Thinking Anglicans

Martyn Percy’s departure from Christ Church

Updated again Thursday 19 May

Rosie Dawson reports for Religion Media Centre on the farewell service: Dean Percy’s parting shot: You think I am leaving in disgrace … I am not

Rosie Dawson attended Martyn Percy’s farewell service in Oxford on Saturday. In an interview conducted shortly beforehand he told her why he’s calling on congregations to withhold their giving from the Church of England, and why he’s not leaving quietly….

…Christ Church College, Oxford, where Martyn Percy had been the dean for eight years, refused to host any sort of farewell. The University Church of St Mary was proposed as an alternative venue but became unavailable once it became clear that the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, and the dean, who is also professor of theological education at King’s College London, could not agree on the content of the service.

In the end it took place in the 19th-century chapel of Exeter College just off Broad Street. The chapel is outside the jurisdiction of the bishop, and he did not attend…

…Following the settlement with Christ Church, the Bishop and Martyn Percy entered into discussions about what form a leaving service should take. In correspondence seen by the Religion Media Centre, Bishop Croft wrote that he was unable to allow him to preach. Dean Percy protested: “Your letter treats me with cruel indifference. It seems to me that you do not really want this service. You clearly think I am leaving in disgrace … I am not.”

The Diocese of Oxford said in a statement: “Mindful of Dr Percy’s stated intention to the bishop to leave the Church of England and also some concerns about Dr Percy’s behaviour behind the scenes, it was not possible to permit Dr Percy to preach at a leaving service organised by the diocese”.

There is a video of the sermon available here. And the text is published over here.

Update 1

The Church Times reports: Diocese of Oxford praises ‘hair-stroking’ complainant for going public. Much of this information was in a Telegraph article at the weekend, behind a paywall. But in addition:

…A statement by the diocese of Oxford, issued on Saturday, criticises Professor Percy and praises Ms Jeune: “We are deeply saddened by the inaccurate and unevidenced claims Dr Percy makes in his media interviews.

“We’ve long said that the actions of some of Dr Percy’s supporters have left people damaged and hurt. None more so than Alannah Jeune. It’s a courageous decision to tell her story given all that she has experienced, but hers is a powerful account that counters the vitriol sent her way. Her story deserves to be widely read.”

(I have checked with the diocese and that is the full text.)

Update 2

There is an audio recording of the entire service available here.


The View from Salisbury

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, preached at the diocesan Maundy Thursday Chrism Mass.

The press release about this: A Maundy Message in the World’s Eye

The full text of his sermon is available here.

Another quote from the sermon:

…As a parish priest I always used to find that people with the most intractable problems would appear after the Sunday evening service when nowhere was open and there was no-one to whom I could refer them. For bishops the equivalent is receiving a letter late on Friday afternoon from the Archbishops about the Church of England and the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which they wanted read out or distributed at the start of Holy Week.

Please will you pray this Holy Week especially for all those involved, and for all affected by safeguarding issues.

Thank you for responding so promptly.

Janet Fife wrote a sharp but insightful Survivor’s reply to the Archbishops which is online.

I thought you might want to know,

she wrote,

how I, as a survivor, feel about your letter. And I know you’ll pay careful attention, because you’ve said you want to listen to survivors.

Since Archbishop Justin has called for an end to clericalism and deference, I’m going to call you Justin and John.

If you’re going to address us all as ‘Sisters and Brothers in Christ’, don’t finish with ‘The Most Revd and Rt Hon’. It’s just not brotherly. It looks like showing off. It certainly doesn’t look like the shame Justin said he felt.

If you want to send out something called a pastoral letter, make it pastoral…What practical steps have you taken to help survivors, for instance?

And so on.

It’s a good letter and a tough one and it’s received quite a lot of comment. She got me thinking about what we would be doing today gathered together and all dressed up at the start of the great three days that lead to Easter through betrayal, denial and the disciples running for it…

At the weekend, the Revd Canon Prof James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury, wrote this article: Salisbury Under Siege – What Does it Mean to be an Easter People?. An excerpt:

… In the gospel accounts of the resurrection, there is both fear and joy. Following Jesus is not a protection from the difficulties and challenges that face us in life. Being an Easter people does not mean that any of us will not require handkerchief to mop up our tears. All of us will know deep in our hearts what our lives, our world is like, and how much of a struggle it is. As human beings we have to deal with our fears and the reality of how little control we are able to exercise over circumstances and experiences.

It is into this condition of who we are and where we are that God can touch us with Easter life and hope. Easter peace is not the obliteration of our past or present, but the re-drawing of our lives into a new way of seeing. Faith can give us the opportunity for direction, redirection, meaning and depth.

As we live with complexity and uncertainty in Salisbury we have an opportunity to take this opportunity to work together in live for what is good. However partial limited our faith may be that always lies the possibility of transformation. We can be confident but we must safeguard against a triumphalism which does not listen carefully to human experience and its sensitivities. We can nurture faith that embraces doubt and in doing so can grows through openness and honesty.

Remember Salisbury in your prayers. Consider the longer view, the enduring truth that goodness is always stronger than evil. Love will conquer. Justice will prevail.

That will mean a change for us. It will also require a much stronger sense of the relational and our readiness to move on and beyond our internal dialogues and contestations to listen more carefully to human experience. We need space and time to share our story…


What I Want to Say Now: Bishop John Gladwin


St Paul’s Cathedral has organised a series of Sunday afternoon sermons at Evensong in May with the general title What I want to Say Now.

During May four retired bishops have been invited to preach at Sunday Choral Evensong under the theme of What I want to say now.

No longer in public office but still part of a world and church undergoing huge challenges and changes, we look forward to hearing the distilled wisdom they believe it is urgent to share at this moment.

The four bishops are:

Sunday 4 May The Right Reverend John Gladwin – Bishop of Chelmsford, 2004-2009
Sunday 11 May The Right Reverend Peter Price – Bishop of Bath and Wells, 2001-2013
Sunday 18 May The Right Reverend Tom Butler – Bishop of Southwark, 1998-2010
Sunday 25 May The Right Reverend Christopher Herbert – Bishop of St Albans, 1996-2009

A video recording of the first of the four, by John Gladwin, is now available, linked from this page. To go directly to the video follow this link.

A full transcript of this lecture is now available here.


Christmas sermons

Archbishop of Canterbury

Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Archbishop of Dublin

Bishop of Bradford
Bishop of Chelmsford
Bishop of Ely
Bishop of Gloucester
Bishop of Lincoln
Bishop of Norwich
Bishop of Oxford
Bishop of Norwich
Bishop of Sheffield

Bishop of Down and Dromore

Jeremy Fletcher, Vicar of Beverley
John Hall, Dean of Westminster
Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of Glasgow


Consecration of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Tewkesbury

The Lambeth Palace website reports on the consecration of two suffragan bishops yesterday. See Archbishop ordains and consecrates Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Tewkesbury.

Somewhat unusually, the article contains both a transcript, and links to an audio recording, of the sermon, which was delivered by Lord Williams of Oystermouth.


David Hope sermon

David Hope, the former Archbishop of York preached at yesterday’s consecration of Glyn Webster as the Bishop of Beverley. The full text of his sermon is online here.

Minster FM has a report of the sermon – Former Archbishop of York Attacks Church Bureaucracy – but there is much more in the sermon than that so do read the full text.

There are photographs of the consecration here, although they are muddled up with ones of the announcement of the appointment last August.


Archbishop's sermon from St Paul's Cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon at the National Service of Thanksgiving held in St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen (and copied in full below the fold).

In it the Archbishop paid tribute to the selfless dedication of Her Majesty who, he said, ‘has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others’ throughout her reign.

‘Dedication’ is a word that has come to mean rather less than it used to. Those of us who belong to the same generation as Her Majesty’s older children will recall a sixties song about a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ – as though to be ‘dedicated’ just meant to be very enthusiastic. But in the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be ‘dedicated’ is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

And so to be dedicated to the good of a community – in this case both a national and an international community – is to say, ‘I have no goals that are not the goals of this community; I have no well-being, no happiness, that is not the well-being of the community. What will make me content or happy is what makes for the good of this particular part of the human family.’



Easter Sermons and Messages

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

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

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

We will add more when we find them.


Christmas Sermons

Today’s Church Times has reports of several Christmas Day sermons: ‘Atomised’ Britain is urged to seek God’s forgiveness.

The full texts of some are available online.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Wales
Bishop of Salisbury
Bishop of St Albans
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Archbishop of Westminster, also available here
Archbishop of Dublin
Archbishop of Sydney
Archbishop of Perth
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow

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Archbishop – Cross is a challenge to the world

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral this morning. You can read the text of his sermon here, and below is the accompanying press release.

Press release from Lambeth Palace
Sunday 4th April 2010
Archbishop – Cross is a challenge to the world

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has used his Easter sermon to urge Christians to keep a proper sense of proportion when they feel they are experiencing opposition to their faith and remember both the physical suffering of Christian minorities in other countries and call to mind what exactly the Cross stands for in their faith.

In his Easter sermon delivered at Canterbury Cathedral he says that ‘bureaucratic silliness’ over displaying religious symbols should not be mistaken for physical persecution:

‘It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice.”

“Remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in Iraq, the Christian communities of southern Sudan … the Christian minorities in the Holy Land … or our own Anglican friends in Zimbabwe; … we need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support.”

He says that the climate of intellectual opposition to Christianity – what he called ‘the strange mixture of contempt and fear towards the Christian faith’, regarding it as both irrelevant and a threat – is largely unjustified:

“… on many of the major moral questions of the day, the Christian Church still speaks for a substantial percentage of the country – not to mention speaking with the same concerns as people of other faiths. On burning questions like the rightness of assisted suicide, it is far from the case that the Christian view is only that of a tiny religious minority; and the debate is still very much alive.”

He challenges intellectual critics of religion and Christianity to come and see the difference that Christians are making in their communities

“… at local level, the Church’s continuing contribution to tackling the human problems no-one else is prepared to take on is one of the great untold stories of our time. I think of the work of a parish I visited in Cleethorpes a few weeks ago and the work they sponsor and organize with teenagers excluded from school in an area of high deprivation. I should be more impressed with secularist assaults if there were more sign of grass roots volunteer work of this intensity done by non-religious or anti-religious groups.”

“There are things to be properly afraid of in religious history, Christian and non-Christian; there are contemporary religious philosophies of the Taleban variety which we rightly want to resist as firmly as we can. But we do need to say to some of our critics that a visit to projects like the one I have mentioned ought to make it plain enough that the last thing in view is some kind of religious tyranny. And if any of the Church’s vocal critics would care to accompany me on such a visit, I should be delighted to oblige.”

But he says the Cross is an object that ought to be feared as well as respected because what it stands for is nothing less than the uncomfortable reality about ourselves and the world we live in:

… we must acknowledge our own share in what the cross is and represents; we must learn to see ourselves as caught up in a world where the innocent are scapegoated and killed and where we are all unwilling, to a greater or lesser degree, to face unwelcome truths about ourselves. We must learn to see that we cannot by our own wisdom and strength cut ourselves loose from the tangle of injustice, resentment, fear and prejudice that traps the human family in conflict and misery.”

And the hope that it represents is no less challenging, he says;
“If you want it to be invisible because it’s too upsetting to people’s security, I can well understand that; but let’s have it out in the open. Is the God we see in the cross, the God who lives through and beyond terrible dereliction and death and still promises mercy, renewal, life – is that God too much of a menace to be mentioned or shown in the public life and the human interactions of society?”


Christmas sermons

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral.

It is … a new creation … [that] can be brought into being only in ‘flesh’: not by material force, not by brilliant negotiation but by making real in human affairs the depth of divine life and love; by showing ‘glory’ — the intensity and radiance of unqualified joy, eternal self-giving. Only in the heart of the ordinary vulnerability of human life can this be shown in such a way, so that we are saved from the terrible temptation of confusing it with earthly power and success.

Read the full sermon here.

The Archbishop of York referred to the economic situation in his sermon.

If I enrich myself at my poor neighbour’s expense, when they are in financial straits, I certainly have the wrong attitude on the matter. True charity repudiates the idea of personal gain as a result of lending money to make ruthless gain- usury – bringing about permanent disappropriation and enslavement. Clearly the way to come closer to God is to be generous and honest towards our fellow human beings.

Extracts from his sermon can be read here

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Canterbury and Lourdes

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been participating in anniversary celebrations at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, at the invitation of the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Monsignor Jacques Perrier. He preached this sermon at the International Mass there yesterday.

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Archbishop offers praise for St Bernadette – and Marx
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Dr Rowan Williams becomes first Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Lourdes


Rowan Williams: Christmas Sermon

The full text of the sermon preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his cathedral on Christmas Day can be found here.



Perspective is the title of a sermon delivered last Sunday at Evensong in St Albans Cathedral by the Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade, formerly Rector of St Alban’s Parish, Washington, DC.

Psalm 73:21-end
Job 13.13-14.6
Hebrews 2.5-end

The full text is below the fold.


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Rowan Williams: Christmas sermon

Rowan Williams preached this morning in Canterbury Cathedral.

Press Association Archbishop Attacks Rich Nations’ ‘Indifference’
BBC Archbishop asks rich to help poor
Reuters Archbishop challenges West on poverty
ABC News Online Anglican head claims nations ignoring global poverty

Update: Sunday papers
Sunday Times Church leaders use sermons to attack government over war
Observer Fight poverty not wars, says Williams
Independent Churches condemn terror spend

The full sermon will no doubt appear on his own website in due course. Update now available here
Meanwhile it is available on ACNS, and also here on TA, below the fold.

The reference in the sermon to ‘fire in the equations’ is to this book: The Fire in the Equations: Science, religion and the search for God by Kitty Ferguson



The Reformation Continued

University Sermon 2nd May 2004 preached by Revd Dr Giles Fraser
University Church, Oxford

In the years leading up to 1519, Martin Luther experienced what might be described as both mental breakdown and theological breakthrough:

“I did not love God” he said “I hated the just God” and was indignant towards Him, if not in wicked revolt, at least in silent blasphemy.”

Martin Luther’s admission that he had come to hate the God in whom he believed sparked a theological revolution that was to transform the political geography of Europe. What was it that he hated? For Luther, service to a God who demanded human beings earn His love had become service to a heartless despot, impossible to please. Consequently, the confessional had become a private hell of never being good enough, of never earning enough merit to satisfy the unattainable demands required for salvation. This was the shadow-side of the Pelagian’s breezy moral optimism. Luther’s deep sense of the extent of human inadequacy made him appreciate that a God who dealt with human beings strictly on the basis of merit, strictly on the basis of what they deserved, was always going to be a God of punishment. Rowan Williams writes: “this experience was an experience of hell, a condition of moral and spiritual hopelessness. The God who presides over this appalling world is a God who asks the impossible and punishes savagely if it is not realised”. In the years leading up to 1519, Luther came to see his former understanding of Christianity as inherently abusive, and the psychology of the confessional as a destructive cycle whereby the abused child constantly returns to the abusive heavenly father for comfort.

In exposing this cycle of abuse Luther blew apart the theological establishment. Parallels with arguments that are now transforming the political geography of Anglicanism are remarkable. For the debate about homosexuality is a great deal more than a debate about sex. It’s a debate about the nature of God’s love for human beings that has much in common with debates that drove the Reformation. For the message the Church has given to gay Christians is the message Luther came to see as inherently abusive: God does not love you as you are – you need to be completely and fundamentally – and perhaps even impossibly – different before He will love you.

Consider the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster’s advice to gay Christians that they should find a way of being cured of their homosexuality. Having investigated allegations, the Crown Prosecution Service decided his comments did not amount to a prosecutable offensive – the Public Order Act of 1986 only applies to the incitement to racial hatred. Nonetheless, his remarks deserve the deepest theological censure. For gay Christians who have tried to become acceptable to God by subjecting themselves to electric shock therapy, or by being bombarded with pornography – thus to “cure” themselves of homosexuality – have been forced into precisely the sort of private hell Luther experienced in the confessional. The Bishop of Chester’s theology serves only to describe a cruel and abusive God who cares little for the emotional or spiritual welfare of His children.



Rowan Williams' Easter Sermon

The text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Sermon is below.

Canterbury Cathedral 11 April 2004

A good few years ago, I heard a distinguished American scholar of ancient history commenting on the proclamation of the resurrection as it would have been heard in the classical world. ‘If an educated Greek or Roman had been told that someone had been raised from the dead’, he said, ‘his first question would have been “How do you get him back into his grave again?”’. The point was that most of those who first heard the Easter gospel would have found it grotesque or even frightening. Resurrection was not a joyful sign of hope but an alarming oddity, something potentially very dangerous. The dead, if they survived at all, lived in their own world – a shadowy place, where they were condemned to a sort of half-life of yearning and sadness. So Vergil at least represents it in his great epic, unforgettably portraying the dead as ‘stretching out their hands in longing for the other side of the river’. But for them to return would have been terrifying and unnatural; the boundaries between worlds had to be preserved and protected.


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Inclusive Church: sermon

Here is the sermon preached at St Matthew’s Westminster on 10 February 2004. The occasion was the service arranged by on the night before the General Synod debate on Some Issues in Human Sexuality.

The preacher was The Reverend Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford.

Text continues below…



Ndungane sermon

The Primate of Southern Africa, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane preached a sermon at the annual convention (synod) in Washington DC of the Diocese of Washington last weekend. The full text of this sermon is available here. An extract follows.

As was clear from our epistle reading, the rich abundance of God’s love finds expression in creative diversity. We are each formed unique, with different gifts. In this way we complement one another as we contribute to the life of the Church, the one body of Christ and to God’s mission in the world.
Created diversity should not surprise us. We are created in the image of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons, each distinct, yet united in communion with one another and united in purpose. This is God’s pattern for God’s people. ‘The body is one unit, though it is made of many parts.’ (1 Cor 12:12)
Recognizing that God creates us for unity in diversity has important consequences for how we construe difference, especially within the body of Christ. We should expect it, and see it as a generous gift from the overflowing love of God. This creative complementarity is at the heart of the life of the Godhead and at the heart of the life of the Church. It gives immeasurable godly potential to the partnership we have between Washington Diocese and the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. The same is true at every level: within congregations, in Diocese and Provinces, across the whole Anglican Communion, and in all our ecumenical relations.
These are fine words, but I am not so spiritually minded that I fail to see that they are a tough challenge to us – especially in the life of the Anglican Communion today.


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Sermon from Putney

Thinking Anglicans has received the sermon that Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark preached at St Mary’s Putney on Monday, 11 August at the service which launched


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