Thinking Anglicans

Still more about same-sex marriage

Updated Tuesday

The main editorial article in today’s Observer refers to the Friday press conference.
Gay marriage: a joyous day for respect and love

…Inevitably, also in the anti-gay marriage campaign are traditionalists in favour of “natural” marriage. They argue, along with the Catholic church and the Church of England, that the Bible refers to marriage as the union of man and woman for the purposes of procreation. Clergy in the Church of England are prohibited from marrying same-sex partners. Faith and equality have yet to cohabit successfully in the established church. On Friday, the bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, lambasted his superiors for hypocrisy. “There are partnered gay bishops telling their partnered gay clergy you shouldn’t marry your partner, Fred,” he said. Colin Coward, of Changing Attitude, a liberal pressure group in the church, is optimistic of movement. “I am already fielding inquiries from people who want to know if they can get married in their local church… the Church of England will be forced to face up to that reality.”…

Paul Vallely writes in the Independent that The church has lost its way on the road to gay marriage

Ding-dong the bells are going to chime. Or perhaps more accurately, since gay marriage became legal in England and Wales, ding-ding. Or dong-dong.
Not that the bells in question are in churches. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church are doctrinally opposed to the idea of same-sex unions, though at least seven clergy couples are preparing to marry in defiance of their bishops.

But the loudest clerical voices are opposed. The executive secretary of something which likes to call itself Anglican Mainstream was darkly blogging last week to the effect that recent floods and storms are God’s verdict on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. If that’s the mainstream, it doesn’t bear thinking about what might be found on the C of E’s wilder shores…

Kelvin Holdsworth wrote The sacrament lottery.

Benny Hazlehurst wrote Will the sun still rise tomorrow?

Gillan Scott wrote Gay marriages are here and this is what I’m celebrating.

And Rachel Muers has written about Quakers (Same-Sex) Marriage and the State.


The Guardian editorial on Monday morning: Gay marriage: fair do concludes this way:

…The greatest difficulty is faced by the Church of England, which is legally obliged to marry almost everyone in this country – but is now legally forbidden to marry gay and lesbian people no matter what the wishes of an individual priest or congregation may be. This is not an issue on which it can or should come to a single mind. It may always be divided over it but the great majority of the church is not homophobic and recoils from those churches abroad which are.

The archbishop of Canterbury – a reasonable opponent of gay marriage, not gay people – called last week for the church “to continue to demonstrate, in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being”. He means it, but he may not be widely believed or heard. In the last 20 years the church has behaved with an unattractive cowardice over the issue. Now that it is trying to be humble and brave, few people care. Unfair, perhaps, but not undeserved.


More reports on same-sex marriage

Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury was in Bury St Edmunds. See this report, with video, from the Bury Free Press what he said there: VIDEO: Archbishop of Canterbury addresses same-sex marriage during visit to Bury.

…Addressing the complexities the Church of England faces on the issue to an audience of 900 guests in St Edmundsbury Cathedral, he said: “We’ve a huge responsibility here for Christians all around the world.

“It’s complicated because throughout history the scriptures teach and the church is understood that sexual activity should be within marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman and to change our understanding of that is not something we can do quickly and casually. It has to be done with profound thought and not just because as there is there’s a very clear majority in this country in favour of gay marriage.

“Parliament has spoken very clearly and we accept that and that’s right and proper.

“We have to be those who are faithful to the tradition we’ve inherited and adapt and change as each generation comes along in a way that’s faithful to the God who loves us and we do that in the context of the whole church.

“It is unbelievably difficult, unbelievably painful and unbelievably complicated.

“I haven’t got a quick one-liner that solves the problem – I wish I had and I would dearly love there to be one but there isn’t.”

He continued: “The church does look very bad on this issue to many people in this country particularly younger people and we’re mugs if we think anything else.

“We need to be really blunt about that. We need to listen to them but we need to listen to Christians around the world and we need to listen to each other and in the discussions rather than shouting that one side’s homophobic and the other side’s betraying the gospel – we need actually to listen to each other as human beings.”

Some other items:

The Church Times had a leader titled: Room to manoeuvre. It concludes:

…So, what can be done? The most immediate prospect is an outbreak of small-arms fire, as liberals attempt to counter the House of Bishops’ negativity by expressing their welcome for same-sex marriage in various ways, perhaps not all legal. Similarly, we can expect conservatives to reassert traditional views of marriage, quietly supported by a significant proportion of churchgoers who remain uncomfortable with the new definition of marriage.

These are more than mere skirmishes, and the Bishops find themselves with little room to manoeuvre. The time and energy needed for the facilitated talks is running out, undermined by the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in society at large, and the damage being done to the Church’s pastoral reputation every time a couple is rejected or a potential ordinand is turned down. If meaningful dialogue is to take place as it ought, a new interim position needs to be forged that takes a more realistic view of the new terrain. The half-hearted homophile passages in the Bishops’ pastoral guidance should be revised, and the reluctant concession about prayers for couples in civil partnerships needs to be strengthened and extended to same-sex marriage. The Church’s reservations about the equivalence of gay and straight relationships needs still to be acknowledged; but some of the pressure would be off. And then the Church might learn how to disagree well rather than, as at present, obnoxiously.

And there was also this news report: Gay-wedding day dawns as Church remains clouded.

Both the Bishop of Buckingham and the Dean of St Albans have written for Pink News:

Bishop of Buckingham: Allowing gay people to marry enriches the public understanding of marriage

Dr Jeffrey John: Most Church of England people agree, same-sex weddings ‘have God’s blessing already’


Women in the Episcopate – diocesan synod votes 4

Five more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln, Norwich, Portsmouth.

So far I have heard that four (Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln and Portsmouth) have voted in favour by large majorities (in Hereford’s case unanimously), making a total of 24 in favour and none against.

All five voted in favour, making a total of 25 in favour and none against.

So a majority of the 44 diocesan synods have now voted in favour, and the legislation will definitely return to General Synod for final approval in July.

The next votes are in Blackburn (3 April), Southwell & Nottingham (5 April) and Worcester (30 April).

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.



Catherine Fox writes about Power and Passion.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes concludes her series in The Guardian on George Herbert with We don’t read the Bible to learn more, but to be fed.

Karen Swallow Prior writes for Christianity Today about Hannah More: The Most Influential Reformer You’ve Never Heard of.

David Keen blogs about Latest Church of England Attendance Stats: Making mud seem clear.
[I covered the release of these statistics here.]

1 Comment

Media coverage of church responses to same-sex marriage

Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written two items:
Archbishop of Canterbury signals end of C of E’s resistance to gay marriage. The money quote in this is:

“I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.”

Gay marriage: bishop of Salisbury gives backing to same-sex weddings

…Meanwhile, although Anglican conservatives mostly recognise that the battle has been lost in wider society, it makes them more determined that the Church of England should not change. This is increased by the fear of alienating African churches, which have taken an increasingly homophobic line in the last decades.

The resulting position is one of exquisite embarrassment. Very few in the church are not embarrassed by the antics of anti-gay campaigners. Their numbers include the General Synod member Andrea Williams, who last year urged Jamaicans to keep homosexual acts criminal, and linked homosexuality with paedophilia – or Andrew Symes, an Oxford vicar who wrote on his blog that he believed the winter flooding was in effect part of God’s just punishment for sexual permissiveness.

At the same time these people are plugged into a large and active network of African conservatives, who hope and pray that the Church of England will break up over the issue and leave the liberal rump (as they see it) to wither.

Meanwhile, the wider world simply cannot understand the fuss, and every statement by a bishop or archbishop suggesting compassion or understanding for the liberal position simply increases the pressure on the present compromise, which has left the Church of England prevented by government ministers from holding gay marriages…

John Bingham at the Telegraph wrote: Clergy should defy Church’s ‘morally outrageous’ gay marriage ban, says bishop

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, said priests should be “creative” to get around restrictions on blessings for same-sex couples and that gay clergy who wish to marry should do so in defiance of the official line.

He also claimed that several current serving bishops are themselves in gay partnerships, and urged them to publicly acknowledge their status for the sake of “honesty and truthfulness” and even consider marrying.

Joined by an alliance of seven retired bishops, he condemned the Church’s position on gay marriage as “morally outrageous” and said it made him “ashamed”…

Ruth Gledhill at The Times (subscription required) has written Bishop defies Church to back clergy in same-sex marriage

A bishop has backed clergy who want to enter into same-sex marriages in defiance of the Church of England’s ban.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Rev Alan Wilson, said that in spite of the official line that gay clergy cannot get married, there were gay bishops in the established Church who were in partnerships themselves, and called on them to “come out”…


More supportive church reactions to same-sex marriage

The statement from the Bishop of Salisbury (already mentioned in the comments on earlier threads) is here: Bishop Congratulates and Prays for Same-Sex Couples Getting Married

The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, has congratulated same-sex couples who will be getting married from tomorrow and assured them of his prayers.

Bishop Nicholas said:

“Tomorrow, the first same-sex civil marriages will take place in this country. This is a new reality being undertaken by people who wish their relationships to have a formal status which embodies a commitment to them being faithful, loving and lifelong. These are virtues which the Church of England wants to see maximised in society. I therefore congratulate those who are getting married, assure them of my prayers, and wish them well in all that lies ahead.”



1. The Church of England teaches that marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life. To say that this can now apply equally to same sex couples has proved controversial, though Parliament voted for the new legislation by unexpectedly large majorities. The Church of England has not changed its understanding of marriage and is unable to conduct same sex weddings. However, it recognises that new circumstances have arisen and that change has happened very quickly. There is a spectrum of views among the members of the Church of England which is preparing for a two year discussion about sexuality.

2. Recent Church of England guidance on same-sex civil marriage supports lay people who enter into that new possibility. It can be expected that some people doing so will want support and prayer from Christians that their relationships will be loving, faithful and lifelong. Church of England clergy are not presently permitted to enter same-sex marriages.

3. In England and Wales there are something like 7,000 Civil Partnerships a year and a similar number of same sex marriages can be expected. This is less than 3% of the 240,000 heterosexual marriages that take place each year. There are about 118,000 divorces a year.

The Dean of Durham has published a blog article: Equal Marriage: crossing the threshold. Here’s an excerpt:

Fourthly, let me acknowledge the pain and anger of gay people who continue to feel excluded by the church’s stance on equal marriage. The recent guidance from the House of Bishops has not reassured them, and it’s now clear that some bishops were far from comfortable with the advice they had issued. However, I do not think that this represents a stable position. As equal marriage becomes accepted by society and, as the indications are showing, by the majority of lay people in the church, we shall see a shift in the official stance. In time, the church will accommodate itself to this development, and recognise that by blessing same-sex marriages and even solemnising them, it is affirming the principle that covenanted unions are fundamental to the way we see (and more important, the way God sees) human love. Precisely the same happened with the remarriage of divorced people in church, and with female bishops. It takes time for change to be received and its theological significance understood: not much comfort to those asking the church for recognition now, but in time I believe we shall get there…

The Camden New Journal carries a letter Same-sex weddings with our blessing signed by many clergy in Camden expressing support for same-sex marriage. The letter is reproduced in full below the fold.



Religious leaders express support for same-sex marriage

The Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition have issued a joint press release and are holding a press conference today to announce a statement signed by a number of religious leaders expressing support for same-sex marriage.

The full press release is copied below the fold. The statement itself is quite short:

We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.



Church Commissioners Questions – Same-sex Marriage (Priests)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry) answered questions in the House of Commons yesterday, including this one on Same-sex Marriage (Priests).

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What the Church of England’s policy is on priests entering a same-sex marriage; and what guidance has been given on what would happen to a priest who did so.

Sir Tony Baldry: Clergy and ordinands remain free to enter into civil partnerships. The House of Bishops in its pastoral guidance distributed on 15 February said that it was not willing for those in same-sex marriages to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry—deacon, clergy or bishops—and that

“it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives”.

As with any alleged instance of misconduct, each case would have to be considered individually by the local diocesan bishop.

Mr Bradshaw: In light of the recent Pilling report, does the right hon. Gentleman believe it would be sensible if a hard-working, popular priest got married with the full support of his or her parish and congregation and was then disciplined, sacked or defrocked?

Sir Tony Baldry: The situation is clear. The Church of England’s understanding of marriage remains unchanged: marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and under the canons of the Church of England marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. The canons of the Church of England retain their legal status as part of the law of England and I would hope that no priest who has taken an oath of canonical obedience would wish to challenge canon law and the law of England.

Other questions were on Cathedrals, Investments, Diocesan Support, and Church Growth Research Programme

In an exchange on Twitter yesterday, Peter Ould asked “Who gives Tony Baldry MP the steer on what to say in response to questions in the Commons?” and churchstate (the Church of England Parliamentary team) answered “Process in a nutshell: we make suggestions after consulting senior colleagues & specialists. He then decides what to say.”


Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted

The Church of England issued this press release this afternoon.

Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted
27 March 2014

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said today:

“We can confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service announced today that Bishop Peter Ball will be prosecuted for misconduct in public office and indecent assault. The church has been working closely with Sussex police throughout this investigation. The full police and CPS statements are now available. The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. But we can never be complacent. We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

We have also put support systems in place for all those affected in anyway by today’s charges. Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344. Although we cannot comment on this case any further at the moment, lessons must be learnt and it is our mission that all our churches are places of safety and joy, of justice and the enrichment of life.”

Statements by the Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some press reports:

Madeleine Davies Church Times Bishop is charged over sex-assault offences
BBC Former Bishop Peter Ball faces sex offence charges
Sandra Laville The Guardian Church of England bishop charged with indecently assaulting two young males

The bishop was originally arrested in November 2012, as we reported at the time.

Comments are closed for this article.


More on same sex marriage and on the Pilling report

The Church Times article by Will Adam which was previously subscriber-only is now available to all: Breaking the rules on gay marriage.

PICTURE the scene: the Bishop’s post is being opened, and among the invitations, job applications, and clerical outfitters’ catalogues are three troubling pieces of correspondence.

The first is from the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, informing the Bishop that an ordinand in training, who is in the process of looking for a title post in the diocese, has entered into a same-sex marriage.

The second is a letter of complaint from a group of parishioners that the Vicar of X has just used the form of service for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage from Common Worship: Pastoral Services to bless a same-sex marriage in church.

The third is from the churchwarden of Y to say that the Rector has just come back from holiday with the news that the trip was a honeymoon, and a new (same-sex) spouse has moved into the Rectory.

What is the Bishop to do?

This week’s Church Times carries a report by Madeleine Davies headlined Bishops start quizzing their clergy.

Gay clergy have this week been describing the ramifications of the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage, issued by the House of Bishops last month. Bishops have begun meeting gay clergy, at least five of whom are reported to be planning to marry…

And there is a report in the Camden New Journal Two Camden vicars to defy Church of England ban on blessing same-sex marriages.

…In what could become a test case, the Rev Anne Stevens, of St Pancras New Church, in Euston, and Father Andrew Cain, of St James’s in West Hampstead and St Mary’s in Kilburn, will campaign for the law to be changed.

Blessing services will be offered at St Pancras church, with prayers and thanksgiving at St James’s, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes in on March 29.

Under the act there is a “quadruple lock” that prevents the marriages or blessing the marriages of gay couples in the Church of England.

More Camden churches are expected to follow their lead with a letter signed by local clergy due to be released next week…

Andrew Symes has written at Anglican Mainstream Same sex marriage – are we allowed to pray about it? Try to ignore his comment about the weather.

There is a very interesting exchange of views about the Pilling report between Sean Doherty and Malcolm Brown.
See A Response to the Pilling Report and then A response to Sean Doherty’s KLICE Comment on the Pilling Report The latter explains quite a lot about how the report was written.


Wells Palace: diocese objects

Updated Monday evening

In the continuing saga of the Bishop’s Palace at Wells (previous episode here), the Bishop’s Council of the diocese of Bath & Wells has formally objected to the Church Commissioners’ decision to house the Bishop elsewhere.

A news story on the diocesan website states:

At a special meeting on Tuesday 18 March, members of the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath & Wells unanimously agreed to lodge a formal objection against the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the Bishop of Bath & Wells out of the Palace in Wells and into temporary accommodation in Croscombe.

A spokesman for the Diocese says: “On 27 February this year we were given official notice by the Church Commissioners about their decision to move the Bishop to The Old Rectory in Croscombe. We were advised of our right to object within 28 days and we are taking the opportunity to do so. We now await the outcome.”

The Church Commissioners have issued this statement:

Statement from Church Commissioners on Wells Palace
24 March 2014
The Church Commissioners have received from the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath and Wells a formal objection to the proposal to move the residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells from Wells Palace to Croscombe.

At a meeting of a committee of the Board on 21st March it was agreed to forward the objection to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England who will in due course rule on the matter.

The Commissioners welcome the opportunity to present their case to the Council.


Women in the Episcopate – diocesan synod votes 3

Seven more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Bath & Wells, Birmingham, Bradford, Lichfield, Liverpool, Oxford and Peterborough.

We await the results from Bath & Wells, but the motion was approved by large majorities in the other dioceses.
We await precise voting figures from Lichfield, but t The motion was approved in all seven synods.

So far 20 dioceses have voted in favour and none against. At least 23 dioceses must vote in favour if the draft legislation is to return to General Synod in July.

The next diocesan synod votes will be on 29 March in Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln, Norwich and Portsmouth. If approved by those synods it will have passed the threshold of more than half the dioceses, guaranteeing its return to the General Synod.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.



Rachel Held Evans blogs on Patriarchy and Abusive Churches.

Peter Stanford in The Independent offers Ten more commandments: How to save the Anglican church.

Malcolm French blogs that The Anglican Communion Hasn’t Failed.

Tom Brazier blogs that There are no rules.

Christopher Whitmey writes about Managing Diocesan Finances.


More from Mike Higton on Marriage and Gender

Updated Tuesday evening

There is an article in today’s Church Times by Mike Higton titled Gay-marriage debate: it’s all about gender. This is available only to subscribers, but his two earlier blog articles were linked in one of our many posts here about responses to the recent Bishops’ statement on same-sex marriage.
For convenience here again are those earlier links:

More recently, Mike has started writing about the earlier CofE document Men and Women in Marriage.

Here are the links to his next two articles:

Men and Women in Marriage

…The report is explicitly presented as a follow-up to the 2012 document. In the Foreword, the Archbishops say that it aims to provide a ‘short summary of the Church of England’s understanding of marriage’ and, more fully, that

It sets out to explain the continued importance of and rationale for the doctrine of the Church of England on marriage as set out in The Book of Common Prayer, Canon B30, the Common Worship Marriage Service and the teaching document issued by the House in September 1999 [The reference is to Marriage: a Teaching Document from the House of Bishops of the Church of England, Church House Publishing]

That description could be misconstrued, however. Our report did not provide an evenly balanced summary of all the main things that the Church of England has wanted to say about the nature and purpose of marriage, but was an attempt to set out more fully the background in the Church of England’s thinking to the specific arguments made in the debate about same-sex marriage. So nearly everything in the report is (as the title says) about the necessity of marriage taking place between a man and a woman – and about ‘how the sexual differentiation of men and women is a gift of God’ (§3). Other topics (including such central topics as faithfulness and public commitment) appear only briefly, and only insofar as they relate to that central topic.

Like the original response to the government consultation, then, this is a report about gender – specifically about the importance of gender difference to marriage, but also more broadly about the wider importance of gender in society. And that’s where my analysis, spread over the next two or three posts, is going to focus.

Gender, Nature, Culture

…I said in the previous post that I ask was going to take seriously the Archbishops commendation of this report for study, and ask what agenda it suggests for further deliberation. In this post, I am going to point to a central facet of the report that I think should provide some shared ground between those who accept and those who reject its conclusions – before turning to a range of questions that the report’s detailed arguments have raised for me, which I think provide an agenda for further deliberation.

I am very aware that saying ‘We need to discuss x!’ can be a way of saying ‘You all need to agree with me about x, and if you thought just a little more clearly, you would do!’ It can also be a way of saying ‘None of you have been thinking about x. I am the first person to whom these ideas have occurred. Bow before me and my brilliance!’ So let me say right away that I know that good, rich, complex and interesting work has been done on all the questions I am about to raise – and that some of it has been done elsewhere by people involved in the writing of this report. And let me say that I do not think that further deliberation will lead to agreement, or even that it will lead to a general drift towards more liberal (or less liberal) conclusions. I have thoughtful, intelligent, well-read friends who occupy all sorts of different positions on these matters, and many of them know a very great deal more about them than I do.

Here, as elsewhere, my hope is not for consensus, but for a better quality of disagreement – and for more helpful public expressions of those disagreements…


The third article in this series is now available: Desire and Discipline. It’s long, but worth reading through. It concludes:

…I am writing these posts not because I’m an expert in this area (I’m not), but because I happen to find myself standing on the overlap between two worlds – an academic world in which these questions and insights in relation to gender have rightly become unavoidable, and a world of church report writing in which they barely appear on the agenda. All I’m doing, in effect, is saying to the latter world, ‘Hey, you should talk to these other people, because they taught me everything I know about this, and they’re really worth listening to!’ So if you’ve got this far, and want to find the good stuff – well, go and read Susannah Cornwall, Rachel Muers, Sarah Coakley, Steve Holmes, Eugene Rogers, Christopher Roberts, Rowan Williams, Beth Felker Jones, James Brownson, for starters. They don’t all agree (to say the least), and they won’t all back up what I’ve said above, but they’ll certainly change how you approach these questions.


East Barnet PCC writes to the Bishop of St Albans

Here is the full text of the letter mentioned in a news item in the Church Times today. That news item, North-London PCC votes against Bishops’ same-sex marriage guidance, is available only to subscribers.



Global Freedom Network

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis back Anglican-Catholic anti-slavery and human trafficking initiative.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29million people was co-signed on March 17th by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon; the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo; Dr Mahmoud Azab on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt; and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”.

The joint statement by the Global Freedom Network signatories, which underscores the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking, calls for urgent action by all other Christian churches and global faiths. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support the initiative…

The Anglican Centre in Rome and the Vatican have issued press releases.
Major Faith Initiative to Combat Slavery
New Initiative by Global Faiths to Eradicate Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking by 2020
The second of these includes the text of the statement.

The initiative has attracted media attention around the world.

Tim Wyatt Church Times New interfaith body will tackle slavery

Christopher Baker and Helena Liu The Guardian Will Andrew Forrest convince Australia’s billionaires to open their wallets?

Robert Mickens, Mark Brolly and Liz Dodd The Tablet Faiths unite against human trafficking

James MacKenzie The Star (Malaysia) Muslim and Christian leaders unite to combat modern slavery

Stoyan Zaimov Christian Post Europe Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims Unite in Global Freedom Network Aimed at Eradicating Slavery

The Nation (Pakistan) Initiative by Global Faiths to Eradicate Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking by 2020

Peter Sherlock The Conversation The Global Freedom Network reminds us that with acts of faith comes responsibility

Sydney Morning Herald editorial Andrew Forrest’s inspiring role in fight against slavery


Church annual statistics for 2012

The Church of England has today released its annual statistics for 2013: Statistics for Mission 2012. There is an accompanying press release:

Church annual statistics for 2012: Almost 1,000 Occasional Services each day of the week and no significant change in attendance over past decade

The Church of England today released its annual statistics for 2012.

Overall in 2012, on average 1.05m people attended Church of England churches each week showing no significant change over the past decade. Figures for all age average weekly attendance show around 1 in 5 churches growing, and just over this number declining with 57% remaining stable.

In 2012 the Church of England conducted over 356,000 services of baptism, wedding and funerals at an average of about 6,700 each week – almost 1,000 per day – marking the rites of passage in people’s lives in communities across the country. Last year the Church of England baptised almost 140,000 people (2,700 per week), performing around 56,000 marriages in (1000 per week) and conducted 160,000 funerals (3,000 per week).

Christmas and Easter services continue to attract higher numbers with services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attracting around 2.5m people and services at Easter attracting 1.4m people.

The 2012 statistics also suggest that around 38,000 people who had not previously attended church were welcomed in to a worshipping community in 2013, compared to just over 19,000 who died or who left due or illness. Nearly 23,000 joined a church due to moving into an area compared to 18,500 leaving because they moved away.

The 2012 figures also show that more than 100,000 young people aged 11 to 25 attended activities connected to the Church in 2012. Around 28,000 adults work voluntarily with young people aged 11-17 and around 2,000 are employed to do.

Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council said: “These statistics for 2012 show that weekly attendance over the past decade has not changed significantly. The introduction of cleaner data and more rigorous methodological approaches and analysis means these figures provide a clearer picture of Anglican churchgoing in the decade to 2012.”

Ministry Statistics 2012 have already been published. There are links to earlier statistics here.


Do you catch clean?

Do you catch clean, or do you catch dirt? Any fule do no that you catch dirt. If you sit next to Mrs Streaming Cold on the bus, before you can blink, you feel that wretched tickle at the back of your throat. If a cockroach crawls over your bread, it has made it dirty.

It is very easy to catch germs, and it is very easy to become unclean. We have an entirely well-based fear of contagion. It has kept us safe from sickness and plague. No wonder we trust it. It has protected us from moral and social contagion too. You don’t believe in moral contagion? Um. Well done. Only, ask anybody who is trying to get their teenager out of a downward spiral of behaviour. It is the friends who are encouraging each other in ever more destructive behaviour that are the first targets for action. Consult the various proverbs and comic verses. If you sleep with dogs you catch fleas. You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses (at which, the pig got up and walked away).

Dirt works like the Second Law of Thermodynamics. You can’t pass heat from the cooler to the hotter (try it if you like but you far better notter). No amount of sitting next to Mr Sports Coach on the bus will let you catch a six pack.

So it is that the unclean are shunned, like cockroaches. In Samaria, a woman who knows what she is comes to the well in the burning heat of mid-day. She does not need it pointed out again that she is a cockroach. She does not need the skirts drawn aside, she does not need the comments. She makes the pure unclean, just by being there. Jesus meets her, speaks to her as though she were not a cockroach, to be shunned. He asks care from her, and offers her cool water. Water from a deep well of pure.

In a remarkable story, layered with sparkling meaning, Jesus does one more remarkable thing. He makes clean pass to dirty. They touch. He does not become unclean. She becomes clean. The normal course of life is reversed in a transformation as remarkable as a resurrection.

What we consider clean and unclean has changed in my generation, in more than one instance most remarkably so. The principle remains. It is possible. It is possible to move towards what you think is wrong and impure, and to transform it by love. As I have prayed for poor Fred Phelps this week, I have been acutely aware of that. To me, he represents all that is most unclean. Yet he is an old man, dying.

This illustrates what love cannot do. Love cannot compel. I do not imagine Fred Phelps will have a death-bed conversion. Nor is the contagion of love a matter of hanging around to sort out the problems of others. Jesus is not derailed from his mission, he is not still in Samaria a year later, sorting out the upbringing of those children in one family with five different fathers. In a period which had no word or concept for ‘clear boundaries’, Jesus had astonishingly appropriate boundaries.

None of this should detract from the challenge of this story. Love, the disinterested love of our fellows on this earth, is the ultimate clean, and it does not work like the Second Law of Thermodynamics after all. You can catch clean, and you can pass clean on. We really ought to try it. Because, if that is not true, our faith is in vain.

Rosemary Hannah is a writer and historian living near Glasgow.


South Carolina: Anglican developments

The Diocese of South Carolina led by Bishop Mark Lawrence has issued this press release: Diocese Formalizes Worldwide Anglican Ties

The Diocese of South Carolina has been formally recognized as a member in good standing of the Global Anglican Communion.

On Saturday, March 15, the Diocese’s 223rd Annual Convention unanimously accepted an invitation to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and temporarily enter into a formal ecclesiastical relationship known as provisional primatial oversight from bishops in the Global South.

The convention’s nearly 400 participants supported clergy and delegates as they voted to create a task force to explore more permanent affiliation options for the diocese. The task force will offer recommendations at the next Convention, which will be held next March.

Local critics of the Diocese’s 2012 separation from The Episcopal Church had said the disassociation would isolate the Diocese from the Global Anglican Communion. While the Diocese has maintained many informal relationships with organizations that are part of the communion, this formal primatial oversight arrangement makes clear that the Diocese is officially part of the greater Anglican Church.

“There’s an African proverb that wisely states ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together,’ said the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese, in his address to the Convention. “This will give us gracious oversight from one of the largest Ecclesial entities within in the Communion; one which includes Anglicans from a diverse body of believers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian Ocean and many, many others.”…

The Charleston Post-Courier reported this: Diocese of South Carolina accepts provisional oversight from Global South primates.

Another press release says: SC Court of Appeals Denies TEC Appeal


Justices prevent TEC from using legal maneuver to delay court proceedings

CHARLESTON, SC, March 18, 2014 – The South Carolina Court of Appeals today rejected an appeal that would have delayed a trial in the Diocese of South Carolina lawsuit to protect diocesan and parish property from seizure by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local group, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).

The Court decided that TEC and TECSC could not appeal a lower court ruling on the process to be used in discovery.

The Court of Appeals effectively said it will not tolerate legal shenanigans to delay a trial to decide whether the denomination may seize South Carolina property, including churches and the diocesan symbols. In asking the Court of Appeals to dismiss the action, the Diocese of South Carolina argued that TECSC is appealing a court order that is “unappealable”.

South Carolina’s Court of Appeals justices agreed…


New Bishop of Lewes announced

Press release today from Number 10.

Suffragan Bishop of Lewes: Richard Charles Jackson

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Richard Charles Jackson to the Suffragan See of Lewes.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Richard Charles Jackson, MA (Oxon) MSc, Diocesan Advisor for Mission and Renewal, in the Diocese of Chichester, to the Suffragan See of Lewes, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Wallace Parke Benn, BA, on his resignation on 31 August 2012.

Reverend Richard Charles Jackson

The Reverend Richard Jackson (aged 53), studied first at Christ Church, Oxford and then at Cranfield Institute of Technology. He studied for his ordination at Trinity College, Bristol. From 1994 to 1998 he served his first curacy at Lindfield in Chichester diocese. From 1998 to 2009 he was Vicar at Rudgwick, in Chichester diocese, and was also Rural Dean for Horsham from 2005 to 2009. Since 2009 he has been Diocesan Advisor for Mission and Renewal.

Richard Jackson is married to Deborah and they have 3 children. His interests include hill walking, carpentry and motorcycling.

The Chichester diocesan website has more about the new bishop: New Bishop of Lewes Appointed.