Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Peter Tatchell given standing ovation at Greenbelt festival

Ekklesia website reports that gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has received a standing ovation at the Greenbelt Christian festival.

Speaking about “the struggle for queer freedom in Africa”, he attacked church leaders who condone homophobic abuse, but praised the “brave, heroic Christians who refuse to go along with the persecution of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual”.

Greenbelt, one of Britain's largest Christian festivals, has drawn over 21,000 visitors over the weekend. Tatchell was speaking on Saturday evening (28 August).

Tatchell drew laughter early on in his talk, when he began by “paying tribute to Anglican Mainstream, who by their attacks on me and on Greenbelt, have boosted ticket sales and ensured a successful Greenbelt”. Read more

Sunday, 29 August 2010

CAPA Conference Communique

ENTEBBE, Uganda: CAPA Primates Communiqué

Posted By David W. Virtue in Entebbe
August 29, 2010

1. In a spirit of unity and trust, and in an atmosphere of love the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) as well as Archbishop John chew, the Chairman of the Global South, which represents the majority of the active orthodox membership in the entire Anglican Communion, met during the 2nd All Africa Bishop's
Conference in Entebbe, Uganda. We enjoyed the fellowship and the sense of unity as we heard the Word of God and gathered around the Lord's Table.

2. We gave thanks to God for the leadership of the Most. Rev. Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and Chairman of CAPA and for the abundant hospitality provided by the Most Rev. Henry Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda and the entire Church of Uganda.

3. We were honored by the presence of the His Excellency General Yoweri K. Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, for his official welcome to Uganda and for hosting an official state reception for the AABCH. We are very grateful to him for his support of the work of the Anglican Church in Uganda and for his call to stand against the alien intrusions and cultural arrogance which undermines the moral fiber of our societies. We recall his admonishment to live out the words and deeds of the Good Samaritan. We are also grateful to the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Uganda for his presence and words of encouragement to us.

4. We were very happy and appreciated that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, accepted our invitation to attend the 2nd All Africa Bishop's Conference. We were encouraged by his word to us. We also appreciated the opportunity to engage face-to-face with him in an atmosphere of love and respect. We shared our hearts openly and with transparency, and we have come to understand the difficulties and the pressures he is facing. He also came to understand our position and how our mission is threatened by actions which have continued in certain provinces in the Communion. We therefore commit ourselves to continuously support and pray for him and for the future of our beloved Communion.

5. We were very saddened with the recent actions of The Episcopal Church in America who went ahead and consecrated Mary Glasspool last May 2010, in spite of the call for a moratorium(1) and all the warnings from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and the 4th Encounter of the Global South.

This was a clear departure from the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion as stated in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. We are also concerned about similar progressive developments in Canada and in the U.K.

6. Being aware of the reluctance of those Instruments of Communion to follow through the recommendations of the Windsor Report(2) and taken by the Primates Meetings in Dromantine(3) and Dar es Salaam(4) we see the way ahead as follows:

A. In order to keep the ethos and tradition of the Anglican Communion in a credible way, it is obligatory of all Provinces to observe the agreed decisions and recommendations of the Windsor Report and the various communiqués of the past three Primates Meetings, especially Dar es Salaam in 2007. We as Primates of CAPA and the Global South are committed to honor such recommendations.

B. We are committed to meet more regularly as Global South Primates and take our responsibilities in regard to issues of Faith and Order.(5)

C. We will give special attention to sound theological education as we want to ensure that the future generations stand firm on the Word of God and faithfully follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

D. We are committed to network with orthodox Anglicans around the world, including Communion Partners in the USA and the Anglican Church in North America, in holistic mission and evangelism. Our aim is to advance the Kingdom of God especially in unreached areas.

E. We are committee to work for unity with our ecumenical partners and to promote interfaith dialogue with other faiths in order to promote a peaceful co-existence and to resolve conflicts.

F. We are committed to work for the welfare of our countries. This will involve alleviating poverty, achieving financial and economic empowerment, fighting diseases, and promoting education.

7. Finally, we are very aware of our own inadequacy and weaknesses hence we depend fully on the grace of God to achieve his purpose in the life of his church and our beloved Anglican Communion.


1. The Windsor Report Section 134.1 The Episcopal church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion (2) the Episcopal church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion energies.

The Windsor Report Section 144.3 We call for a moratorium on all such public Rites, and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the US and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorizations.

2. Windsor Report. Section D. 157 There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together. Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.

3. The Communiqué of the Primates Meeting in Dromantine (2005) Section 14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in roder to recognize the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.

4. The Communiqué of the Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007. If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

5. Lambeth 1988 Resolution 18.2(a) Urges the encouragement be given to a developing collegial rule for the Primates Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters. Lambeth 1998 Resolution III.6 (a) reaffirms the Resolution 18.2(a) Of Lambeth 1988
which "urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates' Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates' Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters".


Friday, 27 August 2010

Terror warning over radicalised prisoners

Britain faces a potential "new wave" of home-grown terrorist attacks as a result of an escalating rate of radicalisation of Muslims inside the prison system, according to a report published today by a leading defence and security thinktank.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) says that up to 800 "potentially violent radicals" who have not been convicted of terrorist offences could be released from prisons in England and Wales over the next five to 10 years and will pose a significant challenge to the security services to identify them.

The estimate rests upon "prison probation sources" saying that one in 10 of the 8,000 Muslim prisoners in high security jails in England and Wales could be successfully targeted.

However, the Ministry of Justice disputed the figures in the report. It said last night: "The prison and probation service does not recognise the figure of 800 'violent radicals' referred to in the report, nor do we agree that jihadist radicalisation is taking place at a rapid rate. Read more

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Religion may influence doctors' end-of-life care

Doctors with religious beliefs are less likely to take decisions which could hasten the death of those who are terminally ill, a study suggests.

The survey of nearly 4,000 doctors found those with a strong faith were also less likely to discuss end-of-life treatment options with their patient.

The London University research urges greater acknowledgement of how beliefs influence care.

Doctors and campaigners described the findings as "concerning". Read more

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sexually transmitted infections at 'record high'

Sexually transmitted infections are continuing to rise, especially among the young, with the number of new cases reaching almost half a million a year, official figures have shown.

Women aged 19 and men aged between 20 and 23 are at greatest risk of contracting an infection, according to the data from the Health Protection Agency.

Overall there were 482,696 new cases of sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in the UK in 2009. This was a rise of three per cent on the previous year.

Experts warned that greater efforts were needed to get the safer sex message across to the younger generation amid fears young people are increasingly engaging in risky sex.

The data showed that at least one in ten teenagers aged between 16 and 19 who are treated at a clinic for a sexually transmitted infection will return within a year with another infection. Read more

Monday, 23 August 2010

Teachers facing shocking sexual abuse from kids

Teachers in Britain have faced sexual groping, touching and leering from school children, with one teacher even being subjected to a threat of rape by a child, according to disturbing figures.

A total of 305 incidents are included in the figures, with one involving an eight-year-old boy who licked a teacher’s leg and touched her breast.

In another case a six-year-old child made sexual remarks to a 49-year-old teacher in the West Midlands. Read more

New 'debt boom' fears as banks offer 'more generous credit card deals'

Despite warnings of a potential double dip recession, banks are presenting struggling customers with offers of cheaper debt than they made available before the 2007 economic crash.

Experts warned that Britain could face a new “credit card boom” leaving families heavily in debt as they borrow to make ends meet and struggle to pay off the money.

It comes amid concerns of future job losses, particulary as the Coalition government’s spending cuts are due to take effect.

The research, from two price comparison websites, found some banks were offering credit cards with attractive interest free rates for an introductory period of an average of 12.2 months.

This was longer than during the peak of the last credit boom but once they end leave families with high interest repayments.

While the improved rates are good in the short term, it can be costly for those who still have debts when introductory offers run out. Read more

Interest rates 'may hit 8pc' in two years

Andrew Lilico, chief economist at the influential Policy Exchange think tank, has warned of an interest rate environment not seen since the 1990s.

He said the rise could happen as the recovery beds in and Government measures to stave off a recession lead to an explosion in the money supply.

Mr Lilico also warned of a return to "boom and bust", as ballooning inflation threatens to tip the economy back in to recession in 2013 or 2014.

"Given the constraints of late 2008 and the absurdities of subsequent fiscal, finance and regulatory policy, if we can get away with a recession of only 6.6pc, deflation of only 2pc and inflation of only 10pc for one year, [Bank of England Governor] Mervyn King will deserve a medal," Mr Lilico said.
A brief double dip recession early next year is likely, he said, but it "would be quite compatible with a boom thereafter".

That boom would quickly run out of control, as the £200bn of "money printing" by the Bank during the crisis would lead to "a huge expansion in the money supply, which will lead to inflation".

He estimates that the Retail Prices Index (RPI), the inflation measure favoured in wage settlements and against which annual rises in train fares are priced, would rise "above 10pc".

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI), the inflation measure that the Bank is responsible for keeping at around 2pc, will top 6pc, Mr Lilico reckons.

"I believe that this will be the combined result of natural recovery-driven growth and massive and unsustainable investment driven by huge monetary growth," he said. Read more

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fear returns to haunt the people of Northern Ireland who have grown used to peace

They gathered in the name of peace, insisting that there should be no return to the bad old days.

Shortly after midday, several hundred residents of Lurgan, Co Armagh, many of them with young children, crowded around a battered tangle of metal fencing in Kilmaine Street. A week earlier a dissident republican bomb had exploded here, injuring three girls.

Monsignor Aidan Hamill, the priest at St Peter's Church, pleaded with the dissidents for a "change of heart". The crowd applauded, then fell silent. Now they must wait and see if their prayers are heard. So must mainland Britain.

The Observer reveals today that British intelligence believes dissident groups in Northern Ireland harbour hopes of striking in a British city and have identified the Tory party conference in Birmingham this October as a target. According to Patrick Mercer MP, a counter-terrorist expert: "They understand that terrorism means terrorising and they have let it be known that they are interested in mainland targets." The disturbing upsurge in violence in Northern Ireland may not stop at the Irish Sea. Read more
Ed: Given the overall cost of the average wedding, this is a spit in a bucket.

It is supposed to be the happiest day of your life and increasingly couples want to savour their wedding ceremony by having it filmed.

But church organists have been accused of taking advantage of brides and grooms by doubling their charges when they are playing at weddings that are being recorded.

Their normal fees range from £50 to £150 depending on their level of skill and experience.

However, it has become customary for the musicians to demand double the rate, up to £300, if the service is being filmed, even though they are not required to do any extra work.

Organists argue that the increase is justified, because their performance will likely be heard by a much larger audience and will be replayed a number of times.

Now, after a rising number of complaints from newlyweds, the Church of England has urged organists to drop the extra rate. Read more

Villagers hit out over "cold church" closure

VILLAGERS have risen up in anger after they were told their church would close during the winter months - because it is too cold.

The standing committee of the parochial church council, the Archdeacon of Southend and the Bishop of Bradwell agreed that St Nicholas Church in Tillingham will close from December to March.

Chelmsford Diocese, which holds jurisdiction for the church, said there were three reasons for the church’s closure.

The electrical wiring is in need of upgrading while the calor gas heaters, used previously, now pose a fire risk according to the church’s insurer.

Thirdly, during the winter months the church will not meet the minimum temperature needed for public buildings, set out in law. Read more

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Questioning the god of ‘The Shack’

[...] In Burning Down ‘The Shack’ De Young works through The Shack chapter by chapter discussing the story and the theology presented. He points out what Young has done well and pinpoints areas of concern or error. It is fascinating to see time and time again the concerns that have been raised by other reviewers being laid at the door of universal reconciliation. The emphasis on God’s love over his holiness; the assertion that there is no eternal punishment for sin; the lack of emphasis on sin, evil and Satan; the assertion that reconciliation is effective without faith; the rejection of the church and the sidelining of the Bible. All these De Young points out are tenets of universal reconciliation. Whereas some reviewers have noted these and have given Young the benefit of the doubt, saying that “he surely doesn’t mean …,” De Young with his intimate knowledge of Young’s universalism is able to say “he surely does mean ….”

De Young consistently points to the Bible as he critiques Young’s book. He writes graciously, precisely and at length. I don’t agree with everything in this book, but I enjoyed it very much and consider it a book that deserves to be widely read. Perhaps Burning Down ‘The Shack’ is even the definitive book on The Shack. Indeed De Young, with his acquaintance with Young and his theological knowledge is the only person who could have written it. Read more

Bertrand Russell versus faith in God

There has been a fine old ding-dong in the books pages of The Tablet, the Catholic weekly. Sir Michael Dummett, the retired Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, has accused Professor John Haldane of St Andrews of a style of thought that is "old-fashioned and cramped".

In a review of Professor Haldane's book Reasonable Faith (Routledge, £21.99) Sir Michael declares that "a man's philosophy ought not to be controlled by his religious beliefs". He then says: "If the results of someone's philosophising appear to be coming into conflict with what he otherwise firmly believes, he ought to conclude that they cannot be correct, although he is unable at present to see where or how they have gone wrong."

That sounds very like religious belief controlling a man's philosophy. Just such an example in a woman's philosophy is given by Mary Geach in an introduction to a collection of essays, Faith in a Hard Ground (2008) by the renowned philosopher G E M Anscombe, her mother. Read more

Friday, 20 August 2010

USA: Clergy sex victims challenge 8 bishops

As a once-ousted Episcopal bishop resumes his office today, a support group for clergy sex abuse victims is challenging eight of his colleagues across the US to reform church policies and educate church staff and members about child sex crimes.

The organization is also urging the controversial prelate, Bishop Charles Bennison, to voluntarily step aside.

Leaders of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, are sending letters today to each of the bishops who recently concluded that the church statute of limitations on Bennison’s misdeeds had expired. At the same time, the same bishops (serving on a church panel called The Court of Review) ruled Bennison had engaged in “conduct unbecoming a minister.” For years, Bennison kept quiet about his brother, a now-former Episcopalian priest, who sexually violated a girl in California.

“You have an obligation to protect the innocent children and vulnerable adults (and) a duty to help educate and guide your congregation,” said SNAP in its letter to the eight. “Will you use this opportunity to send a clear, powerful public statement to everyone who will listen – that each of us has a duty to expose, not conceal, sexual assaults on the young?”

The prelates head the following dioceses: East Carolina (Kinston, NC), Maine (Portland), Western Louisiana (Alexandria), North Carolina (Raleigh, NC), Mississippi (Jackson), West Tennessee (Memphis), Eastern Michigan (Saginaw), and El Camino Real (Monterey, CA). Read more

Timothy Winter: Britain's most influential Muslim - and it was all down to a peach

[...] He adds: "The West must realise it must stop being the world's police. Why is there no Islamic represenation on the UN Security Council? Why does the so-called Quartet [on the Middle East] not have a Muslim representative? The American GI in his goggles driving his landrover through Kabul pointing his gun at everything that moves, that is the image that enrages people."

Is there a similar antagonistic symbolism in the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero?

"If the mosque represented an invading power they would have every right. Muslims in America are there as legitimate citizens with their green cards, with jobs, trying to get by. They are there in humble mode.

"Would you oppose the construction of Shinto Shrines at Pearl Harbour, of which there a number? How long must the Muslims of lower Manhattan have to wait to get a place to pray five times a day? With Islam there are certain liturgical requirements. It's not like a church that you can build on the top of a hill and say, we've only got to go once a week and it looks nice up there. Muslims need to pray five times a day, they can't get the subway out and back. It should be seen as a symbol of reconciliation not antagonism." Read more

The universe 'will expand forever', new Nasa study on 'dark energy' concludes

Space agency researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope to “narrow in” on what they believe comprises the energy, which pushes our universe apart at ever-increasing speed.

Discovered it in 1998, astronomers have been unable to say what the mysterious force is, except that it is invisible and makes up a “large chunk of our universe”, or 72 per cent of its size.

Almost a quarter, 24 per cent, is thought to be "dark matter", which is also mysterious but easier to study than dark energy because of its “gravitational influence”.

The rest of the universe, a mere four per cent, is made of “the stuff that makes up people, planets, stars and everything made up of atoms”.

By using the huge “galactic magnifying lens” the international team of scientists, led by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, concluded the distribution of dark energy would mean the universe would never stop growing.

The study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, also found it would eventually become a dead and cold wasteland. Read more

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Losing our religion

And now, congregation, put your hands together and give thanks, for I come bearing Good News. Britain is now one of the most irreligious countries on earth. This island has shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else. According to an ICM survey, 63 per cent of us are non-believers, while 82 per cent say religion is a cause of harmful division. Now, let us stand and sing our new national hymn: "Jerusalem was dismantled here/in England's green and pleasant land."

How did it happen? For centuries, religion was insulated from criticism in Britain. First its opponents were burned, then jailed, then shunned. But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people. Their case was too weak, their opposition to divorce and abortion and gay people too cruel, their evidence for their claims nonexistent. Once they had to rely on persuasion rather than intimidation, the story of British Christianity came to an end.

Now that less than seven per cent of British people regularly attend a religious service, it's only natural that we should dismantle the massive amounts of tax money and state power that are given to the religious. It's a necessary process of building a secular state, where all citizens are free to make up their own minds. Yet the opposition to this shift is becoming increasingly unhinged. The Church of England has only one explanation: Christians are being "persecuted" by a movement motivated by "Christophobia". George Carey (pictured), the former archbishop of Canterbury, says Christians are now "second-class citizens" and we are only "a small step" away from "a religious bar on any employment by Christians".

Really? Let's list some of the ways in which Christians and other religious groups are given special privileges. Read more

Catholic charity's appeal over gay adoption fails

Roman Catholic adoption charity's appeal to be allowed to discriminate against gay people wanting it to place children with them has been rejected.

Catholic Care wanted exemption from new anti-discrimination laws so it could restrict its services to homosexual couples on religious grounds.

The Charity Commission said gay people were suitable parents and religious views did not justify discrimination.

The Leeds-based charity said it was "very disappointed". Read more

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Finance: Time is running out for the West

The Great Recession has dramatically shrunk the time left for the big AAA states to prevent a full-blown sovereign debt crisis as their demographic time-bomb threatens, US rating agency Moody's has warned.

"Genuinely adverse debt dynamics were only expected to materialise in 15 to 20 years. The crisis has 'fast-forwarded' history, eroding all the time available to adjust, " said the group's quarterly Sovereign Monitor.

Moody's fears that the US will crash through its safety buffer by 2013 if growth falters (adverse scenario), with interest payments topping 14pc of tax revenues. The debt-to-revenue ratio has already doubled in three years to 430pc.

The US, UK, Germany, France, and Spain are all at risk of an "interest rate shock", either because they must roll over a cluster of short-term debt (US, France, Spain) or because deficits are so large.

Countries that "fail to demonstrate the level of social cohesion required to stabilise debt" will lose their AAA rating. "Intra-generational" conflict between young and old requires careful handling. States that delay pension reform risk spiralling downwards.

Moody's said the world had changed since Europe's debt crisis. None of the large sovereign states can still assume it is credit-worthy. "The burden of proof now falls on governments," it added.

Britain has the safety cushion of long debt maturities, but the structural deficit is causing debt "to grow an unsustainable rate": the UK is clearly one of the weaker countries in the AAA peer group. Read more

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics

(Ed: While you're there, have a look at all the 'counter' articles listed on the right hand side of the same page.)

It is the mainstay of countless magazine and newspaper features. Differences between male and female abilities – from map reading to multi-tasking and from parking to expressing emotion – can be traced to variations in the hard-wiring of their brains at birth, it is claimed.

Men instinctively like the colour blue and are bad at coping with pain, we are told, while women cannot tell jokes but are innately superior at empathising with other people. Key evolutionary differences separate the intellects of men and women and it is all down to our ancient hunter-gatherer genes that program our brains.

The belief has become widespread, particularly in the wake of the publication of international bestsellers such as John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus that stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women. But now a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of "neurosexism", as they call it, and are raising concerns about its implications. These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children's education.

In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, which will be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. "It is flexible, malleable and changeable," she said.

In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility. Read more

Is pop music sexualising our children?

Ed: The debate isn't new. What may be new is a 'yes' voice in the Guardian.

Switch on any music television channel and there's Rihanna writhing with your Weetabix, Shakira cage-dancing at teatime. Occasionally, desperate to stop my sanity being crushed by the wheels of the bus going round and round, I do still turn on the television to find jumping-about music for my small daughters – then turn it off immediately after being confronted by an oiled-up Britney in a bikini. The words are beyond them, but they can see how she moves, how she stares, how she dresses. It's the tedious, Nuts-and-Zoo stuff to which they will be exposed all their lives and it's disappointing to find youth culture – in theory and dreams, the vanguard of the fresh, the new, the liberated – peddling old men's fantasy. Read more

The new Taliban targets - women, children and foreigners

[...] There has always been cruelty during this long war, but there have also been limits.

You did not kill women. You did not kill doctors. And until this last phase of the conflict, you did not kill foreigners, especially those who were here to help, whether aid workers or journalists.

These are dark and disturbing times. The horrors of the war in the south of the country are spreading.

And the north feels dangerously on the edge. Ever more Afghan non-combatants, especially women and especially children are being killed by the insurgents.

At the margins and increasingly also at the centre, neither the internationally-backed government, nor the Taliban's shadow administration can bring security.

The assassinations of elders, the fragmentation of insurgent groups and the pursuit of wealth by the country's elite, is breaking down the old social fabric, already worn thin by decades of war.

With the deaths of Dan Terry and Tom Little, two great humanitarians perished. And yet, the country they leave behind is one which needs such peacemakers more than ever. Read more

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Women bishops of the future?

Last month, the Church of England inched a step closer to the ordination of women bishops. The General Synod rejected calls from traditionalists to enshrine special provisions in canon law – such as access to a male bishop who doesn't ordain women – for those opposed to female bishops. This was good news for anyone who believes in equality for female clergy, but a final decision is still some way off, with the ultimate vote on the issue due in 2012. As the arguments rumble on, we asked three women about their experiences as a priest in the Church of England today. Read more

Friday, 6 August 2010

Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism

[...] Chris White, a 2009 King’s graduate, shares the concerns of Croslow and Dunn, while adding another of the main reasons why many evangelicals are converting to Catholicism: intellectual hunger.

White describes himself as a “victim of Church history classes that start in 1517,” the year Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses. That is, until he took a course entitled “Foundations of Judeo-Christian Thought” at TKC. It “raised certain questions within me,” he says of the course. White cites Boston College philosophy professor and TKC visiting faculty member Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity as a factor in his conversion, but he also points to a number of other courses that he took at King’s that led him to the point of conversion. He says of the college’s curriculum that it is “not a ‘great books curriculum’ but it draws heavily on the liberal arts tradition.” He adds, “You can’t study the liberal arts without confronting the rich history of Catholicism.”

Indeed The King’s College is a microcosm of the larger community of young believers whose frustration with the lack of authority, structure, and intellectualism in many evangelical churches is leading them in great numbers to the Roman Catholic Church. This trend of “Crossing the Tiber” (a phrase that also served as the title of Stephen K. Ray’s 1997 book on the phenomenon), has been growing steadily for decades, but with the help of a solid foundation of literature, exemplar converts from previous generations, burgeoning traditional and new media outlets, and the coming of age of Millennial evangelicals, it is seeing its pace quicken dramatically.

Back in 1985, when many of the most recent converts were still singing Sunday School songs in evangelical churches, Thomas Howard wrote in the postscript to Evangelical is Not Enough that after completing the text in 1984, he formally converted to Catholicism at the Easter Vigil in 1985. Ultimately, Howard concluded that the question that matters most is “What is the Church?” His answer, like that of Hahn, Grodi and Talbot, and now of Croslow, Dunn, and White, is that the “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church”—the historical, traditional Church—can only be the Roman Catholic Church. Read more

Our dangerous dalliance with radical Islam

[...] There are, in Whitehall, a number of senior officials and paid ministerial advisers who are sympathisers of Islamism. One of them, Mohammed Abdul Aziz, is an honorary trustee of one of Britain's most important Islamist-controlled institutions, the East London Mosque.

Mr Aziz wrote a paper – leaked to this newspaper – saying that the new administration should build closer ties with the East London Mosque. He recommended that ministers should consider appearing in public with Islamist organisations which promote "a message of divisiveness, expressing intolerance towards other communities in the UK". He said that officials should even deal privately with some organisations which may support "violent extremism in Britain".

Another leaked paper claimed that extreme Islamist groups such as al-Muhajiroun were not gateways to terrorism, but a "safety valve" for potential terrorists. Last week, a Home Office civil servant, Sabin Khan, was suspended after allegedly criticising the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for her "huge error of judgment" in banning an Islamist preacher, Zakir Naik. Miss Khan's boss, Charles Farr, was allegedly "gutted and mortified" by the ban, too.

There is no suggestion that these officials are themselves revolutionaries, or that they support violence or terrorism. They believe that reaching out to non-violent Islamists reduces the security threat, and promotes broader community cohesion. This belief is fundamentally naïve and wrong. Read more

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Killing a Church: a review of "Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity" by William Murchison

[...] In attempting to elevate the poor and racial minorities, the Episcopal Church, like other social organs of liberalism, unintentionally but actively contributed to their further social impoverishment. Likewise, in its 40 year pursuit of "diversity" and pluralism, Episcopalianism is now succumbing to uniformity. The last General Convention insisted that all Episcopalians shall oppose Defense of Marriage laws, seemingly without regard to personal conscience.

Murchison laments this long and tragic decline of a once great church body. He offers no specific solutions for recovery except reliance on the Holy Spirit and historic Christianity's mystical doctrines, which no Episcopal prelate can ever truly override. About 100,000 mostly former Episcopalians have formed the new Anglican Church in North America, which, while not yet recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is recognized by most global Anglican archbishops. And at last year's Episcopal General Convention, at least two dozen bishops responded to the votes for gay clergy and same-sex unions by affirming their own continued fidelity to the historic faith and the global Anglican Communion.

So in parts of what used to the great Episcopal Church in America, there are embers of renewal, even while most of the old temple collapses, with most of its attending priests apparently not even noticing. Murchison, whose own conservative diocese is so far remaining in the Episcopal Church, tells the story well, with some sadness, but also hope. Anglicans both inside and outside the Episcopal Church will appreciate his account. Read more

From the Changing Attitude blog: One day General Synod will be asked to vote on the place of LGBT people

[...] My take on yesterday's vote is this. The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church of England into adulthood, to maturity as the Body of Christ. Yesterday she said, once again, Grow Up! It is time to welcome women into the episcopate. I call you friends, adult friends.

All sides in the debate now have painful emotions to work through. Those in favour of women in the episcopate feel somewhat guilty at the pain they have induced in others. But that doesn't mean you need to capitulate to emotional immaturity or blackmail on either side. Be generous, grow up, hold your nerve and vote for what in your heart you believe to be right.

I, of course, have a personal interest in this. I am in favour of the inclusion of women at every level of church ministry. One day General Synod will be asked to vote on the place of LGBT people in the Church of England in respect of Civil Partnerships and the ordination of those with partners. It will need a very mature, emotionally confident group of people on Synod to achieve a positive, pro-gay vote.

Yesterday's vote has laid another foundation stone. I believe members of Synod, Archbishops, bishops, priests and laity, will digest what has happened. Some will continue to feel hurt and in their inner world, feel marginalized or rejected. Others will reflect and adjust to the apparently new environment in which they find themselves. If we are not able to grow and change we will remain a church addicted to immature emotional attachments, to the idealised past and to the tyranny of the child which lurks in each of us. Read more

CDEA chair encourages Evangelical candidates for General Synod

The Chair of the Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association, Gordon Simmonds, has issued an encouragement for Evangelical candidates to stand for the next elections to General Synod. In an e-mail sent to members, he writes, "There is a real need for Synod to have a good representation from the Church and this clearly should include Evangelical voices."

Gordon has also offered some advice on campaigning:

"Because the electorate is scattered over the whole diocese, many voters will not know many of the candidates: I think this will be particularly true for the laity. So I strongly recommend candidates to put some work into the preparation of their Election Addresses. You can use up to two pages of A4 to introduce yourself, what you stand for and why you would like people to vote for you. Most candidates include a photograph of themselves and this seems to me to be a good idea."

He adds, "Advice is available from the Evangelical Group on General Synod and other places."

In his conclusion he also notes for Deanery Synod members the importance of voting: "Even if you don't stand for election, may I urge you to vote - a lot of people do not!"

Advice on standing for General Synod, and an indication of what serving on the Synod entails, may be found on the official Church of England website.

Nomination forms for Chelmsford can be obtained from the Diocesan Registrar, Buzz Hood (bjhood@wslaw.co.uk), and must be returned to him by noon 3 September.

For further advice, speak to your local minister or someone from the Diocesan Evangelical Association.

Music fails to chime with Islamic values, says Iran's supreme leader

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said today that music is "not compatible" with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practised or taught in the country.

In some of the most extreme comments by a senior regime figure since the 1979 revolution, Khamenei said: "Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic."

Khamenei's comments came in response to a request for a ruling by a 21-year-old follower of his, who was thinking of starting music lessons, but wanted to know if they were acceptable according to Islam, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music," he said. Read more

Monday, 2 August 2010



As one who has written extensively about the Anglican Covenant, I present these recommendations to the bishops of the Global South, beginning with those assembled in Uganda in August 2010. One thing I have learned in the Anglican world: theologians may propose, but bishops will dispose. The burden now falls on the episcopal leaders of the Global South to ponder these proposals and take action.** Failure to do so, I fear, will have tragic results. In the short term, it may encourage individual Provinces to neglect international affairs and simply mind their own shops. “To your tents, O Israel!” may become the byword of the Global South churches. To take a pass on the opportunity to be part of a worldwide Gospel-centred church would sell short the providential moment in which we find ourselves. Even more ominous, the atomization of Global South Anglicanism would leave the door open for the powers that currently rule the Communion to augment their subversive and divisive activities around the globe. Remember, these powers were soundly defeated at Lambeth 1998, and yet twelve years later they continue to defy biblical and traditional teaching and to hold the balance of power in the official Communion organs.

I ask the bishops of the Global South to address the future of the Anglican Communion Covenant urgently. At a critical point in Israel’s history, Joshua summoned the leaders of the nation to reaffirm its commitment to the Covenant and the God of the Covenant, and he challenged them: “Choose this day whom you will serve,” whether the gods of the pagan nations or the Lord, God of Israel. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” he concluded (Joshua 24:15). The Anglican Communion is facing just such a crisis of two religions within one body, one a new paganism, the other the faith once for all delivered to the saints. To adopt a revised Anglican Covenant is to decide to serve the Lord and to stand firm for the God of Scripture and the God of the Anglican martyrs – those who died in the fires of Oxford and Namugongo. So I urge you, brothers: “Be strong and of good courage!” Do not turn aside from your duty to defend the word of God and His holy church (Joshua 1:7).

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