Thinking Anglicans

Same-Sex Marriage in Ireland

The Irish Government has established a Constitutional Convention to consider a number of possible changes to the Irish Constitution. These issues are varied and include changes to the electoral system, the removal of the offence of Blasphemy, and provisions for same-sex marriage. The latter may or may not be precluded by Article 41 of the Constitution as currently worded.

Changing Attitude Ireland has made a written submission to the Convention, which can be read or downloaded as a PDF. Here’s the Executive Summary:

  • CAI strongly supports the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.
  • The existing inequalities between civil partnership and civil marriage have a realworld detrimental impact on the lives of same-sex couples, and even more on children being raised by them.
  • Allowing churches and other faith groups to ‘opt in’ to registering same-sex marriages, while protecting them from any attempt at compulsion, is the best way to respect the religious freedoms of both those who support and those who oppose same-sex marriage. This is particularly important in the Irish context, where there is a history of civil marriage law being used to discriminate against religious minorities.
  • Like many other Christian bodies, CAI supports marriage equality not despite its faith background, but because of it, believing marriage and stable relationships to be one of the bedrocks of society.
  • Although there is significant faith opposition to marriage equality, this must be understood in the light of the long Christian history of opposition to equality under the law and outright homophobia.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the Guardian reports Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage to be challenged by Amnesty in court.

Amnesty International and gay pressure groups have warned that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government will soon face a human rights legal case over its refusal to allow gay couples to marry.

Unionist parties have voted at Stormont to ensure Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are excluded from the same-sex marriage bill, which was passed in the Commons in February…

Paul Johnson at ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog has more legal detail: ECHR complaint is likely if same-sex couples cannot marry in Northern Ireland.

Possible court action could be brought under the Human Rights Act in the domestic courts and, if that failed to remedy the situation, a complaint could be made to the European Court of Human Rights. Such a complaint to the Court would present a novel legal issue which it has hitherto not considered: the existence of different arrangements for same-sex marriage within a nation state. Whilst the Court has so far been reluctant to recognize a right to same-sex marriage under Article 12 of the Convention, the existence of differences in treatment in marriage within the jurisdictions of the UK based solely on sexual orientation could make a more compelling Article 14 case than those argued in previous applications. What would the Court make of a situation whereby citizens of a Council of Europe state could contract same-sex civil marriage in one part of the state but not in another?


The men should have believed us

I should not blame the men for not believing us, but I do. The story was, coldly considered, incredible, but then the last year had been equally unbelievable. Jesus. His life, his death, all unbelievable. Yet, after all we had heard and seen and gone through, the men should not have turned to us and told us we were hysterical and not to be believed.

We had done what we always do. We had taken ointments for flesh that will never heal, perfumes that we know too well the stench of death will drown. Why? But we do. We cannot help it. I remember that Jesus told somebody to leave the dead to bury the dead, but no, we could not.

It was all the more grim because of the delay. We had done the best we could for his shattered body on the Friday, but we had little more than moments.

It was the Sunday, early. If you need do terrible things, do them as soon as possible. Go as soon as you are awake, without eating. If you have not slept, that will be early, before the light starts up. Best to go before the day starts to heat up, before the body starts to decay further. Understand, we know death. We know it as an intimate enemy, even as an occasional friend, but we know how death works. And then — none of us wanted to go that near the site of the execution. Remember how close the site of the execution was to the tomb, nestled in a dog-leg of the wall.

Rolling back the stone was not a challenge to women like us. But when we got there, the city making its first stirring noises behind the wall, the light starting to wash grey gently in, the stone was already rolled back. We were, oh, worried, but then he had so many who loved him, who might be there first, and what else could we do but go in?

There was no person. There was no body. And there was the shroud, lying there. Even had somebody moved the body, they would have kept it in the shroud. We had been steeling ourselves for the unwrapping of the shroud, now, over a day later, and after a hurried committal.

I don’t know when we began to take in the shining figures. It seemed absurd afterwards that they were not the first thing we saw, but they were not. When we did see them, another kind of fear filled us.

They spoke. They asked why we would look for a living person among the dead. Our hearts filled with images our minds could not grasp. Light, and water, and dazzle. Fear transformed to awe. Awe to something so stupendous that neither mind nor heart could rise to its level. I no longer know if we dared to leave the shining figures, or if they went as silently as they came. The next thing I remember is running back to the rest, to the men.

When we burst in through the door of the house where we lodged, with the words of angels ringing in our ears, and the shining reflected in our faces, and a growing confidence in our voices, the men should have believed us. But they did not. Not then.



Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Jesus is not destroyed by our hatred.

Rosemary Hannah writes about Turning off King Lear.

The leader in The Spectator is Twitter vs Easter.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Atheists need to run an Alpha course of their own.

Benny Hazlehurst writes about Taking offence…

Jo Bailey Wells writes for Continuing Indaba about Living with the conflict, in hope and sacrifice.

Hugh Rayment-Pickard writes in the Church Times that churches should Have the nerve to follow the early Christians.

ABC Religion & Ethics asked a number of theologians and lay people to offer their thoughts on Rowan Williams and their hopes for Justin Welby: What now for the Archbishop of Canterbury? Reflections on Rowan Williams and Justin Welby.

Graham Kings has been to South Sudan: Learning Together in South Sudan.

Ralph Jones writes in The Independent that The Church of England is in desperate need of a modern dictionary.


Another Pointless Death?

Just another pointless death. A provincial prophet, a failed rebel, a stirrer-up of trouble is brutally executed by the imperial regime. A story that has been repeated innumerable times before and since. What did he and his followers expect? What did he think he could achieve against the power and privilege of the establishment even in such a minor, far-flung trouble spot? What a waste.

But here we see Jesus of Nazareth continuing to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is near you, among you, he had preached. The kingdom of God exists wherever God’s will is done; a place where the hungry are fed and where each forgives the wrongs done to them by others. A place where that forgiveness is immediately recognized by sitting down and eating together, breaking the barriers.

And this is how Jesus dies: breaking bread with his friends and forgiving those who executed him. Here in this one day (by the reckoning of the ancient world), beginning at sunset on Thursday evening and culminating on a hillside outside the city a few hours later. Here is the epitome of the kingdom.

And so, as Jesus dies on the Cross proclaiming Love, this is no less than the inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

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The Last Supper: God’s landscape in a meal

Maundy Thursday commemorates the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples before he was arrested by Jerusalem’s temple guards, a meal at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover. It’s a meal which has gone on since to be ritualised by Christians as the eucharist, our defining ritual.

As with many things administered by organisations, meaning can be the first casualty of the systems which support it. Many years ago I asked a class of schoolchildren what they already knew about the eucharist, and they told me it needed a priest, and folk had to be confirmed in order to participate. What I took from this was that the regulations had obscured the meaning.

In fairness, the ease with which churches sat in British culture, until the 1960s and even some time after, meant that it would take a considerable leap of the imagination to understand the subversive character of a faith conceived in opposition to imperial domination, and the radical power of the rituals which it conceived. The eucharist I grew up with had been domesticated into a rite designed to foster personal piety.

These days, as we recover our identity as counter-cultural bodies, churches are developing eyes to see how potentially inflammatory our primary rite is. We can now imagine what it must have been like, in occupied Jerusalem, for the Roman authorities to anticipate a festival which was the subjugated people celebrating their identity. Passover was nothing less than a re-telling of their origins as a people, a people liberated from subjugation from an imperial power. This festival, in the context of occupied Judea, made it potentially seditious.

Setting the fourth gospel aside for the sake of brevity, Mark, with Mathew and Luke following him, style the Last Supper as a Passover meal. As with other meals which passed through Jesus’s hands, bread and wine, no less than loaves and fishes, are shared out in accordance with the idea that there is enough for all. The land is God’s, says the Torah, we are tenants and the distribution of its bounty is according to God’s justice, which is to say, enough for all. In a country where the land was being commercialised by the Romans and the Jewish aristocracy, God’s food for all is an unwelcome, and counter-cultural, conviction.

For Christians, the primary acts of Jesus’s meal, the sharing of bread and wine as body and blood, and for it to be shared with all, even Judas, is saying that to live counter-culturally is to court violence upon yourself. The meal is an enactment of denying self and taking up your cross, ‘for those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it’ (Mark 8:35) It is an attempt to bring all his followers into step with his way through death to new life.

Just as the Passover meal was food for the journey, so bread is about belonging together, and wine, representing blood, is a reversal of the old sacrificial notion that blood should be left on the altar as representing divine life-force. By sharing the wine Jesus is telling his followers to take divine life-force into themselves and to be empowered by it.

Maundy Thursday takes us back into the cauldron of occupied Judea, to the opposition of the Empire of Caesar and the Kingdom of God, and this rite embodies all the challenges which arise from that collision.

To recover and to enact all those meanings of the rite is far more important than who is authorised to make the rite happen, and who is permitted to partake in it.

Andrew Spurr is the Vicar of Evesham in the Diocese of Worcester


The power of prayer

Updated Wednesday evening

The Church of England has published the results of a survey by ICM which are available in full as a PDF file here.

The press release which accompanied this is here: Four out of five believe in the power of prayer.

Four out of five British adults believe in the power of prayer, according to a new ICM survey in the run-up to Easter. Holy Week and Easter are the most important period in the Christian calendar, marking the last days of Jesus’ ministry, his death on the Cross and resurrection to new life…

As the notes to the press release explain:

The question asked was: “Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?.”

There has been some criticism of the claims made in the press release, see

Huffington Post Church Of England Accused Of ‘Dishonesty’ In Prayer Survey

British Humanist Association Church of England spins Prayer Survey

New Statesman Church of England commits sins against statistics

TA readers may wish to study the full results of the survey for themselves and comment on whether they think the wording of the press release was justified.


The British Religion in Numbers website has published this detailed critique by Clive Field of the press release and the survey, and of other reports of it in the media: Prayer in a Spin.

…The Church based its claim on a misreading of the fact that 81% of the 2,015 adult Britons interviewed online by ICM Research on 13-14 March 2013, in a poll commissioned by the Church, had replied ‘something’ in answer to the question ‘irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?’ This was slightly below the figure (85%) in the equivalent poll this time last year…


Honest to God at 50

Honest to God, by Bishop John Robinson, was first published in 1963, and has been in print ever since, selling over a million copies. To celebrate this anniversary, the publisher SCM Press is sponsoring a commemorative evening in April at St Martin-in-the-Fields and has assembled a panel to discuss its influence and contemporary resonance.

Free event — everyone welcome
Monday 29 April, 7:00pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ

The panel includes popular authors Francis Spufford and Mark Vernon, Archdeacon of Canterbury Sheila Watson, and vicar of St Martin’s the Revd Dr Sam Wells. It will be chaired by BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge.

More details at


Update on progress on women bishops legislation

The Church of England issued this update this afternoon.

Update on progress on women bishops legislation
26 March 2013

The consultation document on women bishops issued on 8 February generated 376 responses by the closing date of 28 February. Of these, 10 were from organisations and three from bishops. Of the remaining 363 submissions, 154 were from General Synod members and 209 from others.

The working group has met twice in March and has further meetings scheduled for April and May. It remains on track to report to the House of Bishops before the meeting of the House on 20/21 May, when the House will be deciding what proposals to bring to the Synod in July. At its April meeting the group is having further facilitated conversations with those who joined it for the earlier discussions at the beginning of February.


The consultation document on women bishops was issued as below


Passion and Passion

Today we begin our Holy Week journey with Jesus, following the Way of the Cross. It’s a week when people like me, who are a clear ‘T’ or Thinking type personality, have to let our intellectualising take second place to our emotions. We need to feel first, and then strive for some modest measure of understanding afterwards.

Once again I’m indebted to that great saint, Francis of Assisi, for showing the way. For beyond the sentimental image of Francis preaching to the birds and befriending the animals is the reality of a man who took the Way of the Cross into the heart of his life. When Francis prayed that he might feel in his own body as much as he could humanly bear of what Jesus felt on the cross, he did so not out of perverted masochism, nor even like those contemporary flagellants who sought to punish their bodies as an expiation of sin. Francis embraced suffering because he knew that this was the only way in which he would be able to feel in his own body as much as he could humanly bear of the love that held Jesus to the cross, and held him there with a force no nails could equal. What Francis had found was that the cross is not some intellectual solution to the questions of Judgement and Salvation, instead it is the place where divine love shows itself in its fullness, and so doing conquers all.

If two individuals as different as St Paul and St John can be united in placing love at the apex of their theology, then we need to accept Francis not as just some medieval mystic, but as one of our prime theologians. But it’s a theology that forms and grows in the heart long before it finds a lodging place in the mind. And so my focus this Holy Week, and one I commend to you, is to so enter into the Passion of Christ that we enter also into the heart of his love, into that more contemporary understanding of the very word ‘passion’. Yet, as one whose faith ever seeks understanding, I want to take with me on this week’s journey a particular question, the question of why there must be suffering at all.

For I think I’ve received a glimpse that such answer as there may be lies in that preeminence of love. Can it be that the world is as it is, with all the pain, evil and corruption that afflicts it, because in no other world could love be freely given and freely received? Can it be that the true question is not that of how a God of love can allow bad things to happen, but of how great must be the love that can know, feel and embrace all that suffering, and taking it, transform it into more love?

David Walker
David Walker is Bishop of Dudley in the diocese of Worcester



Nicola Hulks writes for She Loves magazine about When The Church Said No.

Kirk Smith writes for the Episcopal Café that Ancient manuscript will influence new archbishop.

Iain McLean writes for Politics in Spires about The utility function of Celestine V and the election of Pope Francis.

Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about St Francis as the Pope’s patron.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus.


TfL bus advertisement ban was lawful, but…


Judgment has been given in the case of Core Issues Trust v Transport for London and you can find the full text either here, or as a PDF over here.

Frank Cranmer has published an analysis at Law & Religion UK: ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban procedurally flawed – but still lawful which concludes with this:

Comment TfL won – but not without the merest soupçon of egg over corporate face. As we have seen, Lang J’s view was that, if the proposed advertisement by the Core Issues Trust was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence”, so were those by the British Humanist Association and Stonewall which TfL had already displayed on its buses. What saved TfL in the present circumstances was that to have displayed the proposed advertisement would have been breached its statutory equality duty under s 149 Equality Act 2010.

Which raises the question, did the display of the BHA and Stonewall advertisements also breach TfL’s statutory equality duty? But we shan’t know the answer because that, of course, was not in play for adjudication.

Alasdair Henderson writes at UK Human Rights Blog Ban on ‘ex-gay, post-gay and proud’ bus advert criticised but lawful

I will add links to other legal blogs that comment on this case, as they appear.

I have seen no comment from TfL, but there are responses from Core Issues Trust and its supporters:

Statement on behalf of Core Issues Trust (PDF)

Christian Concern issued this press release: High Court Rules That Humanist, Stonewall and ‘Ex-Gay’ Bus Adverts should all have been banned.

Although Anglican Mainstream was a co-sponsor of the proposed advertising (its URL was part of the advertising copy), it took no part at all in the legal action. However, there are numerous links to media coverage on its website, here, here, here, and here (so far, no doubt more will follow).

There are also press releases from the British Humanist Association, and from Stonewall.


Further comments on Archbishop Welby's views

The Church Times carries this news report of its own interview with the archbishop: No ‘chucking out’ over women.

The actual interview with Ed Thornton is available in full here: ‘You don’t have to agree to be in the same Church’.

Anglican Mainstream has published this: Primates of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan and Southern Cone write to Archbishop Welby.

Today’s Guardian has this editorial: Archbishop of Canterbury: good and God.

At the Telegraph Damian Thompson writes on his blog The new Archbishop of Canterbury, enthroned today, must wish the gay issue would go away. But it won’t.

Colin Coward wrote at Changing Attitude Justin Welby speaks of stunning quality of gay relationships.


Installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Updated Friday morning

Justin Welby was installed as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England in a service at Canterbury Cathedral this afternoon. This event is commonly called his enthronement, although this word does not appear in the order of service.

Articles looking ahead to the service

The Archbishop’s website published this on Tuesday: What happens when an Archbishop is enthroned?

Robert Piggott for the BBC How new the Archbishop of Canterbury will be enthroned

Order of Service: “The Inauguration of the Ministry of the One Hundreth and Fifth Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Portal Welby”

A recording of the service is available to UK viewers on the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.

Text of the Archbishop’s sermon

Reports of the service

The Anglican Communion News Service has these Photographs from the Enthronement.

BBC Justin Welby is enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury [includes video highlights]

Paul Handley, Ed Thornton and Rachel Boulding in the Church Times Dancing welcome for Archbishop Welby

John Bingham in the Telegraph Justin Welby enthroned as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury

Sam Jones and agency in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as archbishop of Canterbury
Also in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as new archbishop at Canterbury Cathedral – video
and Archbishop of Canterbury enthronement – in pictures

Liz Dodd in The Tablet Welby enthroned as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury

Cheryl Mullin in the Liverpool Echo Justin Welby is enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury [includes photographs]

Matthew Davies at Episcopal News Service
Archbishop of Canterbury enthroned in ancient splendor [includes video]
Video: Designer Juliet Hemingray on the archbishop’s vestments

For comparison, here are highlights of the enthronement of Geoffrey Fisher in 1945.

Update Friday morning

The paper edition of The Guardian printed this photograph as a double page spread.

The Enthronement in pictures from Canterbury Cathedral

Anglican Communion News Service Archbishop Welby enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral

Quentin Letts in the Mail Online African dancers, bongo drums and a Punjabi hymn… the oh-so modern arrival of Britain’s new Archbishop [lots of photographs]

Photographs on the Archbishop’s Facebook page
The same photographs are on also the Archbishop’s website.

Sam Jones in The Guardian Justin Welby enthroned as new archbishop of Canterbury


Media coverage of Archbishop Welby's views


The Archbishop of Canterbury has given TV interviews to several journalists ahead of his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral this afternoon.

Meanwhile John Bingham at the Telegraph reports on Archbishop Justin Welby’s olive branch to gay rights groups and also Archbishop ‘convinced’ role will eventually be held by a woman.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral later today, sent a message to Peter Tatchell, the veteran human rights campaigner, last night inviting him to meet face-to-face.
In was in response to an open letter in which Mr Tatchell accused the Archbishop of being “homophobic” by opposing gay marriage and said that Anglicans had “colluded” in extreme suppression of homosexuality in Africa.
The gesture is likely to further infuriate leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa and the southern hemisphere – several of whom are said to be preparing to snub the Archbishop by absenting themselves from a celebratory get-together for primates after the enthronement.
The invitation for a meeting is in stark contrast to the relationship between gay rights groups and previous Archbishops…

The Open Letter to Justin Welby from Peter Tatchell can be found here.

The Guardian has several articles:
Peter Walker Archbishop of Canterbury admits to gay ‘challenge’ for church and Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury – in his own words
Andrew Brown Justin Welby’s ascension shines light on powerful evangelical church
Andrew Atherstone Justin Welby is no fluffy spiritualist – he’s the tough leader the church needs

And there is another article by Andrew Atherstone published at Fulcrum (though written for Church Society) Archbishop Welby and the E-Word.


Archbishop Justin Welby: interviews and reactions

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday includes in today’s episode an interview with Archbishop Justin Welby. The programme can be downloaded from here, and the interview starts at about 26 m, 40 s into the programme.

According to Anglican Mainstream there is also an interview in today’s Sunday Times magazine section. See here.

And, according to Jonathan Petre in today’s Mail on Sunday Archbishop Welby faces boycott by Anglican leaders over plans to allow gay clergy to become bishops.

…According to leaked documents seen by The Mail on Sunday, at least three senior African archbishops have privately urged conservative colleagues to shun the gathering.

In the documents, the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, said he recommended that ‘we show our commitment to the Anglican Communion by being present for the service at Canterbury Cathedral . . . but do not participate in the “collegial time” being proposed by Archbishop Welby’.

He said the new Archbishop of Canterbury had ‘given us no clear indication of the matters for discussion’ and that primates ‘who have led the way in promoting false teaching’ will be welcomed by Dr Welby.

He said his views were shared by the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, and the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, but sources said the African and Asian archbishops would not make a final decision about attending the meeting until this week….


Yes 2 Women Bishops conference report

The conference Women Bishops: Church in all its Fullness announced previously took place yesterday.

This page has links to both audio recordings and texts of all the main speeches.

The same text materials are also linked from this page.


Breaking the Rules

The gospel narrative for Passion Sunday, of Mary anointing Jesus, is a story of the crossing of boundaries. The rules of thrift and the responsible use of resources are cast aside, as what may have been the most valuable item in the house is dissipated in a grand gesture and few moments of fragrance. A routine act of hospitality is elevated from a mundane kindness to an eye-catching drama. There is a physical intimacy in public between a man and an unrelated woman, as Mary bends to wipe Jesus’s feet with her hair.

Of course, if it had happened last Friday it could be a ‘red nose’ stunt, pouring a bottle of perfume over a dinner guest. I’m sure you could get sponsorship, upload the video, send it to wing its way through the social media.

Comic Relief, and similar undertakings, tame the unusual and domesticate the extravagant gesture. Boundaries are transgressed, but only with careful planning; generosity is harnessed to a date, and eccentricity given its place on the calendar. All is made safe, if occasionally embarrassing, and care for those in need is slotted neatly into a consumerist culture, where we buy our red noses at the tills of major supermarkets.

Even with that domestication, however, such events retain an association between giving and the breaching of what are normally considered the limits of acceptable behaviour. Like the licensed fools of previous centuries, participants act out a defiance of the rules by which we live so much of the time, the rules of the market, of contract and commerce, of the exchange of goods and services. For this action I should receive this payment: with this money I can purchase these things. Sit in a bath of baked beans, and someone will give you money because he is mildly entertained by your humiliation (but not as much as if he paid the same to see a really good comic), or she feels an obligation to support a friend or workmate; not because there is an identifiable value or outcome to your action.

By attribution, at least, it was Ignatius Loyola who prayed for the generosity of spirit which gives without counting the cost and acts without expecting reward; I doubt if Red Nose Day is part of the cultural heritage of Francis I, the first Jesuit pope, but there is a pleasing coincidence in his election as this country engages in one of its periodic exercises in communal altruism.

Flagrant generosity, without palpable reward, is the generosity of God, which breaks all the rules about what is deserved or earned or due. In God’s giving of God’s very self in the passion, the rules of parenthood are breached; the primary loving relationship, as experienced and valued in most human lives, is ruptured.

Yet this Passion Sunday story, of course, is one of the few in which Jesus is the recipient, not the giver. He accepts it all, the perfume, the careful wiping of his feet, the symbolic preparation. Accepting the gift, he values the giver, and accepts the identity she gives him.

So much of our tradition emphasises our inadequacy, and disables us from that acceptance. May we learn to accept that lavish gift of God’s love, which breaks the rules of the market place and pre-empts any question of deserving, and allow ourselves also to accept the identity offered us, as God’s beloved children.

Jane Freeman
Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford.


Bishop of Liverpool speaks about blessing civil partnerships

From the Diocese of Liverpool press release: Bishop James Presidential Address March 2013:

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones has said that it maybe time for the church to ask the question about the blessing of civil partnerships. In his Presidential Address to the Diocese of Liverpool Synod the Bishop said “if the Church now recognises Civil Partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the Church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just”…

The full text of his address is available here (PDF).



Theo Hobson in The Guardian asks Why be a liberal Catholic when you could be an Anglican?

Nick Baines gave a lecture on Faith in the Media: Society, Faith and Ethics at De Montfort University, Leicester, on 14 March 2013.

Gavin Drake writes that The Church of England is a tortoise compared to Rome’s hare.

Peter Stanford writes in The Telegraph about Pope Francis I: a new broom sweeps into the Vatican.
In The Guardian Margaret Hebblethwaite writes about The Pope Francis I know.
Robert Mickens writes in The Tablet about A house that needs putting in order.


Archbishop Welby interviewed on Equal Marriage

Iain Dale interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury on his radio show, and reported afterwards on his own website: Archbishop Softens Line On Gay Marriage

ID: You said once that you’re always averse to the language of exclusion and what we’re called to do is love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us, how do you reconcile that with the church’s attitude on gay marriage?

JW: I think that the problem with the gay marriage proposals is that they don’t actually include people equally, it’s called equal marriage, but the proposals in the Bill don’t do that. I think that where there is… I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way… you know that the love that there is is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say. And civil partnership is a pretty… I understand why people want that to be strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable in a good way. It’s not the same as marriage…

ID: But if it could be made to work in a way that’s acceptable to the church you would be open to discussions on that?

JW: We are always open to discussions, we’ve been open to discussion, we’re discussing at the moment. The historic teaching of the church around the world, and this is where I remember that I’ve got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country, has been that marriage in the traditional sense is between a man and woman for life. And it’s such a radical change to change that I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution.

There is a link to the audio recording of this here.

Subsequently, Savi Hensman has written about this for Cif belief in The archbishop of Canterbury must follow up on praise for gay relationships.

…Welby could start by taking action to protect LGBT lay people in every parish, celibate or otherwise, from discrimination, and clergy from invasive questions. There are disturbing instances where people are made to feel unwelcome or humiliated and this should stop.

He could also encourage more thinking about how churches provide, and could improve, pastoral support for same-sex couples, including celebrating civil partnerships. In time, the Church of England might agree an order of service which clergy could use if they wished.

While all Anglican churches should indeed consult others in the communion before major decisions, this cuts both ways. The archbishops most opposed to greater inclusion have resisted repeated calls by international gatherings since 1978 for “deep and dispassionate” study of the issues, taking account of scientific research, and for dialogue with homosexual people and support for their human rights. Yet these leaders have not even bothered to explain why. Their treatment of their LGBT members falls far short of gospel values of love and justice.

Within the Church of England and beyond, Welby could promote awareness and discussion of developments in theological thinking on sexuality, including marriage. Overseas leaders could participate, but would have to engage seriously with others’ arguments.

The current situation is harming LGBT people and Christian witness in England. It is time to start moving forward on inclusion.