Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop: Human Rights and Religious Faith

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a lecture yesterday at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

WCC news announcement.

The full text of the lecture is here.

The Lambeth Palace press release is also accompanied by the full text of the lecture (scroll down).

This has led to a number of media reports:

ENI via ACNS Archbishop of Canterbury links human rights to faith

Reuters Archbishop of Canterbury steps into U.N. gays row

Daily Mail Why it would be wrong to legalise gay marriage, by the Archbishop of Canterbury


Parliamentary debate on Women in the Church of England

See previous report of a House of Commons “adjournment debate” on women bishops.

The Hansard record of yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate is now online starting here.

For the video recording, see here.

Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said this:

…I very much hope that, when the House of Bishops considers the resolution from the February Synod, it gives it careful consideration. However, given that a majority of the members of the February Synod voted in favour of women becoming bishops—in other words, they supported those resolutions that enable that prospect to move forward—I would be extremely surprised if the House of Bishops did anything other than to enable the Measure to move forward, and I have every confidence in the good sense and good judgment of the House of Bishops.

When we come to the Church of England’s General Synod in July, I very much hope that even those who have been opposed to women becoming bishops will recognise the overwhelming support within the Church of England for the Measure to go forward. In fact, if 42 out of 44 dioceses have voted in favour of women becoming bishops, it would look very perverse—indeed, it would look ridiculous—if the General Synod in July was to use its convoluted voting mechanisms not to allow that Measure to move forward. Between now and July, I hope that everyone will search their soul and I also hope that, if people are opposed to the Measure, they will recognise that there comes a point when it is necessary to acknowledge that, in the interests and well-being of the Church of England, the Measure must make progress.

We have always wished to continue to be a broad Church, maintaining space for all those who wish to remain within the Church of England. However, there must be a recognition that this issue has been deliberated for a long time and that it has been considered carefully, with everyone in the Church of England having had the opportunity to make a thoughtful and deliberative contribution to the debate, and that—as demonstrated by the votes in the dioceses during the last year—the views of the members of the Church of England are very clear.

I hope, therefore, that by the end of this year Parliament will have passed a Measure that will enable women to become bishops. Of course, although that parliamentary business would be dealt with in Government time, it would not be capable of being whipped business. Consequently, I will look to all those who have urged and exhorted me on this issue during Church Commissioners questions and elsewhere to be in the main Chamber to support the Measure when it comes to the Floor of the House. Wherever that support comes from—whether from atheists or resolved reactionaries—it is very important that the House of Commons demonstrates its support for women bishops. In due course, I hope that I and others here will be able to be at Westminster abbey or St Paul’s cathedral when the archbishops consecrate the first woman bishop…

And earlier he had said this:

May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) that I hope that the General Synod will agree to adopt this Measure in July? In anticipation of that, I have met Lord Lloyd, the Chair of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is made up of a number of Members of this House and a number of Members of the House of Lords, to discuss the Committee meeting in October to consider and approve the Measure.

Leaving nothing to chance, I have already had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons. Using the precedent of what happened in respect of the Measures for ordaining women as deacons and priests, it is deemed to be appropriate to consider this Measure on the Floor of the House, rather than upstairs in Committee. The understanding that I have reached with the Leader of the House is that we will set aside half a day—we hope, some time in November—to approve the Measure in this House. It has to be approved separately in the House of Lords, and I hope that it will do similarly. If the Measure is approved by General Synod in July, it is my ambition to do everything possible to have it pass all its legislative stages before the end of this year. We would therefore hope to see the first women bishops appointed as early as 2014. I agree with the comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Worthing West and for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) that that would be significant in terms of the timetable relating to reform of the House of Lords.


Anglican Covenant passes in two more English dioceses

Last Saturday two more dioceses considered the proposal to approve the Anglican Covenant, and the motion passed in both cases.

In Sheffield the voting was:

Bishops: 2 for, 0 against
Clergy: 16 for, 6 against, 1 abstention
Laity: 31 for, 9 against, 0 abstentions

In Winchester the voting was:

Bishops: 3 for, 0 against
Clergy: 22 for, 11 against, 4 abstentions
Laity: 38 for, 10 against, 2 abstentions

Subsequently, the Yes to the Covenant campaign issued this press release:

Immediate release


Supporters of the Anglican Communion Covenant expressed optimism this weekend, after Diocesan Synods in the Winchester and Sheffield dioceses voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Covenant. This represents a significant turnaround from only a week ago, when four dioceses voted against the Covenant.

The shift follows the establishment of the new grassroots campaign, ‘Yes to the Covenant’, whose Patrons are the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, and the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Revd Graham Kings. A number of other Bishops have also expressed their support, including the bishops of Peterborough, Southwell & Nottingham and Brixworth. Other high-profile supporters include eminent theologians Professor N T Wright (formerly Bishop of Durham) and Professor Oliver O’Donovan.

Prudence Dailey, co-founder of ‘Yes to the Covenant’, said the campaign had clearly succeeded in presenting a more balanced view, against a background of determined negative campaigning by a small group of detractors. Diocesan Synod members now stood a better chance of being fully informed before casting their votes, she said.

Voting now stands at 7 dioceses in favour and 10 against. If the Covenant is approved by a majority of the Church of England’s 44 dioceses, it will then go forward to the General Synod to decide whether to adopt it formally.



The Anglican Communion Covenant is being promoted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to foster greater unity among Anglicans worldwide. The need for a Covenant was initially recognised as a result of divisions originating following the consecration of the actively gay Gene Robinson as a bishop in the USA. All Anglican Provinces are being encouraged to adopt the Covenant, as a way of establishing general mutual accountability by agreement.



Report questions the freedom of Christians in the UK

Updated Tuesday evening

The All-Party Parliamentary Group named Christians in Parliament has published a report titled Clearing the Ground, and subtitled it: Preliminary report into the freedom of Christians in the UK.

This report and related documents can be found at the Evangelical Alliance website, here.

Writing in advance of the report’s publication, Jim Dobbin MP and Gary Streeter MP said in the Telegraph on Sunday that: We need reforms to protect the rights of Christians. There is an accompanying news story Britain failing to stand up for Christians, say MPs.

In the Mail on Sunday Jonathan Petre reported this story as Harriet Harman’s law on equality ‘is anti-Christian’ and unacceptable.

Today’s Independent has Committee claims rights laws leave out Christians by Nina Lakhani.

The BBC had Equality law ‘should be extended to cover faith’.

Today’s responses to the report so far include:

Ekklesia Report alleging discrimination against Christians ‘confused’

British Humanist Association British Humanist Association refutes findings of ‘Clearing the Ground’ report


More responses:

Andrew Brown Cif belief Are Christians being marginalised?

Are Christians their own worst enemies in Britain today? This question is raised with unusual frankness in a couple of paragraphs of an all-party parliamentary group’s report into Christians and discrimination, which was launched yesterday.

It contains a really quite startling attack on Christian campaign groups:

“The actions of some campaign groups can discredit the Church in the UK and result in perceptions that Christians are seeking unfair exemptions. By bringing highly emotive cases to the fore, they also can add to the feeling among Christians that they are more marginalised than they actually are.

“On some occasions we perceive that campaigning becomes inflammatory or even counterproductive to Christian freedoms. This is due to factors such as: the strategically unwise selection of cases; a distorted presentation of facts for manipulation of the media; and most alarmingly, the deliberate misinforming of the church constituency in order to motivate support.”

But the report also maintains that there have been cases in which Christians have been unfairly treated, usually as a result of ignorance in the wider culture, rather than malevolence; and it demands a reshaping of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which evangelical Christians loathe…

National Secular Society Christian discrimination report is just another call for special privileges


Women in the Church of England

The Independent on Sunday carried this article ‘Even outstanding women struggle to rise in the CofE’ which refers to a Westminster Hall debate to be held tomorrow, Tuesday, of which information is now available here:

Tuesday 28 February
Subjects proposed to be raised on the Motion for the Adjournment:
9.30 am – 11.00 am Diana Johnson Women in the Church of England.

A press release from WATCH about it is reproduced below the fold.



opinion at the beginning of Lent

Pierre Whalon interviews Olivia de Havilland for Anglicans Online: Reading the Bible as a statement of faith.
And in The Huffington Post he writes that God Does Not Exist…

Mary Ann Sieghart writes for The Independent that You don’t have to believe in God to cherish the Church.

The Guardian published this editorial on Ash Wednesday: the lost art of dying.

Jane Williams writes in The Guardian that Lent is a chance to take stock and imagine a changed world.

Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian, reports the views of the Archbishop of Westminster: Catholic Church leader rejects claim UK Christians are persecuted.

Naomi Young interviews the Archbishop of York for Reform (a publication of the United Reformed Church): John Sentamu interview: When the toe hurts.

Theo Hobson writes in The Spectator that The defence of Christianity needs a little more nuance.

Graham Kings has written a Credo column for The Times (and republished it at Fulcrum): Lent is a Time to Keep a Journal of Your Spiritual Travels.


Anglican Covenant: reports and reactions

Updated 9 March

The Church Times reports this week on the progress of voting in English dioceses on the Anglican Covenant: Covenant tastes defeat in diocesan voting.

ALMOST a quarter of C of E dioceses have now voted against the Anglican Covenant.

It was debated last weekend by the diocesan synods of Leicester, Portsmouth, Salisbury, and Rochester, and rejected by all of them — in some cases, despite impassioned pleas from bishops.

Just five of 15 English dioceses have so far approved the Covenant, which must be debated by diocesan synods by the end of March.
Approval by 23 diocesan synods is required for the Covenant to return to the General Synod. Rejection by 22 dioceses would effectively derail approval of the Covenant by the Church of England…

And there is this:

in a letter in the Church Times today, the patron of the coalition, the Revd Dr Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford, writes: “Those bishops who back this ill-thought-out and poten­tially disastrous measure should get the message, and let the Covenant quietly subside into the swamp of bad ideas in Anglican history.”

The letters page is subscriber-only for another week but I expect this text will appear elsewhere shortly.

A splendid speech given last Saturday to Leicester diocesan synod by David Jennings is available here.

The Diocese of Norwich held an ‘Anglican Covenant Listening Seminar’. By far the best of these papers is the one by Andrew Davison available here (PDF).

Update That paper has since been revised to add some comments in response to the recent video from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the new version is here (PDF).

There have been several comments about the new website:

And there have been several comments about the new videos published by the ACO:

And, from Scotland Kelvin Holdsworth has written Remember the Anglican Covenant?

…In Scotland it is quite hard to find anyone arguing in favour of the Covenant. At last year’s General Synod we had pseudo-Indaba groups which reported pretty negatively on the whole business and it was difficult to find anyone from any of the groups who had encountered anyone at all who thought well of the proposal. The message which I’ve consistently heard since then from around the church is people saying that the Anglican Communion is very important to us but that the kind of communion that the Covenant proposes is not the kind of communion that we see as being desirable. Indeed, the strong message seems to be pro the Communion but against the kind of setup that would be a consequence of accepting the Covenant. The presumption that there would be widespread disagreement about the Covenant in Scotland doesn’t really seem at this stage to be holding up. So far as I can see, there isn’t a great deal of disagreement at all about it…


Attacks on government plans to change the definition of marriage

The Church Times reports today on the campaign organised under the title Coalition for Marriage: Petition against gay marriage attracts thousands of names.

THE Government came under sus­tained attack this week from a coalition of Christian groups and in­dividuals over its plans to legalise same-sex marriage.

The coalition’s petition attracted about 23,000 signatures within 48 hours of its launch, including those of the Bishops of Carlisle, Chester, Exeter, and Hereford.

The Coalition for Marriage, estab­lished by the Christian Institute, with signatories from senior officials of Care, the Evangelical Alliance, Chris­tian Concern, and other organ­isations, accuses the Government of rewriting the legal definition of marriage without widespread public support for the change…

John Bingham at the Telegraph reported earlier in the week: Gay marriage: David Cameron faces church backlash over ‘cultural vandalism’.

Last month the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, publicly voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

But the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev Nicholas Holtam, signalled a split within the Church of England on the subject by signalling his support for gay marriage.

Among those who have signed the Coalition For Marriage petition are the Rt Revd Peter Foster, the Bishop of Chester; the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and the Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has yet to set out his position on the issue publicly but a spokesman for the Church of England said yesterday: “The Church will respond in full to the government consultation when it is launched next month, and remains committed to the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“Meanwhile, we hope people will think deeply about this question, which is more complicated than it is painted.

“While not standing in the way of same-sex couples in civil partnerships gaining equal rights and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples, the Church of England will continue to argue for the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long, not to be changed.”

And today, the Bishop of Salisbury published this statement on his diocesan website: Marriage and same-sex relationships

Statement re: meeting with Dorset clergy on 14 February concerning the Bishop of Salisbury’s comments on same-sex relationships in The Times and on BBC Radio 4

The Bishop of Sherborne, the Archdeacon of Dorset and I met with 10 clergy from Dorset who had contacted me following my remarks on same-sex relationships in an interview published in The Times on 3 February, and on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme on 5 February.

Bishop Graham and I disagree about the appropriateness of using the word ‘marriage’ for same-sex relationships. He expressed his concerns to me privately and in the meeting. We are, however, committed to working together creatively…

Earlier, Bishop Holtam had delivered this presidential address to his diocesan synod. The topics covered include this one, as well as numerous others. But on this point he said:

I am sorry my comments about same sex relationships got such elevated treatment by The Times, when reporting a small part of a wider interview. I hope I got the tone and content clearer in the subsequent interview for BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme. When Civil Partnerships were introduced in 2005, I thought their distinction from heterosexual marriage was helpful. They are an important support to faithful love, and faithful love is a distinctive mark of Christianity because it reflects God’s love of us.

Because the quality and nature of some Civil Partnerships is similar, possibly the same as for married couples, I have come to see that the rapidly adopted name “gay marriage” may be appropriate. As we know, the Government begins its consultation about this next month and that they have already explicitly exempted religious communities from being forced to accept the conduct of homosexual marriage in addition to heterosexual marriage.

In saying what I did, I am trying to create the space for an honest conversation. We have no option but to recognise our context is changing and that we are talking about people, some of whom are within the life of the Church; that we are talking about ‘us’, not ‘them’.

For the avoidance of doubt, the position of the Church of England, House of Bishops and Diocese of Salisbury has not changed. There are no authorised services of blessing for same sex partnerships and it is not possible for Civil Partnerships to take place in Church of England churches. I will, of course, keep to the Church’s discipline whilst hoping that we find opportunity to explore the issues which divide us.


General Synod – Church Times detailed reports

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

Full report from the General Synod


more on the Worcestershire employment tribunal case

Gavin Drake has a detailed report in today’s Church Times Judgment by employment tribunal upholds clergy office-holder status. Earlier reports linked from here.

…The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, also welcomed the ruling. “Clergy them­selves have repeatedly said that they do not see themselves as employees, and do not wish to be seen as such. This case has shown that Church of England vicars are not subject to any employment contract, but are free to exer­cise their ministry as they see best within the framework provided by the law of the land,” he said.

“We hope that Mr Sharpe and Unite will respect this judgment so that we can all draw a line under this.”

Mr Sharpe was represented throughout his dispute by the clergy section of the trade union Unite. The union’s national officer for its community, youth workers, and not-for-profit sector said: “We are very disappointed with the judgment. We will be discussing the implications with Mark Sharpe, and no further statement will be issued until we’ve had those discussions.”

In 2009, Unite called for the resignation of the Bishops of Worcester and Dudley for “presiding over a culture of neglect and bully­ing” in the diocese, and demanded interven­tion by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This week, Bishop Inge said: “When I saw Unite’s claims, I asked the chair of the House of Clergy to conduct an investigation with the clergy of the diocese. He convened a small group, who sent an anonymous questionnaire to the clergy.

“They found there was absolutely no truth in this allegation. Not one person mentioned a culture of bullying in the diocese in the way alleged by Unite.”

There is a further report by Gavin Drake in the paper Clergy can join new association but this is subscriber-only until next Friday.

THE country’s largest union, Unite, announced the launch of the Church of England Clergy Association (CECA) on Monday. Despite four years of talks with the House of Clergy, however, it has received only a cautious welcome…

You can read more about the Church of England Clergy Association here, or even here. This new organisation is not to be confused with the long-established English Clergy Association.

Another report on the Sharpe case can be found here.


Anglican Covenant has supporters and critics

Updated Wednesday evening

Update Anglican Communion Faith and Order body issues videos on the Covenant

Members of the Anglican Communion with Internet access can now watch three videos produced by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) in which its members speak about the Covenant.

In one, members from Provinces including England, the West Indies, Central Africa and Southern Africa explain why they consider the Covenant important for the Communion.

In another the Church of Ceylon’s Rt Revd Kumara Ilangasinghe, recently retired Bishop of Kurunagala, shares his thoughts on the value of accountability.

In the third, members share their thoughts about the sections of the Covenant.

A group named Yes To The Covenant has been formed, and has a website. As explained here, this is the initiative of two members of the Church of England in the Diocese of Oxford.

The speech given in support of the Covenant at the Salisbury diocesan synod on Saturday by Bishop Graham Kings is available here, or here.

It has attracted several responses, including this detailed criticism from Tobias Haller, Should Anglicans Be Grapes Or Marbles? from LayAnglicana and In praise of Arranged Marriage… from Satirical Christian.

Jin Naughton has raised some more fundamental questions about the Covenant at Episcopal Café in Anglican Covenant: Due process and the lack thereof. He refers to an essay by Sally Johnson which he quotes in part:

In essence, the Standing Committee receives a question, receives assistance from unspecified “committees or commissions” mandated by unspecified authority, takes advice from any body or anybody it deems appropriate and decides whether to refer the question to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. The Standing Committee then decides whether to request a Church to “defer” a decision or action and what relational consequences should result if it does not. It 
then moves on to a determination of whether or not a Church’s action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant.” The Standing Committee does this “on the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting,” not on the basis of a process or procedure in which the Church whose action is in question participates in any way, other than to the extent it has representatives on the ACC (from which it could already be barred) and a primate at the Primates’ Meeting (from which its primate could have been excluded). …

Agreeing to an undefined, unspecified process in which the decision-making bodies have full discretion to act in any manner they deem best–not only as to the process but as to the standard and burden of proof, information considered, and all other aspects of the dispute resolution system–is what the covenant contemplates. In the words of the rule of law, there is no procedural due process and no substantive due process guaranteed by the covenant. The outcome is to be trusted and respected based on the persons/bodies making the decisions rather than a system based on how the decision is made. (italics added.)

Tobias Haller in another article, titled No[t This] Anglican Covenant repeats the argument he has made before, that there is an alternative.

…I am well-set in my mind against the current draft PAC, but I do not in the long run think the idea of a set of rules for the conduct of inter-provincial affairs in the Anglican Communion is in itself “un-Anglican.” We have, I think, a sufficient such arrangement in the by-laws of the ACC, but I am not averse, nor do I think it contrary to good sense or our traditions, to exploring other ways of working together across the Communion. But the current document is not it. As I’ve said in the past, I think the IASCOME Covenant for Mission or the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process much more helpful towards edification; in particular as the PAC explicitly calls for de-edification (i.e., “relational consequences” that will decouple or lessen the “bonds of affection”).

And, Bosco Peters has written CofE Covenant vote 10-5 against. He questions the ecclesiology behind the Covenant:

…The ecclesiology of the Tony Blair-chosen Archbishop of Canterbury has come in for some battering in the women bishops debate. Although no one apparently has yet translated his latest speech into English, Rowan Williams appears unwilling to throw himself fully into the fullness of the catholic church being present in each diocese. The ecclesiology which hankers after an international “universal church” (a sort of international super-church, rather than a communion of dioceses) undergirds the “Anglican Covenant”. It’s a perfectly fine alternative ecclesiology, and has a perfectly fine exemplar in Roman Catholicism…

Finally, Cranmer writes about The death of the Anglican Covenant.


Anglican Covenant debate: a shift in momentum

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issued a news release: Momentum Shifting in Anglican Covenant Debate. (Full PDF version is over here.)

With one-third of English dioceses now having voted on the proposed Anglican Covenant, leaders of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition are detecting a significant shift in momentum. With last weekend’s clean sweep in Leicester, Portsmouth, Salisbury and Rochester, ten dioceses have rejected the Covenant while only five have approved it.

“When we launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition just 16 months ago, it seemed like we were facing impossible odds,” said the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley. “But now the tide appears to be turning. The more church members learn about the Covenant, the less they like it.”

“I’m glad to see how perceptive the diocesan synods have been once well-rounded arguments are put to them,” said Coalition Patron and Oxford University Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch. “There were two Covenants in the Church of England’s seventeenth-century history, and in combination, they destroyed episcopacy until wiser counsels prevailed. It appears the dioceses are not interested in helping present-day bishops making it a hat trick.”

“It is heartening to see the dioceses rising up to their responsibilities instead of delegating their discernment to the House of Bishops and the archbishops,” according to former Oxford Professor and General Synod member Marilyn McCord Adams, who now teaches at the University of North Carolina. “Churches come to better decisions when parties feel free to disagree.” Professor McCord Adams is also a Patron of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

To date, the proposed Anglican Covenant has been approved by five dioceses of the Church of England (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol; Canterbury) and rejected by ten (Wakefield; St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Birmingham; Derby; Gloucester; Portsmouth; Rochester; Salisbury; Leicester). Approval by 23 diocesan synods is required for the Covenant to return to General Synod. Rejection by 22 dioceses would effectively derail approval of the Covenant by the Church of England.

Some historical background to the coalition can be found in this post by Malcolm French We happy few.

The current state of voting in the 44 Church of England dioceses is being tracked weekly by Modern Church at this page.


some recent equality decisions and legal analysis

Updated Thursday morning

The case of Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy was decided at appeal.

On 10th February 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld a Judge’s ruling that a Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had discriminated against Martin Hall and Steven Preddy on grounds of sexual orientation when they refused them a double-bedded room at their hotel near Penzance.

Read the full judgment here.

Read the analysis by Marina Wheeler at UK Human Rights Blog here.

The case of Vejdeland and Others vs. Sweden was decided by the European Court of Human Rights.

Sweden’s Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) was right to convict four men of hate crimes for distributing homophobic flyers at a school, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.

See news report from The Local Swedes’ anti-gay flyers not free speech: court.

The full text of the judgment is available in English here.

See an analysis of the case by Antoine Buyse at ECHR Blog: Anti-Gay Speech Judgment.

The website of the Court has this useful factsheet on Hate Speech.

And there has been some interesting discussion over the weekend about a case involving our own UK schools. See this Observer news article by Jamie Doward: ‘Anti-gay’ book puts Gove at centre of faith school teaching row.

Adam Wagner analysed the situation at UK Human Rights Blog in Is it legal to teach gay hate in schools?:

…So the position is this. A school is permitted to teach about whatever subject it likes, so as not to inhibit it from teaching about a wide range of issues, including, it would seem, controversial views about homosexuality. However, the school must still ensure that those issues are not taught in a way which subjects pupils to discrimination.

So Mr Gove is entirely incorrect to say that “Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act”. Schools are still not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or race and so have a responsibility to ensure that if they are going to introduce controversial material about gay sex being “directed against God’s natural purpose”, they have to be very careful indeed to balance that material so that gay students are not subjected to discrimination…

And he has further material at: Teaching Jewish children to cure gays – is it legal?

It turns out that the Observer was selective in its quoting from Mr Gove’s letter and as explained here by Adam Wagner the full letter from Michael Gove (PDF) does contain a much better explanation of the law than the newspaper article as originally published.


Anglican Covenant rejected in more English dioceses

Four dioceses in the Church of England voted today on the proposal to adopt the draft Anglican Covenant. Earlier results are reported here.

In Leicester the voting was:

Bishops: 2 for 0 against
Clergy: 15 for, 21 against, 3 abstentions
Laity: 21 for, 14 against, 4 abstentions

It appears that there was confusion at the synod in the interpretation of this outcome, but we believe that the defeat in the House of Clergy means that the motion is defeated, and that this will be confirmed in due course.

In Salisbury the voting was:

Bishops: 1 for, 1 against
Clergy: 11 for, 20 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 19 for, 27 against, 0 abstentions

In Portsmouth the voting was:

Bishop: 1 for, 0 against
Clergy: 12 for, 17 against, 0 abstentions
Laity: 13 for, 17 against, 2 abstentions

In Rochester the voting was:

Bishop: 1 for, 0 against
Clergy: 8 for, 30 against, 3 abstentions
Laity: 14 for, 26 against, 7 abstentions


General Synod – voting on women bishops legislation

Earlier today I linked to the electronic voting lists from this month’s Church of England General Synod. I have now consolidated the three votes on various aspects of the women bishops legislation into a single spreadsheet. This is available as a web page and as an xls spreadsheet.

My consolidated list includes all voting members of Synod and shows whether they voted for or against the motion, or recorded an abstention. A blank indicates that the member did not vote (perhaps because he/she was absent).

These were the motions before Synod on Wednesday 8 February.

The Manchester motion

13 That this 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.

The Southwark amendment to item 13

35 Leave out all the words after “That this Synod” and insert
“(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.”.

The Spiers amendment to item 35

36 Leave out all the words after “request the House of Bishops” and insert
“in the exercise of its power under Standing Order 60(b) not to amend the draft Measure substantially.”

The motions were voted on in reverse order.

Item 36 was carried in a vote by houses.

  For Against Abstentions
Bishops 40 5 1
Clergy 122 70 1
Laity 107 85 4

Item 35 (as amended by 36) was then carried in a vote by house.

  For Against Abstentions
Bishops 26 16 5
Clergy 128 64 0
Laity 111 85 1

Item 13 (as amended by 35 as amended by 36) was then carried on a show of hands.

The motion before Synod on Thursday 9 February was

502 That the Synod do take note of this Report

where the report was that about final drafting. In effect the motion was asking Synod to approve the final drafting of the legislation. The motion was carried in a vote by houses.

  For Against Abstentions
Bishops 28 0 2
Clergy 149 14 8
Laity 132 37 10

General Synod – electronic voting results

The voting lists from the electronic votes taken at this month’s General Synod of the Church of England are now available as pdf files.

Women bishops legislation
item 35 results – Southwark amendment to Manchester motion
item 36 results – Spiers amendment to Southwark amendment
item 502 results – final drafting

Other matters
item 8 results – Assisted Dying
item 12 results – Archdeacons
item 17 results – Health care
item 34 results – Nigeria
item 37 results – standing orders amendment

Each pdf file also includes the full text of the motion being voting on.

Also available is the official summary of the business transacted at the Synod: Business Done.


opinion for Quinquagesima

Bishop John Gladwin preached this sermon at A Way in the Wilderness Service held at St Margaret’s Church Westminster Abbey on 6 February 2012.

Nick Spencer writes in the New Statesman Rush to judgement.

The Bible Guide Online has its choice of Jesus Quotes: Top Ten.

Lucy Winkett gave this Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4.

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred mysteries column in The Telegraph that work should be the making of us.


Former Worcestershire rector loses employment tribunal claim

The Reverend Mark Sharpe has lost his case against the Bishop and Diocese of Worcester.

Gavin Drake reports: Former Rector loses employment tribunal claim against bishop.

…The Revd Mark Sharpe, former Rector of the Teme Valley South benefice near Tenbury Wells, alleged that the bishop and diocese had failed to protect him from parishioners in his “toxic parish”. He claimed a catalogue of abuse and bullying, saying his dog had been poisoned, excrement had been smeared on his car, and his tyres had been slashed.

The diocese rejected his claims and, at a five-day preliminary hearing at the Birmingham employment tribunal last November, argued that Mr Sharpe had no right to bring a claim to an employment tribunal because, as a Church of England parish priest with freehold incumbent status, he was an office holder, and not an employee or a worker.

In a reserved judgement, published today, Employment Judge Alan McCarry agreed. He said: “I do not see that within the complex statutory structure of the Church of England it is possible to imply that any relationship between a freehold rector in the Church such as Mr Sharpe and any identifiable person or body which could be said to be consensual and contractual. Certainly, Mr Sharpe has failed to demonstrate to my satisfaction that such a relationship existed with either of the respondents.”

The judge said the Church of England, as the established church, “has occupied a central position in English Society for several hundred years.” He added: “Despite that, it has no legal personality. It cannot sue or be sued…

Diocesan press release: Result of the pre-hearing review for the Mark Sharpe Employment Tribunal

For earlier reports, see here, and also here.

Update Worcester Standard ‘Bullied’ vicar loses tribunal claims


Dispose of the messy Anglican Covenant

Giles Fraser has written in this week’s Church Times about the Anglican Covenant.

…To recap: the Anglican Covenant is an international treaty, cham­pioned originally by the Bishop of Durham at that time, Dr Tom Wright, among others. It was a re­sponse to the threats by conservative Anglicans that they would walk away from the Communion if other provinces became more gay-friendly. It is rather like bankers’ saying that they would walk away from the City of London if they had to face the Tobin Tax. This sort of blackmail ought never to be pandered to.

Of course, the Covenant never was the only game in town. This is the type of emergency rhetoric that is often used to push through otherwise unpopular legis­la­tion. But the fact that the Anglican Commu­nion has not fallen apart — it is just a bit dented — shows that a great deal of the huffing and puffing about walking away was just empty threats and so much posturing.

The idea that all the different Churches of the Communion can be held together only by signatures on a page rather than years of tradition and common baptism and liturgy is an unnecessary bureaucratisation of theology and fellowship.

If you allow one province a quasi-legal mechanism for pushing out another province, then you are providing a context for acrimony, not for reconciliation. Recon­cilia­tion comes when those divided by differences learn to see Christ at work in each other. Mostly, this is achieved through patient friendship and listening….

In other Anglican Covenant news, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has announced another prominent academic Professor Marilyn McCord Adams has become a patron. See full press release here (PDF).

“The proposed Anglican Covenant was conceived in moral indignation and pursued with disciplinary intent,” according to Professor McCord Adams. “Its global gate-keeping mechanisms would put a damper on the gospel agenda, which conscientious Anglicans should find intolerable. The Covenant is based on an alien ecclesiology, which thoughtful Anglicans have every reason to reject.”


Trevor Phillips: Christians 'aren't above the law'

Updated Friday evening

Two newspapers report recent remarks by Trevor Phillips head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at a public debate on 8 February.

Telegraph Christians ‘aren’t above the law’, says equalities chief Trevor Phillips by John Bingham and Tim Ross.

Christians who want to be exempt from equality legislation are like Muslims trying to impose sharia on Britain, Trevor Phillips, the human rights watchdog, has declared.

Mail Equalities chief tells Christians: You’re no different to Muslims who want sharia law by Daniel Martin.

Christians who argue they should be exempt from equalities legislation are no different from Muslims who want to impose sharia law in Britain, a human rights chief has declared.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said religious rules should end ‘at the door of the temple’ and give way to the ‘public law’ laid down by Parliament.

The entire proceedings of this debate are available from the Religion and Society website of the University of Lancaster. See Religious Identity in ‘Superdiverse’ Societies.

Britain is more religiously diverse than ever before. What does this mean for how we live together? Listen here to podcasts of the presentations, responses and discussion at this first debate. These are accessible at the foot of the page, together with texts of the academic presentations. You can also watch the full event below from YouTube. The debate was chaired by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead.

  • Podcast 1: Professor Linda Woodhead [Lancaster University, Director of the Religion and Society Programme] introduced the debate, highlighting the concept of superdiversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 10.30
  • Podcast 2: Professor Kim Knott [Lancaster University] argued that “Britain has been ahead of the European curve” in addressing issues of integration. 12.51
  • Podcast 3: Dr Therese O’Toole [Bristol University] focused on apparent contrasts between New Labour’s and David Cameron’s stances regarding religion. 11.30
  • Podcast 4: The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP [Attorney General], responding, said religious belief is central to society. He praised religion for embracing diversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 12.16
  • Podcast 5: Trevor Phillips [Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission], responding, welcomed the concept of superdiversity as significant. We need to establish agreement on procedures for dealing with disputes. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 14.02
  • Podcast 6: Questions and comments from the audience, and responses by the panel. 28.42


Heresy Corner has actually checked these recordings and reports in What Trevor Phillips actually said has found that both newspapers and even the Tablet have not reported the event fully. Do read his article in full to discover what happened.

And Linda Woodhead also had this article in last week’s Church Times: The quiet revolution in UK faith.

THERE is a great deal of talk at the moment about the return of religion, desecularisation and post-secular­ism. The editor of The Economist, John Micklethwait, co-authored a book, God is Back (Penguin, 2009).

This raises some questions. Where did God go to — did he fall asleep like Rip Van Winkle? And now that he is back, does he look the same?

And the Telegraph has a further report, Trevor Phillips stands by ‘ridiculous’ Sharia comparison.

Trevor Phillips is standing by his claim that Christian groups seeking exemptions from equality laws are like Muslims who want sharia rule in parts of Britain, despite criticism that his comments were “strange” and ridiculous”.