Thinking Anglicans

"God’s grace seen in gay marriage, say bishops."

Today’s Times carries a letter from a group of Church of England bishops, senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod. It argues for “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships” and “that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples”.

The letter is behind the Times paywall, but we have been given permission to republish it here.

To: The Editor
The Times


A number of recent statements by church leaders past and present may have given the mistaken impression that the Church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. We believe that does not adequately reflect the range of opinion which exists within the Church of England.

Marriage is a robust institution which has adapted much over the centuries. It has moved beyond the polygamy of the Old Testament and preoccupation with social status and property in pre-Enlightenment times.

While the Prayer Book states that marriage was ordained first for ‘the procreation of children’ the modern marriage service begins by emphasising the quality of relationship between marriage partners ‘that they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind.’

The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. Growing in this kind of love means we are growing in the image of God. So the fact that there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.

We welcome current moves by the House of Bishops to consider again its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the Church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage.

We also welcome recent reported statements by the Bishop of Salisbury and the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral calling on the Church to affirm same-sex couples who want to take on the commitment of marriage.

It is our belief that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they should respond pastorally to such a change in the law.


Canon Giles Goddard, General Synod, Southwark
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
The Rt Rev Michael Doe
The Rt Rev John Gladwin
The Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth
The Rt Rev Peter Selby
The Rt Rev David Stancliffe

The Very Rev David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth
The Very Rev Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich
The Very Rev Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford

Mrs April Alexander, General Synod, Southwark
The Rev Stephen Coles, General Synod, London
The Rev Clair Herbert, General Synod, London
Mr John Ward LLB, General Synod, London

Ruth Gledhill has an article on the front page of The Times. This too is behind the paywall, but SkyNews has published a photograph.

The letter has already been reported elsewhere in the press.

Andrew Hough in The Telegraph Church of England should ‘rejoice’ over gay marriage, Bishops say

Press Association Clergy group backs gay marriage


Church in Wales gives “amber light” to Anglican Covenant

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales debated the Anglican Communion Covenant this morning and has now issued this Press Release.

Church gives “amber light” to Anglican Covenant
April 18 2012

A plan to protect the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion was given an amber light, rather than a green light, by the Church in Wales today (April 18).

Members of its Governing Body voted to affirm their commitment to the Communion and the Covenant process, but asked questions of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in October. They feared the recent rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England jeopardised its future and clarifications about that were now needed before a decision could be made.

The Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron, who proposed a motion which was amended in the light of the Church of England decision, said, “We have given the Covenant an amber light rather than a green light but in doing so we are being honest about where the Church is today. However, I think we need to reaffirm our strong commitment to each other through the saving power of Christ revealed in the Gospels. That is what I believe the Covenant ultimately calls us to do and I hope one day the Church in Wales will be able to vote for it.”

The amended motion, which was carried overwhelmingly, was that the GB:

i) affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion;
ii) Affirm its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant;
iii) Request clarification from the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to the status and direction of the Covenant process in the light of the position of the Church of England;
iv) Urge upon the Instruments of Communion a course of action which continues to see reconciliation and the preservation of the Communion as a family of interdependent but autonomous Churches.

The published agenda gave this text for the original unamended motion:

That the Governing Body:

i) affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion, and subscribe to the Anglican Communion Covenant;
ii) invite the Standing Committee to monitor the Church in Wales’s participation in the Covenant on an annual basis.


Archbishop of Wales: Gospel must be good news for gay people

From a Church in Wales press release:

Christians need to show how the Gospel of Jesus is good news for gay people, the Archbishop of Wales said today (WEDNESDAY APRIL 18).

Dr Barry Morgan said he was concerned about the welfare of gay people whom he feared could feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in churches over the coming months as Government proposals for same-sex marriage are debated nationally.

In his presidential address to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body in Llandudno, the Archbishop said same-sex relationships was a moral issue facing the Church and the world, on which there was no single Christian opinion. His concern, however, was that the Church should offer gay people pastoral care and support…

The full text of the address by Archbishop Barry Morgan is available here.

Also from the press release:

Dr Barry Morgan said the Church would not be able to ignore the new legislation on civil marriage proposed by the Government, despite the fact that the legislation would not allow gay couples to marry in church. He called on the Church to discuss how it would respond.

He said, “If the legislation to allow civil marriage is passed, I cannot see how we as a church, will be able to ignore the legality of the status of such partnerships and we ought not to want to do so.

“The question then as now is, will the church protect and support pastorally, faithful, stable, lifelong relationships of whatever kind in order to encourage human values such as love and fidelity and recognise the need in Christian people for some public religious support for these. As Helen says in the novel “Nightwatch” by Sarah Walters – a novel written in 1947, ‘what could she do to say to the world that Julia was hers?’ She could have gone on to ask ‘what can the church do to show that this relationship is not simply something between my partner and I but that somehow God is in our midst as well and longs for our wellbeing?’ It is a discussion we need to have.”


CofE appoints new Communications Director

Press release from Church House Westminster: Director of Communications appointed.

The Revd Arun Arora has been appointed to serve the Church of England as Director of Communications at Church House, Westminster, following a competitive process.

The Communications Office, previously led by Peter Crumpler, provides direct support to the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners and Pensions Board, and works closely with Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces, other bishops’ offices, diocesan communications officers and cathedrals. Arun will take up the Director’s post in the summer.

Welcoming the appointment, the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and lead bishop on communications, said: “Arun Arora is a person of great and varied talents. His skills as a communications professional are matched by the insights he has gained since ordination. I know his appointment will be warmly welcomed within the Church of England and well beyond it, too.”

Arun currently serves as the Team Leader of Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries, a fresh expression of church based in Wolverhampton City Centre. Prior to his move to Wolverhampton, Arun served his curacy in Harrogate where he also served for three years as Director of Communications to the Archbishop of York and prior to that for four years as Bishop’s Press Officer and Director of Communications in the Diocese of Birmingham…

Here are two recent articles written by Arun Arora:

The Besmirching of John Sentamu

Why Sentamu Was Right to Write for the Sunday Sun


tax relief on charitable giving

Updated Monday afternoon

In addition to the extension of to VAT to alterations to listed buildings in the budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also put a limit on the tax relief that higher-rate tax payers can claim on donations to charities.

James Kirkup and Tim Ross reported in The Telegraph this weekend that George Osborne’s charity tax plan is unfair, says Church of England. This article quotes remarks from “the chief finance officer of the Church [Commissioners]” which were made as a comment to an article by Tania Mason for Civil Society Media: Osborne provides evidence of aggressive tax avoidance to justify tax relief cap.

The weekend papers have published a number of other articles about this limit.

The Guardian
Dalya Alberge and Daniel Boffey Nick Clegg to go on charm offensive amid fury over charity tax cap
Press Association Charity tax relief cap: Tory treasurer adds voice to criticism
Marina McIntyre Charity tax relief plans attacked by philanthropists
Patrick Wintour and Hélène Mulholland Ministers look at measures to protect charities from tax changes

The Telegraph
Roya Nikkhah, Julie Henry and Robert Watts Charity tax relief cap under fire as philanthropists warn of funding crisis
Patrick Hennessy, Robert Watts and Roya Nikkhah Ministers sound retreat in charity tax row
Charity tax row: Government will ‘find solution’, says William Hague

Mail Online
Rob Cooper Tory treasurer turns on George Osborne in revolt over plans to cut tax relief on charitable donations

Explanatory note: In the UK those who pay income tax can gift-aid their donations to charity, and the charity can claim back the income tax that has been paid at the standard rate (which is 20%). So for every 80p of donation, the charity can claim 20p (ie 25% of the donation) from the taxman. For those who pay income tax at a higher rate, the charity can still claim 25% of the donation, and the taxpayer can claim the difference between this and the actual tax paid. It is this last amount the budget will cap.

There is an e-petition to HM Government opposing the Chancellor’s proposal.
Patrick Wintour reports in The Guardian that Charity tax plans to be reviewed.

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Finding the Crown Nominations Commission leaker

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, has written a letter to the Editor of the Guardian.

The text of the letter is at Church should track down source of leak. It concludes:

…Following Colin’s death and the publication of this memorandum, the journalist who received the leak was honourable enough to publish a statement that Colin was not his source. The archbishop of Canterbury set up the Fritchie inquiry with alacrity when it was suspected that Colin Slee was the leaking member of the CNC. It would be good to know that steps are being taken to identify the real culprit and ensure that he will not be involved in nominating the new archbishop or in any further appointments.

There is a news article about it, see Stop Church of England leaks before choosing archbishop, says gay cleric by Matthew Taylor.

…An inquiry into the 2010 leak was carried out by Lady Fritchie, a crossbench peer, but its findings were never published. A Church of England spokesman said on Sunday the report was never intended to be made public and was “a private document for the archbishop and CNC members”.

The spokesman added that there were no plans to start a fresh investigation into the 2010 leak. “In these sorts of situations anyone on a committee could theoretically have spoken to a third party who then passed it on. That means we are talking about potentially hundreds of people,” he said…


Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Updated Tuesday morning

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his budget on 21 March that value added tax (VAT) (at the standard rate of 20%) will be extended to alterations to listed buildings. This will particularly affect the Church of England, which issued this press release.

Statement on Budget 2012: VAT to be charged at 20 percent on alterations to listed churches

Unexpectedly the Chancellor announced in the Budget that approved alterations to listed buildings – which, unlike repairs and maintenance are currently zero-rated – will be charged at the standard rate of 20 percent. This will cost Church of England congregations up to £20 million per annum on works to its 12,500 listed church buildings, assuming of course parishes and cathedrals can now afford to go ahead and undertake the works required.

This is a real blow to communities who are seeking to maintain and develop their churches (including improved lavatory, kitchen, disability and energy saving facilities) to enable churches to be more widely used by the community. The 20 percent VAT charge will also negatively impact bell hanging and organ building, both traditional craft industries, where some schemes currently enjoy zero rating.

The day after the Budget the Bishop of London and Second Church Estates Commissioner wrote to the Chancellor asking him to keep alterations to listed churches zero-rated.

The accompanying Treasury Document also stated that the Government was ‘extending’ the scope of the Grant Scheme administered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to include alterations. It did not; however specify any increase in funding of the scheme. Without a cash increase to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which is already inadequate to cover all repair claims, the current scheme will simply be divided into even smaller amounts among a larger group of claimants. So, far from being additional help for churches, the effect of the extension will be to reduce the proportion of the VAT costs refunded for repairs and maintenance…

Subsequently there have been these two further CofE press releases.

Sign the e-petition to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed churches
Going for a song: CofE YouTube recording calls on Government to bring back zero rate VAT on alterations to listed buildings

There was not a lot of press reaction to this initially, but recently the media have been taking more interest in this tax change.

Mark Hughes in The Telegraph Budget 2012: VAT increase on listed buildings will ‘discourage improvements’
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church of England faces £20m annual tax bill following Budget
Madeleine Davies in the Church Times Outcry as Church faces £20-million extra VAT bill
Niki May Young for Civil Society Media Church petition against VAT on alterations surpasses 10,000 signatures
The Telegraph Labour urges rethink on VAT for work on listed churches
Daily Mail Cameron faces revolt from his local church pulpit over £20m Budget tax raid
Jason Beattie in The Mirror Tories face the wrath of God after slapping VAT on church alterations
Luke Heighton in The Sun Fury at Tory ‘stealth tax’ on churches
Chris Mason for the BBC VAT rise ‘could jeopardise Church renovation projects’ and Fears VAT ‘may halt church repairs’
ITV News VAT changes for listed buildings


From the Church in Wales Archbishop petitions against “heritage tax”



Giles Fraser writes in The Independent that The cross is a symbol of cruelty, not a club badge.

Richard Beck writes about Wisdom and Sin.

Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post that Religion and Politics Are Inseparable: Get Over It.


Now a lawsuit against the Mayor over the bus adverts

Updated twice Sunday morning

Jerome Taylor at the Independent has this: Christian group to sue Boris Johnson over ‘gay cure’ bus advertisements

The Christian group behind the recent attempt to place “gay cure” adverts on London buses have instructed lawyers to sue both the Mayor of London and the company that initially agreed to host the adverts after they were banned at the last minute, the Independent can reveal.

Aughton Ainsworth, a Manchester based law firm with a long track record of taking on controversial religious cases, have been hired by Anglican Mainstream to issue legal proceedings against both Boris Johnson and CBS Outdoor…

Savi Hensman has written for Ekklesia ‘Gay cure’ advertising proves misleading.

‘Ex-gay’ movement advertisements which were to have appeared on the sides of London buses have been blocked by the Mayor of London, to the relief of many. Mayor Boris Johnson is chair of Transport for London. However Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, which placed the ads with backing from Anglican Mainstream, accused him of “censorship”.

Tension can sometimes arise between freedom of expression and protection of sections of society from discrimination and the wider public from offence. Getting the right balance in such instances can be difficult.

What is surprising in this case, however, is that the Advertising Standards Authority had apparently cleared the ads in the first place. These read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” This implies that, if one is attracted mainly to the same sex, changing one’s sexual orientation is possible and desirable.

This is borne out by Core Issues Trust’s commitment to “support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression”. The Anglican Mainstream website, announcing the advertising campaign, claims that “sexuality is far more fluid than has hitherto been thought”.

So the claim touches on science, as well as religion and ethics. And on this basis, since matters of fact as well as opinion are involved, this campaign would have fallen foul of the rule that ads must not mislead.

Channel 4 News had an excellent report on Friday night, including video interviews with representatives from Stonewall, Index on Censorship, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream, see Transport for London bans ‘anti-gay’ adverts.

…TFL found they had breached two clauses of their advertising code: firstly that it was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence to members of the public” and secondly that it contained “messages which relate to matters of public controversy and sensitivity”.

TFL’s spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We have an advertising code over what we are comfortable with. In this case we felt it would be offensive to parts of our customer base.”

“We have decided that it should not run on London’s bus or transport networks. We do not believe that these specific ads are consistent with TFL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London.”

‘Context and audience’

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, whose advert was mimicked, told Channel 4 News: “On balance I think Boris [Johnson, London’s mayor] has probably got it right, but whether the advert of itself should automatically be banned – that’s an argument about context and audience.”

Mr Summerskill argued freedom of speech is a nuanced issue. “It’s a question of balance,” he said. “It’s probably right it shouldn’t be on London’s iconic buses, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be published in, say, the Spectator.”

“If they’re seen in the wider public space, where clearly they do undermine young people who are growing up to be gay, that is a serious issue – the mental health of young gay people is often significantly overlooked,” he added…

The BBC Radio Sunday programme also had a discussion of this, with representatives from Changing Attitude, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream. Go to this page for downloads of the audio file. The item is at the end of the programme, go forward about 34.5 minutes…


more on Dr Glynn Harrison's views about homosexuality

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times today about his concerns, see Can orientation really be changed?

Professor Glynn Harrison is very careful with his words. He does not believe in the concept of a “gay cure” or “gay conversion”, he says. Rather, he thinks that “there is evidence that some people with un­wanted same-sex attraction can achieve significant change.”

The True Freedom Trust, on whose council of reference Professor Harrison sits, was founded in 1977 by Martin Hallett. The website explains: “Martin was involved in a homosexual lifestyle for over nine years before Jesus dramatically changed his life in 1972.”

The fact that Professor Harrison is one of those chosen by the General Synod to help to choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury is what has brought his approach under the spot­light. His views may be similar to those of a significant minority in the Church of England, but they do not seem to be those of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, of which he is a Fellow…

Colin Coward writes at Changing Attitude about Dr Glynn Harrison’s views on homosexuality and his membership of the Crown Nominations Commission.

Last week a Guardian reporter phoned me to consult me about Dr Glynn Harrison’s membership of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), the body that will select the next Archbishop of Canterbury (and appoints other diocesan bishops). The Guardian was concerned about Glynn Harrison’s CNC place because of his beliefs about gay people…

Dr Harrison’s own views can be found at the website of the Christian Medical Fellowship, which published the booklet Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction: Issues of pastoral and counselling support he authored jointly with Andrew Goddard, mentioned by Colin Coward in the article above. Three other articles are available here.

Dr Harrison is connected with the True Freedom Trust, as shown here.


CEC conference: LGBT Lives: Achieving our Equality

This article was originally written for publication by Ekklesia.

The Cutting Edge Consortium will hold its third national conference on Faith and Homophobia on Saturday 21 April, at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL from 10 a.m (register from 9.30 am) until 5 p.m.

This year’s conference is titled LGBT Lives: Achieving our Equality, Challenging Faith-Based Homophobia and Transphobia.

Quite a mouthful, and the daylong programme is packed too. There will be three keynote speakers, two plenary discussions each with a panel of speakers, and two separate workshop sessions with about six events running in parallel.

The full spectrum of Cutting Edge’s membership is reflected in the programme: faith organisations, secularists, trade unions, and LGBT groups.

The cost is very moderate, for individuals, no more than £15 for the day, and that includes a lunch. But advance booking is essential for the caterers to plan!

The keynote speakers are:

  • The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who will lead off the day with a talk entitled Same sex partnerships: making space for the conversation in the Church
  • Aidan O’Neill QC, from Matrix Chambers, an expert on European Law, whose talk is titled Reasonable Accommodation – is this a way forward?
  • Angela Eagle MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, and a humanist, who will talk about Working together to challenge faith-based homophobia



Bus advert campaign bites the dust before it starts

Updated again Friday morning

The Guardian reports that an attempt to run a bus advertising campaign by Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust has been stopped by the Mayor of London. see Anti-gay adverts on London buses blocked by Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor, has pulled an “offensive” Christian campaign advertising “gay conversion” which was due to appear on London’s buses next week.

Revelations that adverts asserting the power of therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people were due to be driven around the capital came as Johnson, who is seeking re-election in May, was due to appear at a mayoral hustings organised by the gay campaigning group Stonewall on Saturday.

The mayor immediately put the wheels in motion to halt the campaign after being alerted to the plans by the Guardian, and made clear that such advertising had no place in a tolerant city.

A clearly angered Johnson said: “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.”

And the earlier story was Christian group books anti-gay ads to appear on buses.

London buses have been booked to carry a Christian advertising campaign expected to start next week, which asserts the power of therapy to change the sexual orientation of gay people.

The full length advert, which will appear on five different routes in the capital, is backed by the Core Issues Trust whose leader, Mike Davies, believes “homoerotic behaviour is sinful”. His charity funds “reparative therapy” for gay Christians who believe that they have homosexual feelings but want to become straight. The campaign is also backed by Anglican Mainstream, an worldwide orthodox Anglican group whose supporters have equated homosexuality with alcoholism.

The advert will say: “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” Post-gay and ex-gay are terms used by Christians and some psychotherapists and psychiatrists to refer to homosexual people who have undergone spiritual or pastoral therapy and, according to an Anglican Mainstream definition, have “now left a homosexual lifestyle [and experienced] an increased emotional and sexual attraction to the opposite biological gender and possibly a reduction in or loss of same-sex attraction.”

Earlier Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill had responded to the announcement of this campaign as follows:

“It’s sad that any self-styled “Christian” group promotes voodoo “gay cure therapy”, which has been discredited by the BACP, the UK’s leading professional body for counselling psychotherapists. Life would be much easier if these organisations just admitted that they don’t like gay people.”


The Guardian has two more articles:

Does the scientific support cited by anti-gay campaigners add up?

Conservative Christians are becoming more confident in the political arena

Further reports from Press Association, BBC, Independent, Telegraph.


Dean of Ely

It was announced from Downing Street this morning that the next Dean of Ely is to be the Revd Canon Mark Bonney.

Mark, 55, is currently the Canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral, an office he has held since 2004. Educated in Ipswich and at Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1985 and priest in 1986. He was Chaplain and then Precentor at St Albans Cathedral between 1988 and 1992, vicar of Eaton Bray (1992-96), and Rector of Great Berkhamsted from 1996 until he moved to Salisbury. He was a member of the General Synod from 1995 until 2010, serving as a Chaplain to the Synod for five years, and as a member of the Liturgical Commission for four years. He is Chair of the Salisbury DAC and is the Cathedral’s representative on the diocesan Sudan Committee which promotes the diocese’s link with Sudan.

Canon Bonney, who is married with two teenage daughters, will be installed as Dean of Ely in September.

Further information can be found on the Ely website.


Dr Glynn Harrison's views on homosexuality

Updated with additional links

The Guardian has published an article by Robert Booth headlined Archbishop panel member believes gay people can ‘change’ sexual desire.

A leading member of the Church of England who believes some gay people can be counselled to suppress or possibly change their sexual orientation is helping to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Glynn Harrison, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, is on the powerful Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), which will chose a successor to Rowan Williams to be approved by the prime minister and the Queen.

Harrison’s role on the 16-strong panel has triggered alarm among liberal Anglicans who fear it could deepen existing divisions over homosexuality in a church already riven by the issues of holding gay civil ceremonies in churches and the ordination of gay bishops…

A lengthy statement (quoted in the news story) issued by the press office at Church House, Westminster, on behalf of Dr Glynn Harrison can be read in full here (PDF).

Professor Glynn Harrison does not believe in concepts of ‘gay cure’ or ‘gay conversion’ and has never been involved in offering any formal counselling or ‘therapy’ in this area himself. Such descriptions, because they depend on inappropriate notions of ‘sickness’, convey simplistic and stigmatising views. In addition, as he has made clear, all bullying and prejudice toward people, whatever their sexual interests and attractions, is a violation of the inclusive call of the Christian Gospel and the way of Jesus Christ.

Professor Harrison, who supports the current teaching of the Church of England in Issues in Human Sexuality, began investigating the area of faith and human sexuality when asked by the Anglican Communion Office in 2007 to contribute to a forthcoming book (‘The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality’). This was being prepared for the 2008 Lambeth Conference as part of the ‘Listening Process’. Since then he has written other articles on faith and human sexuality. A recent example, written with Dr Andrew Goddard, was published in the Church Times on December 9th 2011 and accompanies this statement…

The Church Times article mentioned is now behind a paywall again, but for subscribers the link is here: Now for the ‘B’ picture.

The book mentioned in the statement was reviewed in 2008 by Dr Michael King and this review can still be read here: Is the Church Listening?

…Trailing at the end is the “witness of science” on the biological basis of sexuality. As scientists, we might welcome such an approach but before the Church changed its mind on slavery or women priests did it debate the biological basis for race and gender? I suspect not. It appears here because of homosexuality’s persisting image as a deviation from nature’s heterosexual plan. But never mind. Just what have these chapters to tell us? The first by David de Pomerai and Glynn Harrison is a reasonable enough summary of what neuroscience and genetics can tell us about homosexuality and is fair to the literature. The second by Glynn Harrison is of much lower quality. Here we have an academic psychiatrist bending over backwards to suggest, on the basis of the weakest sort of evidence, that sexual orientation can be changed. I suspect if he were reviewing evidence of similar quality for the efficacy of a new medication he would dismiss it out of hand. And so unsurprisingly, he finds what he sets out to find – namely that given enough willingness there are treatments out there to make homosexual people into heterosexuals, or at the very least stop them wanting sex…

Dr King has today commented on the most recent statement about Dr Harrison linked above as follows:

  • Treatments (of whatever form, including counselling) should never be offered on the basis of “anecdotal” evidence of change, particularly in controversial areas of ethical practice such as this one. I am sure Prof Harrison would object to the use of anecdotal evidence as a basis for other psychiatric treatments.
  • If he wants to use anecdotal evidence then there is also plenty such evidence for harm – our research showed that many people and their families have been harmed by such treatment. (there are also several videos to this effect on YouTube if he feels such evidence is valuable!)
  • He takes no consideration of the fact that views such as his are deeply alienating/stigmatising to LGB people of all or no faiths, as they explicitly frame a same-sex orientation as undesirable and less God-given than heterosexuality. They help to reinforce the prejudice and discrimination that LGB people suffer.
  • Would he support those bisexual people who want to move in a more same-sex affirmative position and offer counselling for them to do so?
  • It would seem that reported sexual orientation can change. However, one has to be very cautious in accepting this evidence – as we all know, people feel able to talk about their sexuality more and less frankly at different periods of their lives and to different audiences. They may deny ‘unacceptable’ parts of themselves at one time and later be franker about them. We only have self report to go on when we measure sexual orientation. Therefore it is naive scientifically to see this as representing some sort of concrete change in a given reality.
  • Framing this counselling as a way to celibacy is also a smoke screen for the real thing – to make homosexual people heterosexual. For example, catholic priests don’t need psychotherapy to be celibate. They believe celibacy is a ‘call’ that people find in faith. So why do LGB people who want to be celibate on faith grounds need this counselling? To my knowledge, there is no known scientific evidence that any form of counselling or psychotherapy is effective in helping people to be celibate (straight or gay).


The Royal College of Psychiatrists, of which Dr Harrison is a Fellow, has these statements on its website:

and this:

Anyone who is interested in Dr Harrison’s own research may find this useful: Publications for Professor Glynn Harrison.


Religious people more likely to be leftwing says Demos thinktank

The Observer reports today on a new research report from Demos under the headline Religious people are more likely to be leftwing, says thinktank Demos . Research undermines commonly held view that faith group members are more conservative.

The report itself titled Faithful Citizens can be found on the Demos website as a PDF file. Demos itself summarises the report thus:

Religiosity has always been closely associated with conservatism: the Church of England is sometimes described as ‘the Conservative party at prayer’. In the United States, the Republican party and the religious right have become increasingly interdependent, but a similar trend has not occurred on this side of the Atlantic. This report, based on original analysis of the Citizenship Survey and the European Values Survey, investigates the different relationship between religion and politics in the UK and Europe.

The report presents two key findings. First, religious people are more active citizens – they volunteer more, donate more to charity and are more likely to campaign on political issues. Second, and more counter-intuitively, religious people are more likely to be politically progressive. They put a greater value on equality than the non-religious, are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours and when asked are more likely to put themselves on the left of the political spectrum.

Based on this, Faithful Citizens recommends that progressive politicians should work with faith groups on issues which they are particularly engaged, including immigration, women’s rights, international development, the environment and youth work. Faith group members, the report argues, will be key to any future, election-winning, progressive coalition.

Mary Reid has already blogged about this report here.


Easter Sermons and Messages

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Sermon is available here: Archbishop’s Easter Sermon 2012 – God raised Jesus to life.

The Archbishop of York has three video messages. See Archbishop’s Easter Video Messages. And he wrote this column for the Sun: Archbishop’s Easter Joy.

The Anglican Communion News Service has published a roundup of several other Easter messages, including one from the Archbishop of Uganda.

We will add more when we find them.


opinion on Holy Saturday

Daniel Burke in The Huffington Post asks What Did Jesus Do On Holy Saturday?

Paul Handley writes in The Guardian that Holy Saturday is a good time for Christians to reflect on worldy failure.

Benny Hazlehurst has this Soundtrack for Holy Week – Peter.

Tina Beattie writes in The Tablet about Towards the shining city: Rural and urban in the Easter story.

Sam Charles Norton writes about The stupid and ungodly culture of the Church of England.

Alan Wilson writes for The Guardian that The Church of England needs a reboot, not a rebrand.
And, starting with some references to Bishop Wilson’s article, Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that The Church of England needs its own rebirth.

John Milbank writes for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about After Rowan: The Coherence and Future of Anglicanism.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about going Back to the heart of the C of E.


Cathedral attendance statistics

The Church of England has published the latest cathedral attendance statistics and this press release.

Cathedral attendance statistics enjoy over a decade of growth

03 April 2012

Attendance levels at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals have steadily increased by 30% since the turn of millennium, a growth of approximately 3% on average each year, according to the latest statistics, published today. In 2011, figures for ‘average normal midweek attendance’ were at their highest levels since records began in 2000 for both adults and children; the figure for Sunday attendance was up slightly, too, for adults.

There is more good news in the figures for Christmas and Easter attendance, both showing stability across the decade, with Christmas attendance up 17% in 2011 compared with 2010.

The statistics are published online here.

Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics, said: “These figures demonstrate how cathedrals are very much a vibrant centre of spiritual life in our cathedral cities.”

The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester and chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said: “Cathedrals are wonderful places in which to worship and fascinating places to visit – and all are invited to join us as we mark Holy Week and Easter with special services.”

The remainder of the press release, summarising the statistics, is below the fold.



Commission to Communion: "Tell us your views on next Archbishop of Canterbury's ministry"

Updated to add clarification

A press release from the Anglican Communion Office states:

Members of the Anglican Communion around the world are, for the first time in history, being invited to share their views on the ministry of the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Crown Nominations Commission of the Church of England—the body that nominates the next Archbishop of Canterbury—traditionally asks for the views of all Primates and Provincial Secretaries of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

On this occasion, however, not only has a Primate been invited to join the Commission, but a letter has also been sent to Provinces to be read in Anglican Communion churches inviting everyone to share their thoughts about the ministry of the next Archbishop.

The letter, sent by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion* Canon Kenneth Kearon on behalf of the Commission, states: “The Archbishop of Canterbury exercises many roles—he is Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, Primate of the Church of England, and Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion.
“The process of seeking the next Archbishop is led by the Crown Nominations Commission of the Church of England and extensive consultations within the U.K. have begun with various representatives of the Church of England, other Christian denominations, other faiths and wider church life. Members of the Church of England are also invited to share in this process.

“The Commission wishes to offer the same opportunity to other members of the Anglican Communion. It is seeking your views on the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop to enable the members of the Commission to have as rich a picture as possible as they begin their work.”

The hope is that clergy will receive the letter (translated in several languages) from their Primate or bishop and read it out in church so Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world know of and can respond to the Commission’s request.

Anglican Communion members will be able to contact the Commission via both electronic and traditional means before 30th April. All views that are received will be collated and included in a report to the Commission.

Notes to Editors

*The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion is a non-voting member of the Commission

For more information about the procedures for appointing a new Archbishop of Canterbury visit:

The Anglican Communion Primate who joins the Commission is elected by the Standing Committee. As the Standing Committee is not scheduled to meet in person until May, the whole procedure, both nomination and election, occurs by email.

The Anglican Communion comprises around 85 million members in 38 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 165 countries.


Episcopal Café reports receiving the following:

UPDATE: Clarification from The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office:
The letter from the Secretary General to members of the Anglican Communion seeks opinions on the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop. The responses to that will be available to the members of the Crown Nominations Commission. This is the first time this has been done.
In a separate letter to all Primates and Provincial Secretaries the same question about the priorities for the ministry of the next Archbishop is asked, together with a request for nominations, as on previous occasions.




Rowan Williams and identity politics

The Telegraph published a news report by John Bingham headlined Rowan Williams: fixation with gay rights, race and feminism threatens society. A fixation with gay rights, feminism and separate racial identities is threatening to “fragment” British society, the Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.

Subsequently, Comment is free published Is Rowan Williams right to warn about excessive identity politics? with contributions from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Sunny Hundal and Peter Tatchell.

Lambeth Palace has transcribed the comment that these articles refer to, from the audio recording, all available here.

Identity is a very slippery word, as everybody has brought out. I heard some voices raised, I think very importantly, against what people now often call ‘identity politics’: this is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me.

Identity politics, whether it’s the politics of feminism, whether it’s the politics of ethnic minorities, or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last ten or twenty years. Because, before that, I think there was a sense that diversity was not really welcome. And so minorities of various kinds and – not that it’s a minority – particularly a group of women, began to say ‘well, actually we need to say who we are in our terms, not yours’. And that led to identity politics of a very strong kind and the legislation that followed it.

We’re now, I think, beginning to see the pendulum swinging back, and saying: well, identity politics is all very well but we’ve got to have some way of putting all that together again, and discovering what’s good for all of us, and, as I said at the beginning, sharing something of who we are with one another so as to discover more about who we are.

That’s just one point that struck me in listening to this excellent conversation – identity isn’t just something sealed off and finished with. Identity is something we bring to the task of building up a fuller identity all the time. It’s always a work in progress, always a project, never something done with. Once we start saying ‘This is my identity and that’s it,’ then I think we’re in danger of really fragmenting the society we belong to.