Thinking Anglicans


Nick Baines has been talking to The Independent: ‘You cannot make women bishops just to have women bishops’.

Ian Paul asks Is baptism enough?

The last of the St Paul’s Cathedral series: What I Want to Say Now: Retired Bishops Speak Out is now available to watch online: The Rt Revd Christopher Herbert. [19 minute video]
There is a transcript of the sermon to read online here.

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that In Sweden, human darkness is confronted by the arts not the church.

Laurie Brock of Dirty Sexy Ministry blogs about What Needs to Die in the Church.


Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue

Updated Friday evening

The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue has just finished its fifth annual meeting. This was held at Coventry Cathedral. Participants came from nine countries in Africa (including four primates), Canada, and the USA.

The full six-page statement that they issued is here: A Testimony of Our Journey toward Reconciliation

Media reports:

ENS Anglican Bishops in Dialogue issue testimony and also African, North American bishops claim ‘foundational call as reconcilers’

ACNS Anglican Communion bishops in dialogue issue testimony

Anglican Journal Coventry meeting ‘providential’

The Anglican Church of Canada hosts this home page for the consultation: The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue


General Synod Agenda – July 2014

Updated Monday 2 June The business on Saturday afternoon has been slightly amended, and a revised edition of the timetable issued.

The outline agenda for the July meeting of the Church of England General Synod is now available, and is copied below.

Friday 11 July

3.00 pm – 6.15 pm
Formal business
Brief response on behalf of ecumenical guests
Business Committee Report
Not later than 4.15 pm
Approval of appointments
Legislative Business
    Women in the Episcopate legislation:
    * Report on Article 8 Reference to the Dioceses
    * Final Drafting Stage
    Draft Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure and associated Amending Canon – First Consideration

8.30 pm – 10.00 pm

Saturday 12 July

9.30 am – 1.00 pm
Presidential Address by the Archbishop of York
49th Report of the Standing Orders Committee (deemed business)
Legislative Business
    Amending Canon No 31 – Enactment
    C of E Pensions (Amendment) Measure – Revision Stage
    Amending Canon No 32 and Amending Rules relating to GS elections etc – Revision Stage
    Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure – Revision Stage
    Adjourned debate on Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution – Final Approval
    Payments to the Churches Conservation Trust Order
    C of E Pensions (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting (if needed) and Final Approval
    Amending Canon No 32 and Amending Rules relating to GS elections etc – Final Drafting (if needed) and Final Approval
    Cof E (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure – Revision Stage

2.30 pm – 3.15 pm
The Church’s Response to Poverty: Presentation
‘The (Un)Common Good’: Presentation by the Revd Jim Wallis, Author of ‘On God’s Side’

(3.30 pm – 4.45 pm Group Work: The Common Good)

5.05 pm – 6.30 pm
The Common Good: Presentation and Debate

8.30 pm – 10.00 pm
Private Member’s Motion: Canon B 8

Sunday 13 July

(if Article 7 Reference Meetings are not required)
2.30 pm – 6.15 pm
Archbishops’ Council’s Annual Report 2013
Liturgical Business
    Additional texts for Holy Baptism – First Consideration
Churches’ Mutual Credit Union (CMCU): Presentation

(if Article 7 Reference Meetings are required)
4.00 pm – 6.15 pm
Liturgical Business
    Additional texts for Holy Baptism – First Consideration
Churches’ Mutual Credit Union (CMCU): Presentation

8.30 pm – 10.00 pm

Financial Business
    Archbishops’ Council’s Budget 2015
Church Commissioners’ Annual Report

Monday 14 July

9.30 am – 1.00 pm
The Armed Forces Covenant and Community Covenants: Presentation and Debate
Not later than 11.15 am
Legislative business
    Women in the Episcopate legislation – Final Approval

2.30 pm – 6.15 pm
Legislative business
    Women in the Episcopate legislation – Final Approval (Ctd…)
Diocesan Synod Motion: Magna Carta

8.30 pm – 10.00 pm
CHARM: Presentation
Audit Committee Annual Report

Tuesday 15 July

9.30 am – 1.00 pm
Legislative Business
    Any remaining legislative business from Saturday followed by:
    Draft Amending Canon giving effect to the Southwell and Nottingham DSM on the administration of Holy Communion – First Consideration
Archbishops’ Council’s Annual Report 2013 (if not taken on the Sunday due to the Article 7 reference)
Not later than 12.30 pm

Contingency Business:
Bradford Diocesan Synod Motion: Spare Room Subsidy


Church Credit Champions Network

The Church Credit Champions Network was launched this evening, as described in this press release from the Church of England: Churches step up fight for better lending.

The first steps towards a national network of churches, communities and credit unions will be unveiled today at a launch, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group on Responsible Lending.

The Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) aims to create a network of people who will bring together churches, communities and responsible lenders. The scheme is being piloted in three Church of England Dioceses – Southwark, Liverpool and London. The members will act as advocates for the community finance providers…

The Church Credit Champions Network is a joint project of the Contextual Theology Centre and the Church Urban Fund and is being delivered with the assistance of the Church Urban Fund’s Together network.

Sir Hector Sant gave this speech at the launch: Sir Hector Sant’s speech at launch of Church Credit Union Network.

Early press reports include these:

BBC Financial advice to be available in church

Reuters Former British regulator launches church taskforce on credit unions
[Also available, in edited form, at The Guardian Hector Sants introduces network of credit unions to rival payday lenders]


Civil Partnership Review: response from Roman Catholic bishops

The response from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship to “Civil Partnership Review (England and Wales): a consultation” is available to download here.

It is also reproduced by the Catholic Herald in this article: Don’t convert same-sex civil partnerships automatically into marriages, urge bishops.

Archbishop Peter Smith issued this additional comment:

“My recent comment on civil partnerships was solely in response to a specific government consultation on whether to abolish civil partnerships or convert them all into marriages in law. My comment should not be misunderstood. The question at issue is one of individual conscience for those who are in same sex civil partnerships and who do not want to enter into same sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only. In requesting the government to respect their consciences by leaving the existing civil partnership law unchanged, I was dealing solely with this issue of conscience which has now arisen given the current law, and my response should not be misinterpreted as a wider commentary on civil partnerships in general.”

The Cutting Edge Consortium issued this statement:


The Cutting Edge Consortium welcomes the response from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales’ Department of Christian Responsibility & Citizenship to the Government’s recent Civil Partnership Review Consultation.

The Catholic Bishops affirm both the importance of civil partners’ legal rights and that civil partnerships should be retained as a future viable option for same-sex couples.

The Statement is consistent with what a number of individual bishops, including Pope Francis, have said in recent years, that these legal rights contribute to both stability of relationships, and to the common good of society as a whole.

The response also highlights the fact that many people will share protected human rights characteristics, including both faith and sexual orientation, and these rights must be taken into account when respecting people’s choices and courses of action.

The Church of England response was published earlier, and can be found here.



Timothy Schenck asks To Pew or Not to Pew?

The third of the St Paul’s Cathedral series: What I Want to Say Now: Retired Bishops Speak Out is now available to watch online: The Rt Revd Tom Butler. [13 minute video]
There is a transcript of the sermon to read online here.

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph about Mindfulness and Teresa’s gnats.


Church Commissioners' results 2013

The Church Commissioners have issued their annual report and accounts for 2013, and this accompanying press release.

Church Commissioners announce annual results for 2013
23 May 2014

The Church Commissioners’ total return on its investment in 2013 was 15.9 per cent. This means that the Church Commissioners fund has exceeded its target return of RPI + 5 percentage points over the past one year, three years, ten years and twenty years. It has also has performed better than similar funds over the same periods. Details have been published today in their full Annual Report and Account (link below) for 2013.

The Commissioners’ fund is a closed fund, taking in no new money, and has performed better than its target return of RPI +5.0% p.a. and its comparator group over the past, one, three, 10 and 20 years. The results confirm the fund’s strong long term performance

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said:
“I am delighted to report the very strong investment performance the fund produced. It is from these investments that the Commissioners are able to provide the financial support to the Church. It is particularly pleasing to note that the fund has exceeded our target and performed better than its comparator group over all of the periods measured.

“As our annual report shows, the Commissioners continue to identify and fund the church’s work in areas of need and opportunity throughout England. Working towards the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church includes growing its capacity to serve the whole community.”

The Commissioners manage assets which were valued at £6.1billion at the end of 2013. More than half of their current distributions meet the cost of clergy pensions earned up to the end of 1997. The generous giving of today’s parishioners accounts for around three quarters of the Church’s annual £1.4 billion spending on its ministry and mission.

Writing in the report’s foreword Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, said:
“The year under review was a good one for the Church and for the Commissioners. Indeed, it may prove to have been a turning point, the moment when the Church decisively increased its focus on securing numerical and spiritual growth in church membership.”
He added that at the same time the Commissioners, to assist this process, began to target their charitable distributions much more strategically.

After taking account of expenditure the fund has grown from £2.4 billion at the start of 1994 to £6.1 billion at the end of 2013.

The Commissioners manage their investments within ethical guidelines with advice from the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

The fund is held in a broad range of assets. Returns contribute to the ministry of each of the Church’s 44 dioceses by: paying for clergy pensions for service up to the end of 1997; supporting poorer dioceses with the costs of ministry; funding some mission activities; paying for bishops’ ministries and some cathedral costs, paying the clergy and assisting with the legal framework for parish reorganisation.

In 2013, the Church Commissioners continued to provide significant support to encourage the growth of the Church’s existing ministries and new opportunities. Along with the Archbishops’ Council the Commissioners earmarked £12 million (2011-2013) for research and development funding to help understand better which parts of the Church are growing and why, and to seek to develop that growth.

There is also this press release on some the projects funded by the Commissioners.

Transforming lives: Commissioners fund churches in new housing and other development areas
23 May 2014

Pioneer minister to new communities in Leeds shares how 60% of congregation are new to church

The Church Commissioners annual review published today (here), shares stories of support across the country for church growth in new housing and development areas as well as a dedicated stream of funding for work in deprived areas.

In a Church of England interview the Revd James Barnett, pioneer minister to new communities in Leeds, talks about people’s lives being transformed and shares inspirational stories from Riverside. Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Commissioners, also explains more about the funding.

James features on the front cover of the Report with members from Riverside, a new expression of church where 60% of the 70 regular worshippers had not attended any church before.

“Any new church is a work in progress but God’s presence is tangible at Riverside and the Church is also making a difference in the community,” says James.

The Report also features other Commissioners funded projects from around the country:

  • Former hair stylist Rev Ben Norton has an Archdeaconry brief in York Diocese for pioneering work among young people building on earlier work on a major housing estate. He is also volunteering a day a week in the local hairdressing salon.
  • Liverpool Cathedral is committed to offering a variety of styles of worship that are accessible to all. The Zone 2 all-age, café-style service meets every Sunday at the same time as the traditional Choral Eucharist.
  • The Tolladine Mission in Worcester is based in an area with pockets of multiple deprivation. The missioners live in the area and their work includes a garden project for young people with learning and/or behavioural difficulties and work in local schools, along with opportunities to explore the Christian faith

Dioceses vote in favour of women bishops

Now that the dioceses have finished on voting on the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops, the Church of England has issued this press release.

Dioceses vote in favour of women bishops
23 May 2014

The Church of England’s dioceses* have now all voted in favour of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops. Manchester was the last diocese to vote and they approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod yesterday. In 2011 both London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.

The February 2014 meeting of General Synod referred the current Women in the Episcopate legislation to the dioceses.

Diocesan Synods all voted in favour of the motion: ‘That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.’

For the motion to be carried the houses of clergy and laity had to each vote, by a simple majority, in favour.

The table attached records the votes in favour and against, and any recorded abstentions in each house. The draft legislation will now go before General Synod in July for a Final Approval vote.

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation for Women in the Episcopate said:
“The dioceses have now expressed their view very clearly and the matter now comes back to General Synod in July. I pray that the Synod will continue to approach this decision in a prayerful and generous way as we move towards voting on the proposal that women may be bishops in the Church of England.”

The table of Diocesan Synod results can be found here.

*Due to logistical constraints the Diocese in Europe was unable to convene a meeting in the three month period allowed for this Article 8 reference.

The table linked above showed a few very small differences from mine. On the assumption that Church House have the correct figures, I have amended mine to match.

WATCH has issued this press release.

A clean sweep this time: 100% of Dioceses support Women Bishops legislation
Posted on May 23, 2014

Women and the Church (WATCH) is delighted and hugely encouraged by the overwhelming support given by 100% of diocesan synods for the new Women in the Episcopate legislation. Such a resounding endorsement, including from the dioceses of London and Chichester which voted against last time, gives us significant hope and encouragement for the final vote at General Synod in July.

Chair of WATCH, Hilary Cotton said, ‘This is really, really good news in the lead-up to the Final Approval vote. In most dioceses over 90% of votes were cast in favour: surely General Synod cannot turn their backs on this again?’


Women in the Episcopate – final diocesan synod votes

The final three diocesan synod votes on the legislation to allow women to be bishops in the Church of England took place this week: Chester and Rochester yesterday and Manchester tonight. All three voted in favour.

Apart from Europe, which was unable to arrange a synod meeting before the deadline of midnight on Thursday 22 May 2014, all the dioceses have voted in favour of the draft legislation, which will return to General Synod in July for the debate and vote on final approval.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.


House of Bishops meeting

The House of Bishops met yesterday and today and has issued this summary of its proceedings.

House of Bishops Statement
20 May 2014

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met at Bishopthorpe Palace in York on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th May 2014.

In a wide ranging agenda the House discussed issues including: the progress of legislation on women in the episcopate, the meeting of the General Synod in July, additional liturgical materials for baptism, closer working with the Methodist church, shared conversations on enabling wider debate of the Pilling report and the place of Bishops in public debate.

On the progression of legislation enabling Women in the Episcopate, the House approved the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests which sets out arrangements for those parishes who on theological grounds are unable to accept the ministry of women priests or bishops. The House also voted to amend their standing orders so to ensure the Declaration cannot be amended without the majority of two-thirds of each house of the General Synod. The House agreed guidance notes for Bishops and Parishes on the Declaration that will be issued prior to General Synod.

The House of Bishops supported exploring with political parties the possibility of amending existing arrangements for the selection of Lords Spiritual in order that the first women diocesan Bishops will be able to become members of the Bishops’ Bench in the House of Lords more quickly than would otherwise be the case under current arrangements.

In their consideration of the business to be discussed at the July meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, the House noted proposals for a debate on safeguarding legislation being introduced in Synod on Friday afternoon. The House also noted the desire for a debate on the ‘Common Good’ and the Church of England’s contribution to developing, nurturing and participating in the flourishing of all the people of England.

The House of Bishops received a report from the Liturgical commission on the use of additional texts for use in services of Baptism following the piloting of new materials in parishes. The House heard that the feedback form the parishes to the use of the texts had been largely positive and welcoming. Following a debate and minor amendments to the text the House voted for the new texts to progress to being debated by General Synod.

The House discussed a draft report and note from the Council for Christian Unity on closer working with the Methodist Church and a report from the Joint Implementation Committee which is provisionally due to be presented for discussion by the Methodist conference and the General Synod. The House agreed that the paper should be debated at the next synod after July.

The House also discussed the next steps in the process for conversations around Human Sexuality. In its discussion the House noted that the process of shared conversations needed to demonstrate primarily how the Church of England could model living together with issues of tension, where members took opposing views whilst remaining committed to one another as disciples of Jesus Christ – members of one church in both unity and diversity. The House agreed to a proposed process and timescale for the conversations with regional discussions taking place over the next two years. The House also authorised its Standing Committee to sign off the final arrangements and materials.

The House concluded its meeting with a discussion of the place of the Church of England and its Bishops in public debate. The House heard presentations which emphasised the need for the Church develop its confidence arising from its well-developed and sustained levels of service to communities across the country. The House also heard of the importance of sustaining the place of Bishops and faith based organisations in the public square at a time when confidence in the wider political process was being eroded and the place of faith based values was being challenged. The House heard how the work of Bishops and the wider church in its provision of foodbanks, partnerships with civic society, chairing economic and policy reviews, living wage and credit union work demonstrated the role of the Church of England at both a delivery and strategic level in areas of civic engagement, community cohesion and social justice.


Diverse Church makes a film: Christian It Gets Better

Diverse Church has made an impressive film. You can watch it on YouTube here.

Diverse Church is a supportive community of 70 young LGBT+ Christians in UK evangelical churches. We aim to be a pastoral/mission resource for the wider church.


Justin Welby comments on the Nigerian kidnap crisis

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several media interventions to talk about the abduction of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram.

Lambeth Palace press releases:
Archbishop condemns abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls
Archbishop writes on Boko Haram in the Church Times
Archbishop speaks to Radio 4 about situation in Nigeria.

The Church Times interview is available at Missing schoolgirls: Welby warns over difficulties of negotiation with Boko Haram (scroll down for the interview itself) and there is a leader comment here: Evil of Boko Haram.


Women in the Episcopate – diocesan synod votes 8

Updated Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon

Since I last posted on this, four more dioceses (Chichester, Durham, Exeter and Leicester, all today) have voted, all in favour. 40 dioceses have now voted in favour of the draft legislation, and none against. For a diocese to be in favour, its house of clergy and laity must each vote in favour. The votes of the bishops, although recorded, are ignored.

Chichester was one of the two diocese that voted against in 2011. Today their synod voted (for/against/abstention): Bishops 1-1-1, Clergy 36-22-2, Laity 54-20-0. In 2011 the figures were Bishops 0-2-0, Clergy 30-35-0, Laity 37-41-0.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here. Please send any corrections to the email address at the bottom of that table.


I have corrected the Leicester figures, which were completely wrong. Somebody tweeted the 2011 figures as though they were today’s and I believed them!
I have also corrected the figures for abstentions in Exeter.

Update 2
And now I have recorrected the Exeter abstentions back to what they were in the first place.


Fleet Street's last religious affairs position axed

William Turvill of the Press Gazette reports that Fleet Street’s last religious affairs position axed as Ruth Gledhill leaves Times after 27 years.

There are also to be changes at the BBC as Wyatt switches from defence to religion.

Nick Baines blogs Religion for the Times.

Michael Sadgrove blogs Farewell to Ruth Gledhill, Fleet Street’s Last Full-Time Religious Affairs Correspondent.

The National Secular Society reports Big changes for religious reporting.



Speech of Bishop Paul Colton as Guest of Honour at Launch of Cork LGBT Awareness Week 2014

The second of the St Paul’s Cathedral series: What I Want to Say Now: Retired Bishops Speak Out is now available to watch online: The Rt Revd Peter Price. [15 minute video]

Bob Morris at the Constitution Unit Blog asks Is Britain a Christian country and, whatever the case, what then?
[This is also online at Law & Religion UK.]

Madeleine Bunting interviews Rowan Williams for The Tablet about Life after Lambeth.

Ian Jack writes for The Guardian that It’s hard to better traditional hymns when it comes to remembering the dead.


homophobic bullying in church schools: more coverage

Updated Sunday afternoon

See the original article on the publication of the report last Monday here.

The Church Times reported on this twice, first on Monday with Welby launches anti-homophobia schools guide and then in the paper edition on Friday with Church schools urged to stamp out anti-gay bullying.

And there is a leader comment (scroll down to second section)

Beware of bullies

THE new church guidelines about homophobic bullying are to be commended, as much for their existence as their content. After years of clumsy official statements (e.g. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998), it is good to read: “Pupils may justify homophobic bullying because: they think that homosexual people should be bullied because they believe homosexual people are ‘wrong’; they do not think that there is anything wrong in bullying someone because of their sexual orientation; they do not realise that it is bullying. . .” The authors, throughout, seek to separate bullying from the ex­­pression by Christians of a neg­ative view. Bullying is defined tightly: insen­si­tive use of language, direct abuse, and physical harm. But if the definition were widened to in­­clude discrim­inatory be­­haviour, persistent condemnation, and the scape­goating of gay marriage for “under­mining” Christian marriage (unmarried cohabitation, divorce, and serial marriage being a few elephants in this room), surely the Church would find itself in detention. We would not pick out one group of children to hector persist­ently about a sensitive area of life. Why treat adults in this way?

This leader is discussed further by Colin Coward in Church Times nails the challenge to homophobia in the Church.

LGCM welcomed the report with this press release: LGCM warmly welcomes the Cof E guidance to combat homophobic bullying. The last paragraph reads:

This is certainly a step in the right direction but as the document states itself in a quote from a teacher in a CofE school:
‘Whilst welcoming this initiative, the CofE’s own institutional homophobia and the theological/moral confusion behind it is a big problem!’ [report page 26]

John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph Welby tells Church schools to teach respect for gay and lesbian relationships

The Pink News interview is covered in yesterday’s article.

Today, Deborah Orr has written at Cif that The Church of England is homophobic, despite Justin Welby’s trendy-vicar act

…Presumably, he thinks “homophobia” is being personally rude and aggressive to gay people because they are gay, but that asking them to kindly observe the “heterosexuals only” sign is fine, as long as one is polite about it. He is wrong. He and his church discriminate against people because of their sexuality, so the Anglican church is homophobic. Since it’s an established part of the state, the state is homophobic. In part. It’s all a bit of a curate’s egg.

The idea we’re all supposed to accept is that the Church of England is an innocuous purveyor of spiritual pomp and circumstance, unifying state, crown and church with tradition, ceremony, and most importantly, great outfits, accessories and interiors. Otherwise, all the prelates are off helping their communities as well as they can, marking life and death’s big occasions, organising fetes and occasionally mentioning to the government that poverty is miserable. Quite where fighting against the development of a secular morality that seeks to protect the rights of all responsible citizens fits into this is hard to say.

Of course, the Church of England would probably be happy to go with the UK flow, self-preservation having always been its primary concern, were it not for the fact that it wants to preserve its worldwide communion just as much as it wants to preserve its 26 undemocratic places in the House of Lords.

Can it really be right that we have to accept a homophobic established church trying to vote down progressive legislation just because that might upset its really homophobic members overseas? The rest of us have had to come to terms with the fact that the days of empire are over, and also that they might, just might, not have been all they were cracked up to be. Why the Anglican church believes it can and should defy that logic is a mystery that surely can’t endure much longer.


The BBC Sunday programme carried a discussion about the report, featuring The Revd Jan Ainsworth and Bishop Alan Wilson. The item starts at 35 minutes, 45 seconds into the programme. This is worth a listen.


Puppet on a string

Giving isn’t always entirely what it seems. Giving by governments to developing countries is particularly notorious for being linked to the economic benefit that might be accrue to the donor. Whilst the UK government is probably better than many at resisting that siren call, you can still guarantee that every year or two some prominent politician will advocate linking UK aid to the purchase of UK products. At its worst it stretches all the way to pressing upon recipients products such as military equipment that many of us might feel are well off the top of the shopping list of the neediest people in whichever nation it may be. It’s not really giving, it’s just a crafty way to subsidise our own industries and services.

Churches can give like that too. I remember in my early years as a vicar visiting a parish in a very poor neighbourhood. They were getting considerable financial support from a wealthy parish elsewhere. What became clear very quickly was that the price of this generosity was that the recipient parish would be ‘sound’ on a particular set of theological positions. I’m sure the rich parish justified its stance on the basis that it was paying for Christian mission, and if the poorer one took a different stance then the work it did would no longer be advancing the Kingdom. For my part I prefer the phrase ‘bribery and corruption’.

And if we imagine that such failings lie only with institutional giving, then a recent and particularly stark example at the individual level is what happened to one charity earlier this year when its USA arm announced it would not refuse to employ people in same sex marriages. The recipients of the ‘generosity’ clearly mattered less than the theological presuppositions of some of the donors. That’s not giving, it’s just using our money to advance our own ends.

So what I like about Christian Aid Week is that it encourages us to go back to proper giving. Giving without strings. Giving for no other reason than to improve the lives of others. When I put my money in the envelope, or see my Standing Order go from my bank account, I am trusting a charity with a very wide brief, and that encompasses a huge diversity. I’m trusting it to make its own mind up as to where that money may best be spent. It’s not that I don’t care about the people who will benefit, it’s that I care enough to want to distance the choice of recipients from my own preferences and prejudices. I want to be adamant that there is nothing I expect by way of return.

My prayer is that the act of giving to Christian Aid Week can then help me to recognise where, in other areas of my life, I am claiming a false generosity that disguises (perhaps most of all to my own self) my mixed and muddied motives.

David Walker is Bishop of Manchester


Justin Welby's media comments on same-sex marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given several interviews lately touching on the topic of same-sex marriage.

The Pink News interview is here: Exclusive: Archbishop of Canterbury: It’s ‘great’ that equal marriage is the law of the land. Do read the whole report.

And the endorsement by Nick Clegg is in this article: Exclusive: Nick Clegg: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury is right to denounce homophobia’.

Lambeth Palace later issued this: Same-sex marriage: Archbishop’s view remains the same.

Andrew Brown at the Guardian reported on the apparent confusion in Archbishop of Canterbury creates a stir with ‘great’ remark to gay magazine. He notes that:

…But the logic of Welby’s own position is moving him away from the certainties of his youth. The more he denounces homophobia, the more difficult it becomes for him to defend discrimination against gay people within the church. He opened this week with a rousing denunciation of homophobic bullying in church schools, but within days his office was explaining that this was simply because he was opposed to all bullying on any grounds.

Meanwhile, conservatives don’t see anything wrong with homophobia except perhaps the word itself. The churches in Nigeria and Uganda have recently passed laws that criminalise even the advocacy of same-sex relationships. In the case of Uganda, they provide for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”. They cling to a resolution passed by a gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world in 1998 that condemned “unjustified discrimination against homosexuals”, but it is difficult to imagine any discrimination that some of them would not now consider justified…

Earlier this week, the archbishop had appeared on a Radio Nottingham programme. This interview has been transcribed in full by Changing Attitude: Archbishop of Canterbury interviewed by BBC Radio Nottingham and Pink News.

Sarah Julian asked him a series of questions based on Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s marriage to Laurence Cunnington to which his answer, repeated several times with minor variations, was “nothing to say.” What happens if you break the rules, was her stance. What happens to Jeremy now, and other priests like him?

Listening to this interview (audio – in the above link – only available this week) it really is very difficult indeed to understand why the archbishop had ever agreed to appear. What other questions did he expect a local Nottingham station would be likely to ask him?


Same-sex marriage: Baptist statements

Recently, a news report appeared at the website of Premier Christian Radio which was headlined: Baptist Union to allow gay marriage ceremonies.

The Baptist Union objected to this interpretation of its actions, and the report was modified. It is now headlined Steve Chalke welcomes Baptist Union gay guideline change

The original statement by the Baptist Union is available here.

At Assembly 2014 an update of our process was shared and the following was offered on behalf of the Baptist Steering Group to express where we are up to on the journey. This will serve as a backdrop to our continuing conversations and the way we will seek to behave.

As a union of churches in covenant together we will respect the differences on this issue which both enrich us and potentially could divide as we seek to live in fellowship under the direction of our Declaration of Principle ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His Laws.’

Upholding the liberty of a local church to determine its own mind on this matter, in accordance with our Declaration of Principle, we also recognise the freedom of a minister to respond to the wishes of their church, where their conscience permits, without breach of disciplinary guidelines.

We affirm the traditionally accepted Biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, as the continuing foundation of belief in our Baptist Churches.

A Baptist minister is required to live and work within the guidelines adopted by the Baptist Union of Great Britain regarding sexuality and the ministry that include ‘a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) is deemed conduct unbecoming for a minister’.

The whole story is analysed in great detail by Adrian Warnock. See The Baptist Union to allow differences on Same Sex Marriage and Interview on Same Sex Marriage with Baptist Union Spokesman Stephen Keyworth.

Meanwhile, the dispute between the Evangelical Alliance and Oasis Trust has been analysed in similar detail by Cranmer in Steve Chalke and the artful Evangelical Alliance defiance.

A lot of words have been (and are still being) poured out on the ‘schism’ in Evangelicalism following the expulsion of the Oasis Trust from the Evangelical Alliance over Oasis founder Steve Chalke’s stance on same-sex relationships, which the EA deem to be inconsistent with the ‘traditional’ Evangelical view. It seems that Evangelicals are only ‘Better Together’ (their mission slogan) when there is compliance and uniformity on the zeitgeist obsession of homosexuality. The EA do not expel members who support abortion; nor do they sever links with those who marry divorcees or accept pre-marital sexual relations as a forerunner of marriage. They do not even expel a member for repudiation of the foundational Evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which the Rev’d Steve Chalke terms “cosmic child abuse”, as though God casually murdered His Son for the salvation of the world, and penal substitution is barbaric and utterly morally indefensible…


Do not be afraid

The tag-line for this Christian Aid week, and for these Thinking Anglican reflections, is ‘Fear Less’. We are asked to be part of a movement for change by which those who suffer the immediate horrors of war can live their lives free of fear.

It should be a no-brainer. But then I stopped to think about the society to which this campaign is addressed. How ironic that we are offered this tag-line, asked to make this response, in a culture where fear is one of the great drivers.

How much of the concrete structure of our lives is shaped by fear, fear of those around us, our neighbours? We lock our doors, prime our alarm systems, invest more and more in CCTV, create gated communities, and deny each other the right even to walk up the drive to a front door.

For our children, we fear the random disaster, the wandering lunatic. So they are driven to school, discouraged from playing outside, hedged around by risk assessments and protective clothing. We are even encouraged to fear the home itself: the really, really, good parent, the advertisements assure us, will expunge every lurking germ, every speck of dirt or dust to create a sanitised, frictionless world for the young (though not, interestingly, for the old and vulnerable).

We fear the stranger. So our electoral arguments circle around immigration, and we hide ourselves in our phones, our music, our games, so that we don’t have to engage with that other person on the bus or the underground.

Fears infect the life of our churches. How many conversations are driven by the suspicion that they will not survive as congregations grow older and young people find different ways of expressing faith, if they have any interest in faith at all? In response, we turn inwards, putting all our energies into ever more creative ways of preserving buildings and the patterns of life and worship which they have housed and maintaining the organisational structures as nearly as possible as they have always been.

Some of these fears have substance. But each protective measure, each withdrawal from shared space limits our ability to respond to those whose fear is grounded in the realities of the bomb blast, the shattered limbs, the homes destroyed, the long sentence of the refugee camp. Consumed by our own fears, we have little energy left for empathy, let alone solidarity, with those whose lives hold much greater terrors.

‘Do not be afraid’. The phrase recurs so often in the gospel. It doesn’t mean there is no cause for trepidation. It does require us to have the courage to take risks: to take the small risks of allowing others into our private spaces, of engaging with the messy realities of the created world, of pouring our energies into loving service rather than counting heads; and to take the larger risk of trusting that God’s grace and God’s creation has sufficient for all. And if there is enough for all – then there is enough for a world where men and women and children in places of bitter, bloody conflict may fear less.

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

1 Comment