Monday, 19 July 2010

White Christian Britons being unfairly targeted for hate crimes by CPS, Civitas claims

White Christian Britons are being unfairly targeted compared with minority groups for committing hate crimes, a new report says.

The study from think-tank Civitas argues that new hate crime legislation is restricting freedom of speech, and has effectively introduced a new blasphemy law into Britain by the back door.

A foreword attached to the main report, “A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today”, argues that prosecutors and police are unfairly singling out alleged crimes by white Christians, while ignoring other similar offences by minority groups. Read more

Friday, 16 July 2010

Homophobia rife in public life says ex-BP chief

Ed: The question after all this time must be "Why?"

The former chief executive of BP today claimed that homophobia is still rife within public life.

Lord Browne of Madingley said prominent gay men and lesbians feel continued pressure to hide their sexuality to succeed.

He stepped down from his role with the oil giant after failing to win an injunction prevent the publication of details of a gay relationship.

His comments come after the resignation of David Laws - the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Mr Laws was the first high-profile resignation from the coalition Government after allegations surfaced concerning expenses claimed for his male partner. Read more

Is Reform Judaism doomed?

Ed: It's not just us, then.

[...] in the UK, a new survey of Synagogue membership shows the Reform and Liberal movements (30 percent) holding steady and, while the strictly Orthodox have doubled in number (to 11 percent) from a low base in the last 20 years, “central Orthodoxy” (the comfy, old-fashioned form of worship and observance favoured by our immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents) is in decline (55 per cent).

Indeed, this September a new state-of-the-art cross-communal Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) opens in north London, proving that dynamism is not exclusively the preserve of an emboldened Orthodoxy.

The truth is that predicting the Jewish future is an unpredictable pastime. For example, who could have envisioned in 1925 that in two decades there would be a hardly a Jew left in Poland, or that 50 years later the Jews would have built a nuclear-armed, regional super-power state of their own?

Orthodox hubris should be tempered by the knowledge that all those who gathered at the “temple” in Seesen two centuries ago to forge a new Judaism had come from and rejected the rigidity of Orthodoxy, as did the millions who in the 20th century helped build Reform Judaism into a powerhouse.

Can the Orthodox be so sure that another Jewish alternative may not, in decades to come, emerge from a fresh schism within their own ranks? Read more

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Statement from the Chairman of Forward in Faith

Like you, I was very disappointed at the outcome of last weekend’s debate at General Synod in York and appalled at the intransigence of some feminist clergy and their supporters. What kind of a church is it that is willing to ignore the leadership of its Archbishops and to renege on a solemn promise given to Parliament about an honoured and permanent place for us?

We now face a most serious situation, made all the worse by the refusal of the Synod to pass the Archbishops’ amendment. Resolutions A & B – which provide the basis in law on which the ordination of women can be opposed – are to be removed. This means that any opposition which might be tolerated will be based on the recognition of supposed prejudice rather than the respect of theological principle. Further, the abolition of the PEVs is proposed, which will leave our constituency in an intolerable position. All we would be allowed under the draft Measure as it now stands is access to a male bishop, whose own beliefs need not coincide with ours. That is sexism writ large.

Despite the dreadful result in York, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Catholic Group in General Synod, along with all those who supported them in the debate. In the coming weeks, a new Synod is to be elected and it is vital we all do all we can to ensure the return of as many orthodox candidates as possible, in order that a Catholic presence on the Synod can be there to continue to represent the interests of Catholic Anglicans throughout this divisive and unnecessary process.

That these are very difficult times for all of us goes without saying; we need, above all, to take time to pray, to consult together and to support one another, as we try to discern our respective ways forward – not just in faith, but also of course in hope and in love.

Every blessing,

+John Fulham

Fulcrum Press Statement: Women Bishops and the Church of England

The Bible supports ending restrictions on the ministry of women by making women bishops and the mission challenges of our times require it. It is vital that the General Synod debate later this month does not produce a stalemate. We need to move forward now toward women bishops in the life of the Church of England and we need them serving from 2014 and not 2018 or 2025.

We recognise that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are loyal Anglicans. Those who oppose this development need a space and a future in the Church of England. We believe this would be best served by appending a Code of Pastoral Practice to the Measure, not permanent legislation.

We believe the new legislation must not be framed to create what might be deemed to be a second class of bishops based on gender or a “Church within a Church”.

For these reasons we believe the legislation as proposed by the Revision Committee provides the best framework for a practical way forward.

Comment on the relationship between the work of the Revision Committee and the alternatives suggested by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is posted on the Fulcrum Website.

Opponents of women bishops are part of the church too

The news from Synod is that the Church of England may begin to consecrate women bishops in the next few years, with little provision for those who feel less comfortable with the idea. While this can be portrayed as a victory for equality, the position of traditionalists is simply that the draft measure (pdf) as it stands doesn't provide for a secure future for us in the Church of England, a future that was promised in 1993 but now appears to have been rescinded.

Our problem with women bishops is not to do with equality, but theology. In the case of conservative evangelicals, we believe that the Bible recommends a particular order in the church which allows us to bear witness to the wider world about something that is true of God.

The Bible insists on the absolute equality of men and women, but gives them different functions in the church, so that men can show leadership through self-sacrifice and thus reveal the character of God, and women can demonstrate Christian discipleship to the wider church, thus helping us all follow Christ better. Read more

Christian foster carer wins legal case against Council

A foster carer with 10 years’ experience has won her legal battle this week after she was struck off when a Muslim girl in her care converted to Christianity.

The woman had been banned from fostering by Gateshead Council in November 2008 for failing to prevent the teenager from getting baptised.

The girl was aged 16 at the time and had made up her own mind to change religion.

Gateshead’s decision to deregister the foster carer has now been quashed by the High Court after the council admitted it had acted unlawfully. Read more

Statement from Inclusive Church on women bishops legislation

(Ed: NB the use of the word 'Another' in the headline - this is not the last 'milestone', as can be seen from the list of supporting organizations at the bottom, at least a third of which are promoting LGBT Inclusion.)

Another milestone passed

Inclusive Church gives thanks that General Synod agreed the draft legislation for the consecration of women as bishops by an overwhelming majority. The process in Synod over the weekend was thoughtful, respectful and gracious.

“Another milestone has been passed” said Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of Inclusive Church. “The Church of England is gradually reaching the point when all are able to live out their vocation as bishops, clergy or laity. As a church we can now move forward after forty years of discussion.”

“This is good news for the whole church and we are delighted,” said the Rev’d Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH and a member of IC’s Executive Committee. “Synod’s decision gives the church a powerful mandate to move forward enthusiastically; welcoming the ministry of women at all levels whilst making space for those who are opposed to stay within our body.”

The legislation will now be discussed in Dioceses before its final return to Synod in about 18 months time. The provision for those opposed represents a compromise for all sides. We hope that over the coming months and as the Code of Practice is agreed, many of those who have questioned the provision will find that it does in fact meet their needs.

We were alarmed however that the adversarial nature of the debate means that there seems to be very little trust between the two sides on this issue. There are strong partnerships on both sides, but there’s an urgent need to build friendship across boundaries. Inclusive Church is committed to trying to make this happen.

We hope that in the coming months the various groups and organisations involved can meet and talk, so that we can develop bonds of love in what is likely to continue to be a difficult process. Our prayer is that when final approval comes, it can be something the Church of England welcomes unequivocally.


Inclusive Church is a network of organisations and individuals who come from differing traditions and locations but are united in one aim; to celebrate and maintain the traditional inclusivity of the Anglican Communion.

Our Partner Organisations are

* Accepting Evangelicals
* Affirming Catholicism
* Association of Black Clergy
* Changing Attitude
* Clergy Consultation
* Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Christians
* Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod
* Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) Anglican Matters
* Modern Churchpeople’s Union
* Society of Catholic Priests SCM
* Sibyls
* Women and the Church (WATCH)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Synod vote pushes Anglo-Catholics towards Ordinariate

The largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England is expecting an exodus of thousands of Anglicans to Catholicism after a decision to ordain women as bishops without sufficient concessions to traditionalists.

Stephen Parkinson, director of Forward in Faith – a group that has about 10,000 members, including more than 1,000 clergy – said that a large number of Anglo-Catholics are considering conversion to the Catholic faith.

His comments came after the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, voted at a meeting in York to approve the creation of women bishops by 2014 without meeting the demands of objectors.

A statement from Forward in Faith advised members against hasty action, saying now was “not the time for precipitate action”.

“This draft measure does nothing for us at all,” said Mr Parkinson. “We explained very carefully why we could not accept women bishops theologically.

“We explained what would enable us to stay in the Church of England, but the General Synod has decided to get rid of us by giving us a provision that does not meet our needs,” he said. “They are saying either put up or shut up and accept innovations, however unscriptural or heretical, or get out.” Read more

A Christian woman reflects on 'Twighlight' the movie

[...] In the real world, the Bellas who fall for the Edwards usually don’t live happily ever after. In the real world, twilight turns to night. In the real world, far too many parents watch the light in their precious Bellas grow dim, and slowly be engulfed by darkness.

I am perplexed by Christians who uphold Twilight as a desirable model for dating or relationships. I don’t understand why believing mothers fail to discern the good from the bad, and fail to discuss the deception in the Twilight message with their daughters. Bella had an absentee mother. And sadly, that's the case with many young women today.

Yes, I know, it’s just a movie. But it’s not an innocuous message. It contains an oh-so-subtle temptation for our daughters to throw caution to the wind and give their hearts away to bad boys--to think that good and bad are relative and don't really matter--to take the Twilight apple in hand, become enamored with the deceptive promise it holds, and to carelessly indulge. Read more

Bishop of Niagara: "To God it is all love"

[...] At the heart of our exciting vision for the Diocese of Niagara is a call for prophetic social justice making, a continuous culture of innovation and a strong desire to engage with the people of this generation and walk with them in their search for God and their desire to change the world.

As Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stated: “God just wants us to love each other.” Many, however, say that some kinds of love are better than others. But whether a man loves a woman or another man, or a woman loves a man or another woman, to God it is all love, and God smiles whenever we recognize our need for one another.

Read more

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Couples allowed to marry in any church

[...] The Ven Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich, said the Church should be more welcoming to couples getting married and compete with other wedding venues.

She said she had seen "queues" of people at wedding shows hoping to get married in hotels.

"If we say `no' for whatever reason, we turn people away, we have lost them because they have 101 other places to go,” she added.

"On the other hand if we welcome them, and their family and friends, and they have magnificent day then who knows where it will lead.”

Some of the churches likely to be in demand include St Mary's in the gardens of Sudeley Castle, where Liz Hurley and Arun Nayar married, or St Mary the Virgin in Turville, Buckinghamshire, the setting for The Vicar of Dibley.

There has been a sharp fall in the number of people opting for a church ceremony over the last decade.

Since 1994, the number of civil weddings in "approved premises" has risen to more than 50,000 a year, while Church of England marriages have dropped by 40 per cent over 10 years to about 55,000. Read more

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet's Pastoral Letter - August 2010

[...] Traditionalists have been beaten four-square. When (though, strictly, it is still 'If') the Measure comes into force, there will be no more Resolution A and B, no more 'petitioning parishes'. There will be no more 'flying bishops', no more Beverley, Ebbsfleet, and Richborough. There will be again the assurance of good behaviour: no one will be over-faced by women priests and bishops ministering where they are not wanted. But there will be no guarantees (and, increasingly, no likelihood) that male bishops and priests ministering to us will share those convictions, or derive their orders from an unbroken apostolic succession of bishops in the Catholic line. Avoiding women ministers will become not a conviction about Catholic Order, shared throughout the ages, but a matter of sexual discrimination, abhorrent to all of us. In a very short time, it will have become unacceptable to invoke a sexist Code of Practice.

It is important for us all to understand how momentous all this is and what the implications are for our life together. I was never very hopeful of the Archbishops' amendment, though it was good that it was debated. It would not have brought a clear and certain place for the Catholic understanding of Faith and Order. But it would have allowed a new generation of Provincial Episcopal Visitors - flying bishops - to try to work out, with the Archbishops, some sort of corporate life for our priests, people, and parishes. It is fair to say that both Archbishops wanted that. Moreover 60% of the bishops in Synod (though not two thirds) were prepared, more or less enthusiastically, to support the Archbishops and accept their spiritual lead.

Come the final judgment when, as the Prayer Book says in the Marriage Service, 'the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed', some will have to account for the broken promises of the early 1990s. Traditionalists were then assured of a permanent and honoured place. Great store was set by the doctrine of reception (whereby no change in Holy Order would finally thought to be 'received' until it was accepted by the ancient churches of East and West). It was on the basis of these promises - both now very hollow - that Provincial Episcopal Visitors were appointed, ordinands and their families exchanged comfortable life styles for theological college, curacies, and what promised to be a lifetime of ministry, and parishes set to work energetically with the task of evangelism and catechesis. However honourably these promises were made, there were liberal pressure groups intent on destroying them. These liberal pressure groups are not full of bad people: the women and men concerned were always exasperated that the Church made such high-sounding, but undeliverable, promises. In their view -the view that has prevailed - we all simply needed to get used to the new 'inclusive' way of doing things. In their view, twenty years is quite long enough for that to have happened. But there have been broken promises indeed and some supporters of the women bishops' project recognise that and seek forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. Read more

Why it is a mistaken policy for Rome to offer Anglicans converting en bloc a church within the Church

How can people who would have been content to remain within the church of Cranmer, or of Cosmo Lang, if it were still available to them, be described as Roman Catholics? Why does it take escalating extravagances perpetrated by successive General Synods to drive them into the papal flock? That is not the spirit in which John Henry Newman unconditionally converted. In more than the geographical sense, the road to Rome requires the crossing of the Rubicon.

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, providing for the Anglican Ordinariate, speaks of “formation in Anglican patrimony”, employs the term “presbyter” rather than “sacerdos” and provides for “the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis”. Some might see that as a Trojan horse. The claim, of course, is that this development represents simply the creation of another Uniate rite; but the analogy is inaccurate.

The most troubling section of the document is Article III: “Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”

What on earth is that all about? If the Anglican liturgy is “a precious gift nourishing the faith”, why did the restored Catholic Church burn its author Cranmer as an apostate and heretic? The pastoral consequences of this concession could be counter-productive. Converts notoriously have difficulty assimilating themselves entirely to the Catholic faith; by encouraging them to maintain many of their old practices as members of a church within the Church, that break with past error will be made more problematic. If some adaptation of the Anglican liturgy is envisaged, to formulate a valid Mass, that, along with the old and new translations of the Novus Ordo, will mean three English versions coexisting. Read more

YMCA rebrands itself as simply 'the Y'

The organisation which was founded 166 years ago in Britain as the Young Man's Christian Association, has decided that it is time for a change and has moved to officially adopt a nickname that has been used for decades. The logo has also been altered to do away with the MCA letters.

"It's a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you," said Kate Coleman, the organisation's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told the New York Times.

The new name is part of a campaign to publicise the Y's youth programs.

"We're trying to simplify how we tell the story of what we do, and the name represents that," said Neil Nicoll, president and chief executive of the organisation, told the paper. Read more

Monday, 12 July 2010

'Desperately difficult' to keep Church together over women bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury admitted today that it will be “desperately difficult” to keep the Church of England unified in light of its schismatic vote on women bishops.

In a heartfelt appeal for unity after a particularly fraught week, Dr Rowan Williams called on Anglicans to push ahead with the consecration of women bishops despite the fact that a minority of traditionalists, conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have threatened to leave the church over the issue.

The beleaguered church leader suffered an ignominious defeat on Saturday evening when the general synod – the church's legislative assembly – rejected his personal appeal for a series of safeguards that would have provided a separate class of male-only bishops to administer to those who remain vehemently opposed to female leadership in the church. Read more

Schism might be a better option

Some might argue that the vote this weekend was so narrowly lost that the acceptance of women bishops will be only a matter of time. Yet the truth is that women will be accepted as bishops only if their authority is restricted – which will resolve nothing. And as long as the controversy remains open, the church will be weakened and the authority of its leaders will be compromised as they try to bridge what cannot be bridged.

At root, women's role in the church is a doctrinal issue, and the disagreement is no less principled than other causes of schisms have been in the past. The Archbishops should make common cause with the liberals and regretfully go their own way, in the interests of a more modern, and stronger, Church of England. Read more

Bishop of Montreal approves same-sex blessing liturgy

Bishop Barry Clarke is pressing ahead with a liturgy to bless same-sex unions in spite of the fact that General Synod in Halifax made no decision on the local option for or against. This rather confirms my suspicion that Synod’s indecision will be seen as a green light by dioceses that wish to proceed with same-sex blessings: in effect, the decision has been delegated down in an attempt to circumvent disagreeable sanctions from Canterbury. Read more

Embattled Archbishop urges synod to behave like children of Christ

[...] It is a serious blow for both Archbishops, especially Dr Williams. David Cameron has been given a briefing paper on what to do in the event that Dr Williams resigns but Dr Williams made clear before the debate that he did not regard the vote as a test of his authority.

Parliament was also likely to throw out any Church decision on women bishops that made them "second class".

Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP and the new Second Church Estates Commissioner, who represents the Church of England in Parliament, warned the General Synod that the "equality agenda" has strong support across Parliament.

He said that the difficult task he will face of steering legislation through Parliament with provision for traditionalists who oppose women bishops could become impossible if there was "any scintilla of suggestion that women bishops were in some way to be second-class bishops". Read more

Traditionalists "not giving up" in women bishops row

The Church of England's ruling synod is due to return to the women bishops debate, with little chance of major concessions to traditionalists.

Little remains to limit the power of women bishops in the legislation under consideration on Monday.

But objectors say they have not given up trying to gain exemptions from serving under women bishops.

Proposals to create a class of male-only bishops to oversee traditionalist parishes were rejected on Saturday. Read more

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Late-blooming lesbians: women can switch sexualities as they mature

Women are embracing lesbianism in their thirties, according to research indicating that shifts in sexual orientation may be more widespread than previously thought.

While “late-blooming lesbians” are not uncommon in history – the married writer Virginia Woolf had an affair with the poet Vita Sackville-West – the phenomenon of mature women switching sexualities is now attracting academic scrutiny.

One study even indicates that as many as two-thirds of women who feel lesbian attractions may have changed their sexual orientation over time.

The findings appear to pose a challenge to the scientific consensus that a person's sexuality is determined more by their genes than environment.

Christan Moran, a researcher at Southern Connecticut State University in the US, said that many women who develop lesbian feelings in later life refuse to “come out” for fear of society’s reaction.

Women in long-term heterosexual relationships, especially those with children, face even greater problems reconciling themselves to their new identities, she said.

Following interviews with more than 200 married lesbians, Moran concluded that there is “great potential for heterosexual women to experience a first same-sex attraction well into adulthood.” Read more

The C of E will die if it shuts out gays and women

[...] I want a church that reconnects with our population and offers support to the needy. A church that's open to all. A church that cares for the elderly and blesses all unions, including same-sex civil partnerships. I don't want a church that's run like a private members' club, with special rules and regulations and exclusions.

I suspect that middle England would agree with me. Last week, the Daily Mail printed a letter from a female reader who said, "I would rather have a good woman priest than a mediocre male one. God said we're all equal in His eyes." I'm sure that point of view is echoed throughout the land. Not, however, in the upper echelons of the Anglican church, where women, gays and lesbians are still thought (in some quarters) to be not worthy of inclusion. Feeble Rowan Williams has failed his flock, and victory for the bullies ensures the Anglican church will sink into obscurity. Read more

The church should always put humanity before unity

[...] Dr Williams tried to broker a compromise, mindful that elements on his conservative flank were mulling an offer from Rome to take in schismatic Anglicans. That compromise has failed.

Meanwhile, away from the synod, the archbishop has become embroiled in a row about the prospect of a gay man presiding in the Southwark diocese. Canon Jeffrey John was under consideration for the high-profile south London bishopric until his name was leaked. His candidacy was then effectively derailed by conservative evangelicals. Dr Williams has too often submerged his own liberal inclinations in what he sees as a higher duty to preserve institutional unity. Now, surely, his priorities should change. Read more

Split looms for Church over women bishops

Plans put forward by Dr Rowan Williams urging a compromise over the issue were rejected last night by members of the General Synod, including some of his most senior bishops.

The last-ditch proposal was designed to prevent an exodus of traditionalist priests, who are now likely to defect to the Roman Catholic Church.

It represented a significant gamble by Dr Williams, who was heavily criticised by liberals last week after Dr Jeffrey John, the homosexual cleric, was blocked from becoming Bishop of Southwark. Dr John's nomination to the post was revealed by The Sunday Telegraph last week.

The failure by the archbishop to gain sufficient support for his plan is likely to be viewed as a further dent to his authority. Read more

Statement from Women and the Church (WATCH)

Full Steam Ahead for Women Bishops
Church can Move Forward at Last

WATCH is delighted that the Church has today affirmed its wish to appoint women as bishops on the same basis as men.

The General Synod, meeting in York, re-iterated its decision of July 2008 that when women are appointed bishops they will be in charge of their entire Diocese. Amendments suggesting that there should be separate dioceses for those opposed, or permanent flying bishops, or that parishes should automatically be transferred to another bishop, were all rejected by the Synod.

Hilary Cotton, Vice-Chair of WATCH, said, ‘We are absolutely delighted that Synod has stuck with its decision of two years ago and wants women to be bishops with full authority. This is good news for all women, not just women in the Church.’

Rachel Weir Chair of WATCH said, ”This has been an agonisingly slow journey and the Church has rightly wanted to do all it could for those who find this difficult, but we are delighted that Synod has made the right decision in the end”. Now at last the Church can move forward and accept the wonderful gifts of leadership that our women bring.”

On Monday the Synod will decide what minor amendments to make. It will also be given the opportunity to vote for the simplest possible legislation, in other words that ‘the Church will appoint male and female bishops’. Arrangements for those opposed would then be entrusted to individual bishops under a Code of Practice that will be drawn up in the near future.

This is not the end of the journey. The wider Church will now be invited to debate the proposals and if approved General Synod will have a final vote on them in about eighteen months time.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Possible parish opening for an accepting evangelical Church of England priest

Possible parish opening ...
for an accepting evangelical Church of England priest, following the retirement in September of the Rev George Day.

The parish of St Barnabas, Joydens Wood, in Rochester Diocese, on the London/Kent boundary, will very soon be seeking a new vicar, when I retire in September. The church is accepting of gay relationships, and indeed has two lesbian couples, one couple in positions of leadership, and the other couple recently confirmed, and so the PCC is looking for a new vicar who will continue this approach. As regards churchmanship, the draft job/person spec says “we have enjoyed open evangelical-style ministry for the past five years but would be open to some difference in style of churchmanship so long as we have a pastor who will inspire us and foster gifts in the congregation.” My own hope is that an open evangelical can be found for this vacancy, rather than finding any need to have too much “difference in style of churchmanship”, and that is why I am making this known through the Accepting Evangelicals newsletter.

The church is set on a mainly owner-occupied housing estate from the 1960s, with a more recently built estate also within the parish, again mainly owner-occupied, but both areas with some social housing. There is an excellent multi-purpose church building. The church has grown over the last 5 years and the average age has dropped considerably. So, there is now a thriving congregation, average number on Sundays about 55-60. There is plenty of potential for growth, numerically and spiritually.

We have the support of our excellent archdeacon in trying to find somebody who fits the situation here, but he is aware of the fact that accepting evangelical clergy are limited in number. The patron is the Bishop of Rochester, the post currently vacant, although we now have a bishop designate in James Langstaff.

The PCC has drawn up a draft parish profile and job/person spec. and the members of the PCC are anxious to do all that is possible to keep the length of interregnum to the minimum. So, although there is considerable limitation on what can be done prior to the start of the interregnum, if any member of AE is interested in finding out more, please email me at, and I will be very happy to give some more information, or to ask the churchwardens to send you a copy of the draft profile.

More information about the church is also available on our website

See here.

Our obsession with sexuality may be blinding us to deeper truths

[...] We have decided that sexual behaviour between consenting adults in private is something that the law should not try to control. Anyone who believes in freedom and opposes the state control of private life should rejoice.

But in other respects, we have changed for the worse. Instead of promoting tolerance – a concept which is only necessary when dealing with things which one doesn’t like – modern society insists on approval. The approval has to be pretty much unqualified – gay promiscuity, gay sex in public, gay pornography are admired as expressions of the fundamental right of which Lord Hope speaks. Almost literally, it would seem, they get you a passport.

If you say things which are critical of gay behaviour, you are “homophobic”. That word is favoured because a “phobia” is a sign of derangement rather than a legitimate point of view. Homophobic remarks are criminalised, so a new form of oppression replaces the old. And since all mainstream religions have always upheld heterosexual marriage over all other forms of sexual behaviour, all these faiths are now being pushed to the margin of legality.

Is this what modern society wants? I am genuinely not sure. Read more

Friday, 9 July 2010

* Comment is free The state and religion: The church risks looking absurd

England's state religion is an accident sustained by apathy: lacking any logical existence at the heart of the nation, it survives because it is already there. No one would campaign to create an official Church of England, if we had not inherited one; other parts of the country do without it. Non-believers, when they think of the English church at all, tend to see a benign relic, the keeper of country churchyards, a modest, often helpful and mostly inoffensive part of the national fabric. Its rituals involve a declining number of citizens and its tortured internal politics are a mystery, but it is still an important – and often profound – part of many English lives. The fact that the monarch is also its supreme governor, that some of its bishops sit in parliament, and that its senior clerics are appointed by the prime minister is both indefensible and profoundly unexciting.

This tolerant indulgence, though, is being strained. The Church of England now expects both the benefits of establishment and the cultural freedom of private religion. At the very least, a national church should not become disconnected from the best values of the country it serves. But as the general synod, which begins tonight, will again confirm, the Church of England is strangely unwilling to do this. It devotes a shocking amount of energy to debating the supposed inferiority of women, gay men and lesbians. These issues matter intensely to some believers inside the church, but they make it look intolerant to the much larger number of people outside it. Read more

Former Ulster fighter abandons life of violence after finding God

As a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, David Hamilton's life was peppered with violence and murder.

He was repeatedly shot, orchestrated bombings and bank robberies, and brought terror to the streets of Northern Ireland.

But after spending years in jail, the 56-year-old has turned his back on his old life and committed himself to peace as a pastor in England.

Read more

Rejection of gay clergyman as bishop sends CoE into spin

he Church of England has blocked the appointment of a gay clergyman to the role of Bishop of Southwark after a bitter behind-the-scenes battle which has left the conservatives and liberals at loggerheads and possibly weakened the standing of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, media reports said.

Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, was rejected after it was leaked that he was on the Crown Nominations Commission shortlist for the post in south London, one of the most liberal of all the church’s dioceses, the Daily Telegraph said.

It is a second humiliation for the openly gay but celibate John, who seven years ago was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading after opposition from evangelicals.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had asked his friend to forgo the Reading post in an attempt to keep the church together, and will be seen as having been central in this week’s decision.

Williams, angry that details from the confidential CNC meeting were leaked for political purposes, said he would not allow himself to be pressurised into backing any one candidate, the Times reported. Read more

Rowan Williams under siege over gay bishop veto

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, is embroiled in a new crisis within the Church of England over the decision to block the appointment of a gay cleric as bishop of Southwark.

Liberals and mainstream Anglicans are furious that the archbishop has once more failed to exert any leadership over mutinous forces threatening to split the church over the sensitive issue of homosexuality.

Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, was in the running for the senior position at Southwark until his name was leaked, enabling conservative clerics to stop the appointment. An embattled Williams has now launched an inquiry at Lambeth Palace to find out who divulged the name .

The archbishop was appalled that John's name was disclosed in a successful attempt to derail his candidacy, exactly seven years after he was forced to stand down as the prospective bishop of Reading following a previous outcry by conservative evangelicals against John's sexuality. Fingers are being pointed at the same evangelical hardliners who orchestrated the 2003 campaign. Read more

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Canonical Analysis of "Mitregate"

[...] Thus not even the Bishop of Gloucester appreciates the difference. Since he himself was presiding over the Eucharist, as the diocesan bishop in his own cathedral, there was no need for him even to have applied for a license for the visiting bishop. That he did so may have demonstrated an abundance of caution. But it by no means points up any inconsistency in the treatment given to Bishop Jefferts Schori. At the service at which she presided, there was no diocesan bishop alongside her -- as noted above, the diocesan position is currently vacant. In Gloucester, they had no difficulty recognizing their own bishop; but in Southwark, the matter was entirely different. As I said earlier: to have allowed Bishop Jefferts Schori to wear the mitre and carry the crozier of a bishop in Southwark Cathedral would have conferred upon her an authority which she did not have, and could not have, in that Cathedral. Read more

8 ways to ensure your kids go to church

As family life has become busier and younger generations have become more rebellious, children are attending church less regularly. There are so many other things to do on a Sunday – like sleep in, participate in sporting events, watch football, hang out with friends and play video games. But if you want your kids to grow up with the Lord as a valuable part of their lives, it’s important that you ensure they attend church. There are several ways to get them to see the light without ruling with an iron fist; here are eight that’ll have them sitting on a pew Sunday mornings. Read more

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Gifted Individualism is NOT Leadership

[...] gifted individualism is not leadership. The ability to rule others by the persuasive force of personality is not leadership. The ability of a 'charismatic' personality to sway the crowds is not a sign of good leadership. The attractive power of decisive action and even impressive ability are not signs of beneficial leadership. Ability in rhetorical pulpiteering, whether inside or outside the Church, says nothing about whether the teaching is true leadership.

And what has any of this got to do with Christian leadership? Jesus came amongst us to serve. God gifts his people for their works of service, exercised in a spirit of love and desire for edification. Shepherding involves serving up the word of God to feed the flock. True and proper use of God's charismata will be corporately expressed for the common good of the body, building itself towards maturity. Spotting those gifted for Christian leadership is therefore a tricky task, for it involves spotting qualities of self-effacing service; other-person-centred motivations and actions; integrated relational connectedness already displayed; quiet godliness already in operation amongst God's people; faithfulness in teaching by which the people of God are already being nurtured towards maturity; and the like.

Unfortunately, those influenced by the sixties' destabilization (and at the moment, that must be most) may completely overlook such quiet achievers in the quest for 'charismatic leaders'. They may even express a disappointment at the absence of leadership in the next generation - but according to what criteria is this judgment being made?

Western society is on the brink of its next turning-point. The sixties generation are being forced to let go (not of their own will, but through thoroughly 'natural processes'). Presumably there will be sixties' disciples who continue to push forward the quest for the 'charismatic leader'. But, perhaps too the moment is ripe for a different form of 'leadership' to emerge from the next generation. Hopefully within Christian circles, this leadership might reflect more of the Master. Read more

Evangelical opponents of women bishops: What is sought and required?

[...] it has been argued that although there are clearly real problems for evangelical opponents it is far from clear what the specific problems are for them as evangelicals. As a result it is not clear to me that a suitable code of practice is incapable of addressing these (although that way forward does create major problems for those committed to an Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology who seem to require effectively separate structures which amount to a “church within a church”). It is, however, undeniably the case that the current Revision Committee proposal is felt to be insufficient by evangelical opponents. This, however, may be due more to wider and deeper problems which are shaping the response to women bishops and certainly erode trust and foment fear (thus undermining a code of practice solution) rather than inadequacy on fundamental theological grounds.

What, then can be done? First, evangelical opponents of women bishops have clearly and often articulated their grounds for opposing this development. Evangelicals committed to women bishops know these well but have not been convinced. What they have not done to the same extent and would help us now is if an evangelical account could be given of the nature of the problems they will face when the church has women bishops and why, theologically, current proposals are not sufficient. Second, evangelical supporters of women bishops need to engage more sympathetically with such an explanation and with the broader range of conservative evangelical concerns that are perhaps driving their demands for more provision in response to women bishops. If both of these can be done then perhaps a more creative way forward could be developed that can draw support from across a wide range of the evangelical spectrum in relation to this whole nexus of issues, including that of provision for opponents of women bishops which is facing Synod in this next week. Read more

Barack Obama: Nasa must try to make Muslims 'feel good'

Charles Bolden, a retired United States Marines Corps major-general and former astronaut, said in an interview with al-Jazeera that Nasa was not only a space exploration agency but also an "Earth improvement agency".

Mr Bolden said: "When I became the Nasa administrator, he [Mr Obama] charged me with three things.

"One, he wanted me to help reinspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."

He added: "It is a matter of trying to reach out and get the best of all worlds, if you will, and there is much to be gained by drawing in the contributions that are possible from the Muslim [nations]."

Byron York, a conservative columnist for the Washington Examiner, characterised Mr Obama's space policy shift as moving "from moon landings to promoting self-esteem" Read more

Jeffrey John’s problem

[...] The problem with Jeffrey John is not his sexuality but the fact that he has come to represent something bigger than himself. Justly or unjustly he is now seen to embody the type of theological liberalism that has caused so much damage to the American branch of the church. Some of this is not his fault at all poor fellow! The media have not helped him and nor did the Archbishop of Canterbury when he singled him out for some quite brutal humiliation. In many ways he has had a rougher deal than many others in his situation. But he must also shoulder some of the blame himself. You cannot write books such as ‘permanent, faithful,stable’, which campaign for sex outside of traditional marriage, at a time of genuine struggle in the church and then expect to fly under the radar! This brings us to the heart of the debate. Here is a man who has campaigned for something which until very recently would have been considered very risky and which is still considered unbiblical by a great many people. Such campaigning has obvious implications and he now lives with the fallout. Read more

A Partial Response to Jeffrey John by Jay Haug

[...] Jeffrey John is completely right about John Shelby Spong of whom John rightly states that Spong's pro-gay marriage stand emanates from Christian revisionism at best and outright atheism at worst. However, John will have a tough time finding what he wants, a coalition of otherwise orthodox catholic Anglicans who support gay unions/marriages. The reality is that most who are visibly advocating for this end are in league with Spong's radicalism and not Jeffrey John's appeal to orthodoxy apart from the gay issue. However, my guess is that at its core the difference between John and Spong is more a difference of tactics than true theological divergence. Like the IRA and the Islamists, the theological revisionists have an inside game and an outside game, a terrorist wing and a political wing. John is heading up the political wing with an assist from Rowan Williams. Spong is content to build theological explosive devices in his basement hoping that the "cultured despisers of Christianity" will still give him an audience as long as he has breath. Read more

In praise of … Dr Jeffrey John

[...] Dr John was shabbily treated over Reading. No damage that his consecration may have done compares to the damage done to the church and Dr Williams by its abandonment. Dr John has behaved with great dignity throughout. He has no presumptive right to the Southwark see. Yet surely neither he nor Dr Williams would have allowed things to get this far if they were not determined to see a different outcome this time. Right should be done. Dr John's name should go forward. Read more

Marriage does not make relationships stable, says IFS think tank

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that although spouses are less likely to separate than couples who live together, this is not down to the benefits of matrimony.

Researchers claimed that those who marry are simply more likely to be older, better educated and wealthier than those who have babies out of wedlock.

The IFS, which has built a powerful reputation through its economic analyses of election proposals and the Budget, went on to suggest that its report “casts doubt” on the Government’s aim of preventing family breakdown by promoting marriage.

Ellen Greaves, research economist at the IFS, said: "The evidence suggests that much of the difference in relationship stability between married and cohabiting parents is due to pre-existing differences between the kinds of people who get married before they have children, compared to those that cohabit.” Read more

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Reform comment on possible appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southwark

6th July 2010

Comment from Reform:

“Dr John’s teaching regarding homosexual practice is contrary to both the Bible and to the current doctrine of the Church of England. To appoint him Bishop would send two very clear signals. First that the diocese of Southwark wants to walk in a different direction to the Church of England’s doctrine. Second that there is now little to stop the Church of England proceeding in the same divisive direction as the Episcopal Church in the USA . We would support churches in Southwark seeking alternative oversight should Dr John be appointed.”

Reform was established in 1993 and is a network of churches and individuals within the Church of England. Current individual membership is around 1,700, in addition to 35 member churches. More than 350 ordained clergy are Reform members.

Revd Paul Dawson

Media officer

07791 495824

My guess is that Jeffrey John will become the C of E's first openly gay bishop – with David Cameron's support

[...] Anyway, I’m not an Anglican and it’s not for me to say whether this is the right move for the Church of England. Dean John would be a completely unsuitable Catholic bishop – not because he’s a celibate gay prelate (no shortage of those on our side of the Tiber) but because he strongly opposes Catholic moral teaching. Like all the “Affirming Catholic” crowd, he’s a Protestant in RC vestments. But, hey, that’s his business. And he was treated appallingly seven years ago.

One final thought. Is this really such a big deal? Jeffrey John wouldn’t even be the first celibate but obviously gay Bishop of Southwark. There has been one before, and very fondly remembered he is, too. Read more

Gay bishop for Southwark 'will split Church of England'

Conservative parishes in the Church of England could seek alternative leadership from abroad if a gay man is appointed as bishop of Southwark, clerics warned today.

The argument over homosexual clergy in the Anglican communion was reignited at the weekend when it was disclosed that Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, is among nominations for the post vacated earlier this year by the Right Rev Tom Butler. In 2003, John was forced to stand down from his appointment as suffragan bishop of Reading because of his sexuality after protests from traditionalists.

Reform, a conservative evangelical group, has warned the church could split if John, who is in a civil partnership but celibate, is made bishop for the south London diocese.

The Rev Paul Dawson said: "Our view is that it would be a very serious step if he were to become a bishop and it would cause very serious damage within the Church of England itself. We think that if this were to happen, then the sort of split that has happened in America would be precipitated here." Read more

Sex and the archbishop

Installing the openly gay Jeffrey John as bishop would be a decisive victory for Rowan Williams. But if he's beaten, he's finished

The fact that Jeffrey John has been nominated as Bishop of Southwark is intriguing. That it has been leaked reveals a great deal about the civil war within the church of England. Seven years ago Rowan Williams' attempt to get his old friend into the much less important job of Bishop of Reading led to his first – and, it seemed, decisive – defeat at the hands of hardline evangelicals. He cracked after two months of pressure and asked John to withdraw his name, establishing his reputation as a man who could be bullied. If he is beaten again, he is finished. If he wins, he will have shot the rapids and the Church of England will finally emerge from the turbulence of the last 30 years with a fairly clear and fairly coherent doctrine about sex. Read more

Monday, 5 July 2010

Should women ever be bishops?

[...] The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright – a highly respected figure on all sides of the church – has long supported women in the episcopate, but he believes that there is a strong theological imperative not to push through legislation that will cause more division. "There are clear guidelines in the Bible about contentious issues," says Wright. "We ought to expect to have demands made on our patience and on our charity but not on our consciences, and we have been forgetting this in our eagerness to push this or the other agenda.

"We have been trying to square a circle," he continues, "and we don't seem to have found a way of doing that. This is possibly a sign that we are not yet ready to run ahead. But the process of Synod is like an escalator – once you're on it, you can't get off." Waller agrees that the four-day meeting will be trying to do too much in too short a time, and warns of dire consequences should the solution please some but not others. He points to the fractious, fragmented nature of the Anglican church in the US: "Everyone suing each other, breakaway groups…"

For those who want to see women bishops soon, however, there is both an urgency to right injustice and a need for the church to move on from a bitter and time-consuming row. Many of the female priests I speak to say that they are disturbed by the amount of energy the debate consumes. "It's an important issue," says Hedges, "but it needs to be settled. The church has taken an enormous amount of care to find the right way forward, and if what is presented to Synod gets the right majority to go through, I think that has given the mind of the church."

"If we are constantly at war," says Hudson-Wilkin, "we are taking our eyes off the main business, which is proclaiming good news." She bristles once more. "It wasn't the right time when we ordained women as deacons, it wasn't the right time when we ordained women as priests, and it will not be the right time when we consecrate women as bishops. It will never be the right time for those who are intrinsically opposed to women in leadership within the church." Read more

Appointing gay bishop 'risks splitting Church'

A leading conservative Anglican has warned the Church of England could split if an openly gay man is appointed Bishop of Southwark.

Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, is said to be among a number of clergy nominated for the post.

His supporters say Dr John is the right man for the job in a liberal diocese.

But traditionalist Canon Chris Sugden said his appointment would lose the allegiance of orthodox parishes and clergy.

The conflict over homosexuality and the ordination of gay clergy has threatened to split the Anglican Communion for years, with critics saying it may cause a similar breakaway to that in the US Episcopal Church. Read more

(Ed: A curious contrast with the BBC's earlier headline here!)

'No chance' gay bishop will split CofE

From the Today programme:

Canon Chris Sugden and Dr Giles Fraser discuss if the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southwark would reopen the wounds of the debate over gay bishops in the Anglican Church.

Listen here.

(Ed: listening to this debate, I would have said the precise opposite of the headline is what comes out.)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

'Perhaps' diocese could split, writes Southwark clergyman

From The Church of England Newspaper

[...] There are two new groups already within the Church of England, one called Inclusive Church, the other the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans linking with other Anglican provinces, that make up the large majority of the Anglican Communion. Either could develop to take on an alternative oversight from Canterbury – depending which side the Archbishop of Canterbury comes down on.

Perhaps it is time to resurrect a proposal I made in a ‘round-robin’ to Southwark clergy 10 years ago, that in the event of a split, perhaps the Anglican Bishop of London Diocese (north of the river) could ‘take on’ the orthodox parishes and clergy south of the river, and the liberal parishes and clergy north of the river could opt for the Bishop of Southwark as their diocesan.

At the time, the Bishop of London did comment that he thought he already had enough on his plate. It is not only an issue for London and Southwark. There will be others in other dioceses who will want to join the party, on either side. I hope the House of Bishops have a plan, to avoid the ridiculous situation pertaining in the United States, where an ever larger proportion of Episcopal Church funds are squandered on litigation over the ownership of church property.

Subscribe to the CEN for the full article.

Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England

An openly-homosexual cleric has been nominated to become a senior bishop, in a move that threatens to provoke a damaging split in the Church of England.

A confidential meeting, chaired by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has approved Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, to be on the shortlist to be the next Bishop of Southwark.

He is understood to be the favoured candidate.

Dr John is a hugely divisive figure in the church after he was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.

Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion. Read more

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland) welcomes Archbishops’ proposals

To the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
June 24 2010

Your graces,

We welcome your intervention in the run up to the General Synod debate on the Women Bishops' measure and its helpful recognition of the need to address the issue of jurisdiction by means of a 'nominated bishop' arrangement. This certainly represents a significant improvement on the current draft of the measure but there are some aspects which are unclear to us.

To secure the honoured future of those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of women bishops, there will need to be further elaboration as to their powers of ordination, appointment and licensing. There also needs to be further elaboration on how consistency between the dioceses will be achieved. A scheme that derives authority from the whole church should have arrangements also provided by the church as a whole.

As you will be aware there is much interest amongst us in the concept of a mission society. We are continuing to explore this concept which, if carefully crafted, will provide the necessary fellowship for the bishops, clergy and people so affected, would give much of what is necessary in a clearly Church of England framework, and provide a strong impetus for mission.

Yours sincerely in Christ

Paul Perkin
Chris Sugden
for the Steering Committee of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans
(UK and Ireland)

Scottish churchman's attack on Bishop of Durham’s new appointment

By George Conger

THE DEAN of Glasgow has called upon alumni of St Andrews University to protest the appointment of the Bishop of Durham, Dr NT Wright, as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity by withholding financial support from the Scottish University.

Appointed Bishop of Durham in 2003, on April 27, 2010 Dr Wright announced he would retire on Aug 31 to take up the academic post at St Andrews.

Writing on his website, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, said he was “ashamed of St Andrews University” for appointing Dr Wright.

“It is hard to think of a more divisive figure to appoint. I don’t think it is to the credit of a modern university to appoint staff with such ghastly antigay views,” said Mr Holdsworth, a leading gay clergyman and activist in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

He stated the university regularly solicited funds, but the “answer from now on could not be clearer.

No extra funding for a university that appoints antigay figures to prominent positions. I hope other alumni will keep their hands firmly in their pockets and when the call comes for money, just say no.”

The Scottish Episcopal Church needed to be an institution “which does not do active harm to others.”

Bishop Wright’s statement that he would “discipline any members of the clergy in his diocese who entered into a partnership puts him firmly in the category of those who would harm others,” Mr Holdsworth said. Subscribe to the CEN for the full story

Author Christopher Hitchens diagnosed with cancer

The author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens yesterday announced he was cutting short a promotional book tour in order to undergo chemotherapy treatment.

There were reports that the the British-born writer, who was a heavy smoker until giving up several years ago, had been diagnosed with cancer.

In a statement issued by his US publisher, Twelve, the 61-year-old said: "I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my oesophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice." Read more

Nick Clegg calls on public to help scrap bad laws

Members of the public will be given the right to nominate unpopular laws they want scrapped, Nick Clegg has announced the Your Freedom initiative intended to begin a shift of power away from the state to the people.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Deputy Prime Minister says that “people, not policy-makers” are the best judges of which “unnecessary laws” should be repealed.

Suggest the laws you want to scrap

The “radically different” approach is part of the Coalition’s attempt to redress the balance between the citizen and the state, Mr Clegg argues. He says it is not for Government to tell people “how to live their lives” and that civil liberties should be restored and laws stifling businesses abandoned. Read more

(See the website Your Freedom here.)