesson the freed slaves learn during their exodus from Egypt is that there is enough manna from heaven for everyone to have sufficient for each day in the desert. It is written into the charter of the Promised Land, not only that that all have enough, but provision should be made for those who have no-one to provide for them, like widows and orphans.

The classical prayer of Christian faith, the Lord’s Prayer, describes the character of the household of God: everyone should have enough, bread sufficient for each day, echoing the freed slaves’ desert experience. The feeding miracles, and Paul’s tirade to the wealthy Corinthians who hog the best of the Lord’s Supper, so embeds the notion of common-wealth as a key Christian concept that it is amazing that it has never become a foundational Christian doctrine. The same lack of focus on common-wealth has compromised the definitive Christian ritual, which has long ceased to be about everyone having enough. The Eucharist has become petrified into a precious liturgy of prescribed words by authorised people, where God’s justice is now believed to be honoured by sanitised silver plate and spotless starched linen.

So, if commonwealth is so good, why do we revert to the word kingdom, and to the Kingship of Christ? It is a commonplace now to hear in Christmas sermons that the titles for Jesus: Son of God, Saviour, Prince of Peace are titles already well-known as titles for Caesar. The gospel writers, in using them for Jesus, are either having a joke or are committing treason against Rome itself. They are hi-jacking the existing language of power in order to re-define kingship, from being about punitive brute force to representing God’s distributive justice, a movement in which everyone will have enough.

And you can imagine Herod’s people getting news of the Galilean preacher and his Kingdom of God, and saying, “Kingdom, that’s our word, he’s talking about us” as indeed he was.

So we can embrace Kingdom and Kingship because the followers of Christ inherit a commission to take these titles of earthly power and subvert and transform them. In doing so, we enact God’s Kingdom: those happenings which derive not from earth but from heaven.

Andrew Spurr


Instead of the Anglican Covenant

Jonathan Clatworthy has published an article at Modern Church entitled Instead of the Anglican Covenant.

Proponents of the Anglican Covenant sometimes challenge opponents to suggest alternatives. Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his 2011 Advent Letter to the Primates, wrote:

I continue to ask what alternatives there are if we want to agree on ways of limiting damage, managing conflict and facing with honesty the actual effects of greater disunity. In the absence of such alternatives, I must continue to commend the Covenant as strongly as I can to all who are considering its future.

This article seeks to respond to the challenge. It can only be a partial response because unlike the Covenant’s proponents, who are supported by the resources of the Anglican Communion Office, opponents work on a voluntary basis and none has the right to speak on behalf of all. The matter is complicated by the marked reluctance of proponents (with honourable exceptions like the Bishop of St Asaph) to communicate directly with opponents at all. This means that nobody in particular has been asked to offer an alternative. This one expresses the views of Modern Church and the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

Normally, opponents of a suggested change are under no obligation to present an alternative change. In this instance we understand the challenge to stem from a sense of crisis and a concern to do something to resolve it. The question, as we understand it, is: if the Anglican Covenant will not be the solution to our current problems, what will?


AMiA will negotiate with ACNA

Updated again Thursday evening

We reported recently on the upheaval in the Anglican Mission in the Americas: AMiA withdraws from Anglican Church of Rwanda.

Since then, there have been two developments:

First, a meeting was held in London:

Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini, Moses Tay and Yong Ping Chung, founding archbishops of the Anglican Mission, met with Bishop Chuck Murphy December 12-14, 2011, in London, England, and were joined by Cynthia Tay, Julia Yong, Susan Grayson, Canon Mike Murphy, and Canon Kevin Donlon.

They issued this Anglican Mission in the Americas Communiqué from the London Meeting (PDF).

In the midst of what must be recognized as a challenging transition, we believe God is showing us His direction for the future of the Anglican Mission. Our current situation necessitates a clear response based on what we have heard from the Lord, and therefore we commit to the creation of a missionary society as a cherished and honored model recognized within the wider Eastern and Western traditions of the Church. We look forward to the opportunity to give specific form and shape to this normative structure of a missionary society, seeking the input of our bishops, clergy, network leaders and laity. We are encouraged to be still before the Lord and to discern His leading to a new canonical provincial relationship. In addition, we pledge our commitment to the eight-member Council of Bishops and all of the Anglican Mission leadership and congregations. Living out this model within our Anglican context allows us to be a mission…nothing more, nothing less in North America and beyond. Finally, we recognize and affirm the development of a Pastoral Declaration designed to provide the necessary order for developing a constitution.

Second, the Anglican Church of North America has published this Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Duncan.

Recent events within the Anglican Mission in the Americas have challenged us all. This letter is a brief report to you all about those events and about our efforts to find a path forward. The present reality is brokenness. The vision, however, that governs our fledgling Province remains unchanged: a Biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.

The resignation of nine Anglican Mission bishops, including the Bishop Chairman, from the House of Bishops of Rwanda, changed relationships with Rwanda, with fellow bishops and with the Anglican Church in North America. The resigned bishops lost their status in our College of Bishops as a result of their resignation from Rwanda. The Anglican Mission also lost its status as a Ministry Partner, since that status had been predicated on AMiA’s relationship with Rwanda. In addition, confusion and hurt has been created in Rwanda and in North America, and there is much serious work ahead of us.

Representatives of the Anglican Church in North America and of the Pawleys Island leadership met today in Pittsburgh. For the Anglican Church in North America the starting point was the importance of our Provincial relationship with the Province of Rwanda (a sister GAFCON Province) and with His Grace Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, of our relationship with the North American Bishops Terrell Glenn and Thad Barnum and all the clergy licensed in Rwanda, and of our relationship to those represented by the Pawleys Island group with whom we were meeting. We, as the Anglican Church in North America, have been deeply connected to all three, and we can only move forward when issues and relationships have been adequately addressed and necessary transitions are in progress…


Mark Harris at Preludium has commentary on all this: So who do ACNA bishops go for jurisdictional connection?

He quotes the latest statement from the Southern Cone:

In response to these novel practices the Southern Cone had held churches in North America under its wing for some time while the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) was formed. However, the Province has not maintained jurisdiction over any local churches there for over a year…

And then asks:

…Now it would appear that Archbishop Duncan et al believe that “jurisdictional participation in a way that is fully Anglican” involves being part of a Province of the Anglican Communion as currently constituted. So the AMiA bishops “belong” to Rwanda. The Bishops of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) “belong” to Nigeria. The Bishops of ACNA “belong”…where?

And there is a further letter to AMiA members from some bishops: A Letter from some (formerly Rwandan) Bishops to the AMiA.


O Oriens : O Morning Star

How many of us, even in these dark, short days, are around, or alert to the morning star of the east? Very few, I suspect; but most of us will constantly, in these last days of Advent, make the connexion between the light eternal and the coming of Christmas. Light, lights, are part of the way in which the season is marked, the story told, in church and out.

I’m re-adjusting, preparing for Christmas in a new parish and in a different culture. I’ve swapped the hectic and heady mixture of faiths and ethnicities of east London for the particularities of south Essex (very close to TOWIE country). Here light chases away darkness not in the succession of festivals of electricity and fireworks which marked Newham between late October and the new year, but in the forms of illuminated Father Christmases, glowing reindeer, trains which puff their way across the upper stories of neighbouring houses, pulsating stars, and flashing greeting signs. Our residential corner has an especially fine display: and the participants are not purely secular celebrants of the season — one near neighbour, whose house is well and truly lit up, is a faithful member of the local Roman Catholic congregation, deeply committed to issues of social justice.

Tasteless? It depends on your own taste. Questionable on grounds of stewardship of scarce resources? Perhaps. But there is a prodigality, an exuberance which I find appealing.

Christians can be dour about Christmas, repressing the impulse to party, to take delight. We want people to wait in the darkness of Advent until the 25th. We resent the consumerism which so consumes people that they will not listen to what we want to say. The alternative seems to be to catch their attention by appealing to an imagined past. In our church last Sunday evening, the carol service began in candlelight, and even our 1960s barn of a building looked beautiful as the points of light were repeated around the church, on the altar, in front of the nativity scene. An aesthetically pleasing moment, but perhaps a dangerously nostalgic one, which may have helped to keep the Christmas story firmly distanced from the normalities of daily life for any of those present.

At the back of the church, though, was the Christmas tree, hung with lights, including some which flashed on and off. At one time I would have wanted to banish it to the narthex, if not the church hall; now I welcome it, as a symbol of shared celebration, of that exuberant joy which should be ours on Christmas morning. Yes, people (including the faithful) will overspend on ridiculous things they would never buy at any other time of year: we will give each other presents that we don’t need and often don’t particularly want; family relationships will come under strain; there will be too much food, and too much drink; many, including the clergy, will reach Christmas morning exhausted; the money, the time, the effort could be much better employed.
But the lights, products of our own time and culture, shine in the darkness, brilliant, vivid, unstinting tributes, conscious or unconscious, to the light coming into the world.

Jane Freeman

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O Clavis David : O Key of David

‘O key of David!’ starts today’s antiphon: David, the second King of Israel, but the man whose name became synonymous with all forms of kingship and rule in Israel and Judah.

He is an extraordinary choice for the position of legendary revered ruler. It is sometimes suggested that he is indeed simply a figure of legend. Generally speaking, however, legendary kings are a good deal more noble and less flawed than David. The astonishing thing about the David narratives is their pictures of a fatally flawed but very vivid man. His beautiful lament for Jonathan, so beloved by those who want Biblical gay role models, should not blind us to the fact that Jonathan is killed as David makes his move on the throne. Jonathan is uncomfortably close to being the sacrifice made by his friend and lover in order to gain power. Indeed, too many of those whom David loves end up dead, particularly his sons. One of the most splendid narratives from the ancient world, the ‘succession narrative’, charts the closing years of David. His seduction of Bathsheba led to the skilful elimination (was she scheming?) of all plausible heirs to David except the son he has with her, Solomon. The narrative includes perhaps the most moving of all Biblical laments, that of David over Absalom: ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ But only a fool could have believed that the action against Absalom was likely to end any other way – and David was no fool. This extraordinarily believable picture of a passionate man who keeps a very clear and calculating mind strikes me as so totally removed from hagiography as to be very believable.

History or fiction (and David’s period is far removed from the Victorians of whom I know something) the fact remains that this great king is consciously and deliberately presented as a flawed figure. Perhaps it is his very passions which make him such an attractive figure. Perhaps in the often grubby reality of life we are closer to God than we are in those noble moments when we are blinded by our illusions. For sometimes we come to believe that our aspirations actually reflect the daily reality of our lives; that we are the kindly, thoughtful, people we seek to be. If we are more honest, there is often a tangled mess of demands made on us, selfishness and loving response, a darkness of misunderstandings, naked greed and those loving actions which (like David’s desire to keep his power and save Absalom’s life) were never going to work out. There is a terrible reality about David’s mixed desires and ambitions which make him seem astonishingly contemporary.

In that sense, today’s antiphon seems to fit him well – and in fitting him, to fit all those of us who know too well our flawed and dark passions, our divided loyalties and the complexities of our lives. It promises the rescue (by ‘great David’s greater son’) of those in darkness, trapped and ignorant of the paths to escape.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Rosemary Hannah