Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Men and women are different, and so should be their marriage vows

When a husband promises to love his wife as Christ loved the church and give himself up for her, he is declaring his intention to be a man of strength and self-control for her benefit and for the benefit of any children born to them. Such qualities, properly exercised in the spirit of self-sacrifice, enhance the feminine and personal qualities of his wife.

Each marriage and each era will work this out differently. It is in this context and this alone that the revised marriage service enables a woman to promise submission.

Her submission rises out of his submission to Christ.

It is a pity that the present discussion has been so overtly political. Instead of mocking or acting horrified, we should engage in a serious and respectful debate about marriage and about the responsibilities of the men and women who become husbands and wives. The Bible contains great wisdom on this fundamental relationship.
The rush to embrace libertarian and individualistic philosophy means that we miss some of the key relational elements of being human, elements which make for our wellbeing and happiness. It's time to rethink marriage from first principles. It really matters.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

New challenge to CofE as US Anglicans approve gay 'marriage' service

Bishops in the American Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion, voted overwhelmingly to accept a special liturgy for what is effectively a form of homosexual wedding.

The liberal stance of American Anglicans has proved one of the biggest challenges to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’s authority during his 10-year tenure.

Its decision nine years ago to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, triggered a crisis in the Anglican world, splitting the 77 million-strong Communion into liberal and conservative camps.

He has dedicated much of the last nine years to trying to heal the divisions it caused without success. Read more

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The story of the Reformation needs reforming

... in multicultural England, the inherited Protestant certainties are fading. It is time to look again at the Reformation story. There was nothing inevitable about the Reformation. The heir to the throne is uneasy about swearing to uphold the Protestant faith, and it seems less obvious than it once did that the religion which gave us the Wilton Diptych and Westminster Abbey, or the music of Tallis, Byrd and Elgar, is intrinsically un-English. The destruction of the monasteries and most of the libraries, music and art of medieval England now looks what it always was – not a religious breakthrough, but a cultural calamity. The slaughtered Popish martyrs look less like an alien fifth column than the voices of a history England was not allowed to have. Read more

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Chelmsford Bishop speaks in favour of women bishops amendments

Chelmsford Diocesan Synod
Presidential Address 9 June 2012

As this is the last Synod of this triennium could I begin by thanking each and every one of you for the Saturdays you have given up to attend these vital meetings, and the Friday evenings you have spent reading many papers and reports. Synodical government is exacting and strenuous. It requires compromise and consensus. It honours the diversity of the church. It balances episcopal, clerical and lay voices. When decisions are made, there is harmony, and the new song of the gospel is heard afresh. So thank you for singing in the choir of the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod for the past three years. I look forward to welcoming some of you back in the autumn. We bid farewell and bon voyage to others.

Today I want to turn again to a decision where we have struggled to find the consensus and harmony which we believe reflects the mind of Christ, namely the legislation which comes before the General Synod of the Church of England next month proposing that the episcopate of our church be open to women as well as men.

And I am mindful that we continue this debate against a backdrop in our own country of recession, hardship and anxiety, and in the wider world financial crisis and the ever present dread of violence, injustice, hunger and environmental disaster. Some people understandably complain that the church should be talking about the ‘real issues’ of sharing the gospel and bringing God’s peace to the world, and can’t quite believe we are still talking about women’s ministry. However, not only do I want to devote this address to thinking about this legislation; I also want to contend that this is the real issue - or at least one of them! - and is very relevant for our proclamation of the gospel, for it touches upon our understanding of what it is to be made in the image of God, of the new humanity we have in Christ, of the gospel we share in the world, and, most relevant of all when we consider the conflicts and horrors of the world, how we live together with conscientious disagreement.

The legislation, as it was proposed, received overwhelming support amongst the dioceses, including our own. The February General Synod declined to make any amendments. That left the House of Bishops, which met last month, as the only body with power to do so. We gathered knowing that the legislation as it stood represented a middle road. On the one hand there are those who believe that anything other than a single clause measure without provision for those who disagree is compromise too far. On the other, those who do disagree simply point out that they are holding to the faith as it has always been, and they are not the ones changing. The actual legislation as it has evolved over many years and many debates offers a way through: men and women bishops on a completely equal footing; and at the same time a statutory Code of Practice that assures those who disagree that they are still loyal Anglicans and have a place within the church where they can flourish and where their conscientious objections are respected. However, because most of these assurances were in the Code – of which we have only seen a draft – and not in the measure, there was – is – a very real danger that the legislation would not gain the two thirds majority in each house of Synod that is necessary for it to go through. Many amendments were suggested to the House of Bishops to help on this point and there was much discussion. In the end all but two of the suggested amendments were rejected. The others seemed to us to stray too far from the carefully navigated middle way. However one of the amendments seems to me be extremely helpful. It simply says that where a male bishop exercises episcopal ministry in a diocese by way of delegation and in accordance with arrangements contained in a scheme, that is the Code of Practice that will be drawn up and which we will all be required to abide by, “the legal authority which he has by virtue of such delegation does not affect, and is distinct from, the authority to exercise the functions of the office of bishop which that bishop has by virtue of his holy orders”. It goes on: “Any such delegation shall not be taken as divesting the bishop of the diocese of any of his or her authority or functions.”

By clarifying the nature of the derived episcopal authority from ordination as distinct, though, of course related to, the delegated episcopal authority received from the bishop in whose diocese one ministers, it makes it easier for those who in conscience will not be able to accept the sacramental or teaching ministry of a woman bishop – the derived ministry - to still receive the delegated ministry of a male bishop appointed by her.

Now this distinction between delegated and derived authority is nothing new. It is how all clergy minister. We have the authority we derive from our ordination: we receive letters of orders showing that we are deacons, priests or bishops in the Church of God. We have the delegated authority of our license: we are restricted and permitted to exercise our ministry in the Church of England in a particular locality.

Because this license is given by the Bishop there was a danger that without this clarification some may confuse derived and delegated authority and feel that you could not accept one without the other. In the same way that in this diocese the Archdeacon of Colchester’s legitimate authority is recognised and accepted in her role as Archdeacon, even by those parishes who would not feel able to recognise her derived authority as a priest, so if the legislation is passed a future Bishop of Chelmsford, who happens to be a woman, will be able to delegate authority to a male bishop who can serve those parishes who will not be able to receive and accept her derived authority as priest and bishop. This, I believe answers the concern that some Anglo-Catholics have had over the issue of sacramental assurance. Provided there are male bishops to whom such authority can be delegated, so the delegation itself should not compromise the derived authority of the bishop who ministers. Nor is the authority of the diocesan bishop - man or woman – in any way compromised or limited. I know this theological clarification may be less helpful for some conservative evangelicals whose concern is not so much sacramental assurance but issues of male headship. However, having recently read Lorna Ashworth’s small booklet, Beyond Equal Rights and the Latimer Trust's more substantial book of essays, The Church, Women Bishops and Provision, I am more confident that the issue of authority to teach and preach is at the heart of this concern, and that there are only a very few who would hold to the stricter interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14 saying that women should remain silent in church and have no public role whatsoever. In other words, if the authority to teach and preach also comes from the derived authority given at ordination then I am hopeful that conservative evangelicals can also see that this amended legislation can give them the assurance that they can in conscience also work within the framework of the delegated authority that would come from a woman diocesan bishop. I might also point out that it is already the case that every clergyperson in the Church of England swears an oath of allegiance to the Crown, and therefore, to some extent, already accepts the legal jurisdiction of somebody authorised by law to hold a particular legal position in the church, male or female, lay or ordained. I am therefore hopeful that even those who find some of this most difficult might conclude that, when the time comes, they will be able to work and minister in a diocese where the duly authorised diocesan bishop is a woman; and that they will do this knowing that there was a bishop whose derived authority they could acknowledge, for under the code of practice there would have to be a different bishop to exercise certain sacramental or episcopal functions for those congregations who disputed these aspects of the diocesan bishop’s legitimacy. They could therefore swear canonical obedience to a woman diocesan bishop, acknowledging this person’s responsibility for the licensing of clergy and for allowing them to exercise their ministry within the structures of the Church of England ‘in all things lawful’.

Separating these two aspects of ministry is less than desirable. But it is a way forward. This amendment does not create the distinction. But it does clarify it; and by putting it into the measure itself gives greater assurance to those who, whatever the majority of us may think, are in danger of being excluded from the broad church we have always been. I want them to know they have been listened to and to know that I personally care very deeply about holding us together within the one church.

However, there was also a second amendment. And it is this one that has caused the most consternation. Where the measure had allowed for parishes to request the provision of a ‘male bishop’ the amendment says a male bishop whose views are “consistent with the theological convictions (of the parish) as to the consecration or ordination of women”.

Now those who have been most concerned about the legislation have consistently argued that maleness, in itself, is not enough; what is also required is assurance about where that person derives his orders. I believe that the clarification referred to above, and the promise that such bishops will continue to be available, answers this point. By introducing the additional requirement of theological conviction others are now saying that we have gone beyond a refining of what was already there and introduced substantial change to the measure, giving privilege in law to undefined theological positions, and giving congregations an outsized amount of control over the characteristics of their bishop: the male bishop referred to is no longer just someone whose derived orders are acceptable, but also someone whose views and theological convictions are the same as the requesting parish. Indeed, there are many women who are now saying that they cannot vote for this legislation. And although the amendment doesn’t allow for theological conviction to be a criterion except on this one issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, some are wondering whether having once conceded that a parish can request episcopal ministry on the grounds of one issue, what will be next? One website says “We do not think that the House of Bishops should be asking the Church of England to accept and live with a Measure that propagates ambivalence about women and would be divisive for generations to come”. We need to listen very carefully to these views and concerns.
Some bishops have responded by saying that all we have done is take what was in the proposed Code of Practice and put it into the measure itself. This is true. But by making it part of the legislation one departs almost completely from the long held Christian hope that we can actually trust each other on these sorts of things; and the equally important Christian doctrine, that even when we fail – and of course there are numerous examples of bishops failing to be trustworthy – we can forgive and make things new. Plus it is in danger of confusing the very matter that the previous amendment clarifies. What matters is not your view on this subject, but your orders.

So now to the crux of the matter. Should we still support this legislation? This diocese has 14 members of General Synod. From traditional Anglo-Catholic to conservative evangelical (and pretty much everything in between), we represent the spectrum of views on this and many other issues. When electing us, the diocese did a good job of making sure every voice was heard. This isn’t the same in other dioceses. It gives us strength.

I believe these amendments will give succour to those who were beginning to feel more and more marginalised. I hope that some who were thinking of voting against the measure will now vote in favour, or at least decide to abstain. At the same time the second amendment I have spoken about has hurt and confused a large number of people, and especially many women priests. I want them to know that I understand their anxiety. Nevertheless, I also want all of you to know that despite my own misgivings I will still be voting for the legislation. I will not be asking for it to be returned to the dioceses and looked at again. I don’t want to exclude those who disagree with me. Neither do I want to create two classes of bishop, with women consigned to the second category. But provided we all agree to adhere to the line, that over and above this issue of women’s ordination, theological conviction over matters where we have already agreed to disagree, is not of itself a reason to request another bishop; and remembering that in another part of the measure it is clearly stated that “delegation shall not be taken as divesting the bishop of the diocese of any of his or her authority or functions” then I believe this legislation, as amended, can work. How this happens will be the business of the Code of Practice. But there is now enough in the measure itself to enable objectors to the ordination of women to know that they have the place they deserve; and enough assurances that authority is still delegated, and not transferred, to mean, even though male bishops ‘appointed following a Letter of Request’ as the measure requires, will be selected on the grounds of their convictions and not just their orders, that, despite understandable concerns, those who have always fought for and supported this development in our ministry can continue to do so. In the end we will all have to make our individual decisions. But we must make them knowing that we are voting for the whole church and not just our part of it.

I have always believed this is of God. But I have also believed that we must find a way of doing it that honours and acknowledges our disagreements. Despite my concerns, I believe we are there. I therefore also believe it would be a tragedy for our church and our nation if the legislation fell at this point. It is a compromise. But the Church of England has made compromises before and I believe this one will not only secure us an equality of ministry between men and women, it will also mean that we can move on from debating the subject – and goodness knows we have consumed a lot of energy doing that in recent years – to the more interesting and fruitful business of living it out faithfully, that is demonstrating to the world the new hope that we have in Jesus Christ. The mere fact that we are arguing over the details of the legislation rather than the substance of the theological issues, shows how far we have come. Of course some still have serious theological concerns; but we are on the edge of finding a way of living together with these. Therefore, when the legislation is passed, we will move into a new era. It will still be an era of reception because there are so many churches and Christians around the world who do not share our view on this. But, crucially, our witness will no longer be to each other, it will be to this wider world. We will show other churches what it is to be a faithful, biblical, reformed and Catholic Church with men and women bishops; we will show our own communities a clearer demonstration of that new humanity where disagreement does not lead to exclusion and where men and women are one in Christ. What we will ask of each other is this: can you live with, respect and honour the faith and integrity of the person with whom you disagree on this issue, knowing that your own position is likewise respected? If the answer to this is yes, and if you believe that this legislation gives us such provision, then you must vote for the legislation, even if inside you wish it were worded slightly differently. If the answer is no, then we must either go back to the drawing board - and that will take at least another five years ; or, if you believe it can only ever be no, then sadly it may mean a few more people leaving the Church of England. I hope to God this doesn’t happen. I am for saying yes.

So please pray for all those attending the General Synod in July, and especially for those from this diocese. Pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit that we may know the mind of Christ, and, if it is his will, say yes to women bishops in the way this legislation proposes.


Louise Mensch: social networks must identify internet bullies who cower behind anonymity

"Too often people have believed that the internet is a magical, protected space where nothing they do can be policed.

"Zimmerman, a typical troll, operated under the belief that if he hid behind an anonymous internet user name, nothing could happen to him.

"They type threats on their keyboard that they would never utter in person. A rash of such cases has arisen in the past couple of years, and prosecutors are cracking down.

"Social networks have a duty to identify internet bullies who cower behind anonymity. As victims repeatedly fight back, we can hope to see a culture shift. "

Zimmerman was given the suspended sentence, ordered to pay costs and made subject of a restraining order. Read more

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Gonorrhoea becoming untreatable, health experts warn

... The government said too many people were not taking care of their sexual health.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Sexually transmitted infections can lead to infertility and other serious health problems. The message is clear: whatever your age, you should always use a condom."

Lisa Power, from sexual-health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "These figures must act as a wake-up call, not only to sexually active people but also to the government and public-health services.

"They represent a step backwards for the nation's sexual health. The emergence of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea is just one consequence of continued high rates." Read more

Rise in sexually transmitted diseases blamed on reckless men under 25

New cases of sexually-transmitted diseases have risen in the past year because of  unsafe sex among young  heterosexuals and gay men, figures reveal.
Diagnoses in England rose by 2 per cent from 419,773 cases in 2010 to 426,867 last year.
The steepest rise was in gonorrhoea, which leapt 25 per cent from 16,835 cases to 20,965.
This was followed by diagnoses of syphilis, which rose by 10 per cent from 2,650 to 2,915. Genital herpes rose by 5 per cent from 29,794 to 31,154.

Read more

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Today Was Supposed to Be My Wedding Day

[...] Thankfully, the Holy Spirit spoke to me on a weekday in early January when my friend opened the Bible to this passage and showed me the truth. I came to understand that God intends for marriage to mimic Jesus' selfless love for his people. I was awestruck. My husband is supposed to lead me closer to God? I immediately broke down crying. I kept digging, trying to understand how I got so far off base. "He's a good man," I argued. "Yes, but is he a Christian? Does he know Jesus?" people asked me in response. "But if I leave him, won't I be going against what God says, by not loving the unbeliever?" Surprisingly, no. I was not yet married. I had not made a covenant with him before God. I was not bound to him. As much as it would hurt to say goodbye, I knew this was not the relationship God intended for me. He promises much more, and I wasn't going to find it in a marriage with an unbeliever.

As this devastating realization sunk in, we began the process of disentangling our lives. And within a few weeks, my ex-fiancé headed back to his home with his belongings, including the dog I had come to love and all of my hopes and dreams for a lifetime of happiness together. We both knew he had to find God on his own terms, in his own way.

Who could have guessed that simply checking a box on a church form would eventually end in heartbreak, financial loss, and unwanted singleness? Difficult and sad as it was, God was there every step of the way. Read more

Yes, marriage is the 'gold standard’

[...] Earlier this month, when Coleridge established the Marriage Foundation, an independent charity dedicated to championing marriage as the “gold standard for relationships”, Left-wing commentators were highly critical. In return for raising his head above the politically correct parapet to reject the canard that when it comes to bringing up children, cohabitation is the equal of a legal union, bar the paperwork, he was branded reactionary.

But now it would appear that he was reflecting the mood of the nation. While no one disputes that cohabiting parents can be as loving and supportive as married couples, the incontrovertible fact is that their relationships are less stable – they are almost three times more likely to break up by the time their children are seven. And the long-term consequences of divorce and relationship breakdown on children are clear: they are more likely to play truant, take drugs, abuse alcohol, commit crime or self-harm.

Coleridge, who presided over the bitterly fought divorce of Sir Paul and Heather McCartney, blames 50 years of “relationship free-for-all” for the spread of “divorce on demand”. The resulting fallout – or “broken home”, to use the now unfashionable phrase – damages not just the children, but wider society. “The Marriage Foundation is not going to be a cosy club for the smug and self-satisfied of Middle England,” Sir Paul told an audience at London’s Middle Temple Hall, “but, we hope, the start of a national movement with the aim of changing attitudes from the very top to the bottom of society.” Read more

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Same-Sex Couples To Get Free IVF On NHS

Gay and lesbian couples will be eligible for free fertility treatment on the NHS under controversial new proposals.

Same-sex couples would be allowed artificial insemination, even if they don't have a diagnosed fertility problem, according to draft guidelines from an NHS watchdog.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says couples who do not become pregnant after six attempts with donor semen should be referred for further investigations and IVF.
Gay men could take along a surrogate mother, who would carry the baby for them.

It will be the first time that same-sex couples have been allowed NHS fertility treatment. Read more

Monday, 14 May 2012

Watch the great marriage debate at Gunnersbury Baptist church online

You can now watch the film of 'The Great Marriage Debate' at Gunnersbury Baptist Church online for free at

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's address to the FCA Conference, Battersea

Jesus, Lord of His Church and of the Church’s Mission

The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali at the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Leaders Conference,
St Mark's Battersea Rise  25 April 2012

(Download PDF version)

We have been so ably led these two mornings on the Letter to the Colossians, but I want to put before you in what I have to say three very short passages from the Letter to the Ephesians, which is of course a companion letter to Colossians. There are many similarities in thought and in context and in even the people to whom these letters are addressed.

The first passage is from Ephesians 2[:19-21], which speaks of the Church as ‘the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the key cornerstone (or perhaps it could be capstone), in whom the full structure (perhaps it could be every building) is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord’.

So the Church is built on the foundation, the apostolic testimony. You may think, some people may think, that this contradicts what the Apostle had said in 1 Corinthians 3[:11] that it was Jesus Christ who is the foundation, but actually there is no contradiction because the apostolic testimony itself is about Jesus, the apostolic testimony by the work of the Spirit points always to Jesus, reminds the Church of Jesus, glorifies Jesus, brings to our mind all that Jesus has done and said and is. ‘The foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…’ Now the cornerstone is what aligns the whole wall, as it were each brick to another. And there’s a cornerstone, if you like, it says “1873” over there, that is one understanding of the word that is used here – a very rare word by the way - or it may be capstone, the capstone of the pillars, that’s the other sense in which the Greek translator of the Older Testament, the Septuagint, uses the word, something that caps what has already been put together. So Jesus Christ, I think we can say fairly, is both foundation and capstone: the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the cornerstone of the Church.

The second passage that I had in mind is actually from Ephesians 1[:23], if you would not mind going back to this. It is quite an amazing statement about the Church, and it says about Jesus that ‘God has put all things under his feet and has made him the Head over all things for the Church, which is his Body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’.

So Jesus Christ is the head of the church in all things, not just in spiritual matters, not just in matters of doctrine or worship, but in everything he is the Head of the Church. There is ‘no vacancy’, as Mike was saying, for such a Head – that is always, eternally filled - because Jesus is the head of the church, and we cannot therefore look to human authority, to human rulers, as claiming any part of that Headship. I think it is very important for Anglicans at last to understand this, and it may be that I, as someone who has been a bishop in the Church of England, say it.

The third passage that I had in mind about the Church in this wonderful Letter is from Ephesians, chapter 3[:11], where the Apostle says that it is ‘through the Church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the principalities and the powers…’. Through the Church God’s wisdom is made known to the ‘principalities and powers’, and what are they? They are the assumptions and the prejudices and the principles by which human institutions and indeed the supernatural world are ordered and governed, or perhaps we can say disordered as well. ‘Through the Church God’s wisdom is made known…’ This is a statement, if you like, in the highest sense, of the Church’s mission: to make known God’s message, to speak truth to power, as Andrea Williams might say.

Now when we read these exalted statements about the Church, naturally we ask: to what or to whom does this apply? And there are several senses of the church, both in these letters and generally, I wish to draw to your attention. First of all, is that church, elect in Jesus Christ, which has existed from all ages, God’s people throughout the ages and throughout the world as a result of God’s gracious purposes for his creation. St Paul calls this in the Letter to the Galatians [4:26] “Jerusalem our mother which is above.” That is the Church that is meant, not simply a human institution, but of and from the divine plan. Certainly that Church is meant. But Paul is very capable of coming down to earth, so in the Letter to the Colossians certainly there is this sense of God’s eternal purposes being worked out among his people, but there are also references to local churches. St Paul speaks of the church of God at Corinth or we might say at Laodicea or Rome or Ephesus or whatever it may be. This is the church in a particular town or a particular city as it is gathered together by God’s will and the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. It is a very important manifestation of the Church. So much of what is said in the New Testament is addressed to churches such as these.

But there is, I think, another sense in which the word ‘church’ is used in the New Testament. In his letters to churches in various towns - Romans, for example or Colossians - Paul often remembers the church that is in people’s homes [Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15]. Now of course the early church did often meet anyway all together in someone’s home, but I think this usage is different. This means a part of the church in Laodicea that is at Nympha’s house or a part of the Church in Rome which is to be found in Prisca’s and Aquila’s home or part of the church in the home of Lydia or Chloe (it is interesting to see how many women are mentioned in this context). Each of these is properly called God’s church. The church in someone’s home clearly shares a likeness – people are like one another, it is a family representation – and this also allows us to express church where people are like one another, in interest or profession or ethnicity perhaps or language. I used to be rather hostile to people speaking of the church in this way, where the church is characterized by homogeneity, but I now see, from a more careful reading, if you like, of the New Testament, that there is a valid understanding of the church here that is possible. A church like that of Fresh Expressions - so many of the Fresh Expressions in this country are characterized by homogeneity. That is fine but a church like that is not enough. It has to be balanced by other things. One of them of course is the diversity of the church in the wider community. In the New Testament it is a town: Rome or Ephesus or Corinth or Laodicea, wherever it might be. These churches in the town – I suppose our parishes are not unlike this church, parishes like this one - such churches are now characterized not by homogeneity but by diversity. It is here that we noted both in St Paul and in the Letter of James instruction given about poor and rich together for instance, people of different social status - cosmopolitan centres many of these cities were – and so people of different races and languages, Jews and Greeks and many different sorts of people. So when we speak of the church, we have to keep all of this in mind.

When can we say in this situation or that, that the church of God, the church of Christ is present to a sufficient extent that the Lord is among his people? Article XIX, which is appropriately titled ‘Of the Church’, says that ‘The church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments duly administered.’ And I think each of those phrases is important. If congregations - Ashley was telling us in our seminar that ‘congregation’ is nearly a translation of ekklesia - congregation of faithful men, however that may be expressed - in a household or town-wide in a parish church, the faithfulness, faithful men, faithful people (that is important), people who have come to know the Lord, people who are committed to the following of Jesus Christ, in which the pure Word of God is preached. How often we are told here in the Church of England: ‘Vicar, you are going to keep to seven minutes, aren’t you?’ I think it is possible to preach the pure Word of God in six or seven minutes, but it is not desirable. And so ‘sermonettes lead to Christianettes’, as is so often said. The whole counsel of God has to be brought out. ‘The pure word is preached and the sacraments duly ministered, according to Christ’s ordinance’. That is, brothers and sisters, what makes the church, not a sociological understanding of community – I mean, that’s useful to have – not an understanding that relies purely on venerable tradition and place – I’m not saying those are unimportant - but faithful people, the preaching of the pure Word of God and the sacraments. Without these things there may be denominations, there may be ancient traditions and churches, but are they any more the church of Christ? Or has the glory departed?

I was once at a very grand assembly of a denomination in the West, let’s put it like that. It was very grand, very awe-inspiring. But in the middle of it, I had this sense that they had the form of godliness but not the power. You know what I am talking about. What makes the church has to do with the Gospel, that is to say, everything that the Church needs in its ministry - its life together, its preaching, the celebration of the sacraments - comes about because of the nature of the Gospel itself. In other words, how we are church is not different from what the Gospel is. The Gospel produces what is authentically church. This is a lesson we must learn again and again if the ecclesia is to be semper reformanda: again and again to check how we are church against the Gospel, and you’d be surprised at how much resistance there is to such an idea in some circles if you put it forward.

Of course God provides for every church in every place all that the church needs for its ministry and its mission. That’s the miracle, isn’t it, of the work of God’s grace? But it is also true that no church can be fully and wholly the church of Christ in a particular place without being in fellowship with all the other churches of Christ in all the different places. Of course, Jerusalem which is our mother above, is that transcendent reality of the Church in which by God’s grace we all participate. Of course the local church gathered together in the presence of the Lord, these are primary realities of the church, but the relationship between churches - Judea and the Gentile churches, for instance, the churches of Macedonia, the churches of Asia – these are also mentioned as somehow participating in the reality of becoming God’s people.

At the time of the Reformation, some traditions, rightly because of abuse, emphasized the absolute importance of the sacred deposit, the Word of God in Scripture; others with whom we also have to do emphasized the importance of the sacred ministry. I think that it was something of a miracle in the Anglican Reformation that we were able to keep both together - sacred deposit and sacred ministry – because the Church needs both. We need that deposit of the Word of God once for all given to the saints; but we need also, brothers and sisters, the authentic teachers called and commissioned and empowered by God, for bringing that Word alive to our people, to making sure the Word bears fruit in people’s lives, to sharing that Word with the world. Of course the sacred ministry is not on the same level as the sacred deposit. That misunderstanding can be ruled out at once. As is said in the Articles , the Church is the keeper of Holy Writ, a witness to it, a steward of it, but always the church and its ministers are servants of the Word and not its masters.

It is true that we have to bring the lordship of Christ and the sovereignty of his Word to bear on our mission in the world, and this means really taking account of the world and knowledge of the world - philosophy was mentioned this morning in the Letter to the Colossians, science if you like - and to make serious attempts at relating God’s Word to what the world has known in the past or is coming to know now and what it may come to know in the future. Anglicans have been distinguished in trying to relate God’s Word to new knowledge, and we must of course continue to do this. However, we do need to say that revelation is about confirming reason. The priority of revelation must be maintained particularly when it relates, for example, to purpose in our world, to the meaning of creation, to human destiny, to human freedom given by God and so gone wrong because of us.

Any interpretation of the world - of the origins of human life, of the coming of consciousness and self-consciousness - that does not take account of why the world has been made, what for, and what our destiny is, must be judged inadequate because it does not fit in with the revelation that God has given us about his purpose for us and our destiny therefore in him. Now if we are going to understand how the church is and how the church relates to the world around it, understood in these different ways which I have tried very briefly to explain, what should the church be doing to be the church? There are certain things that are absolutely essential for the church, in every aspect of its manifestation, to be and to do.

First of all, it must be possible for God’s people to gather. To be a lone Christian is a dead Christian. We must gather together, must we not, to hear God’s Word, to celebrate the sacraments, to learn from one another, to pray for one another – the list is long. Any failure at any level for Christians to gather together around the Gospel is a serious failure and weakens the witness of the Body of Christ. Gathering is so important, but gathering of course must be, first of all, for the sake of praying. How encouraging it has been here for us to be here able to pray together, to celebrate the Supper of the Lord together. It shouldn’t really be remarkable for Christians to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, but in our Communion in recent years it has become a problem. Gathering together, praying together, learning from God’s Word and from one another together - together! - and the learning has to be not just from one another, not just an affair that has to do with us, however careful the listening and however exalting indaba might be – I’ve no personal experience of it - it has to be around God’s Word! I mean, that is absolutely essential.

And then teaching together. The Church has to say from time to time something about how the world is, what issues are faced by a nation or a community or the world. From time to time, it has to declare what God’s Word is saying in this situation or that. Now the Lambeth Conferences have never been perfect - I have been closely involved with some, and I would not pretend in any way that they have ever been perfect - but until the last one it was possible for Anglican bishops gathered together in solemn assembly to speak authoritatively - whether that was about our relations with other churches, what we thought of other faiths, whether that was about the need for Christian unity, our self-understanding as Anglicans at the 1930 Conference, the coming into being of the Church of South India in 1948, the family in 1958, and then of course in 1998 on human sexuality - the Lambeth Conferences were able to say with spiritual and moral authority, even if not legal, what the Church’s faith was. But that has become impossible now. This is a serious injury to the Body, the inability to keep together and the keeping together of course comes about not only as result of consulting and learning together but of deciding together. In the ‘Appeal to All Christian People’ in 1920, the church decided together – the bishops together decided - on what terms Anglicans would be willing to talk about unity with other Christians, and that became useful not just for Anglicans but for all sorts of other Christians as well. In 1998 the bishops gathered together by a huge majority, an overwhelming majority, and decided together that they would teach in their own dioceses and provinces what they had discerned to be God’s will in terms of human sexual behaviour, deciding how important that is for our life together.

But then of course there is the will to discipline, which arises out of the common decision-making and the common teaching that the church is able to declare in the world. There was a big debate at the time of the Reformation about what place discipline should have in the church, and the Reformers were rightly wary of the excessive discipline of the medieval church. But the Anglican Reformers, as is well set out in the Second Book of Homilies [Book 2, Homily 16 for Whitsunday], make it quite clear that the Anglican tradition is for effective discipline in the Church. It is not that the church cannot exist without discipline, but that the church’s good, the church’s spiritual good, comes about through effective discipline in the Body. I mean this ought to be obvious: you know, any institution, even human institutions, cannot function without discipline. How do we expect the church of God, so diverse, with people from so many different backgrounds and issues and gifts, to function without discipline?

Well, if that’s the case, brothers and sisters, what could we be saying about our Anglican Communion today? It has been said already that the so-called Instruments of Communion that have developed over the last fifty years or so have all failed in one way or another. Even the Lambeth Conference that has existed for a much longer period than that, has been found not to be effective in setting forth the teaching of God’s Word as we understand it in the situation that men and women face in their particular context. Now in this I don’t think the Instruments can be given artificial respiration and somehow revived. I mean it’s been tried, and it may even be worth trying, but it hasn’t worked. I am sad about that, but I think we do need to find new ways of association, of coming together, not just to be warm and well-filled, but to do the essential tasks. It was successive Lambeth Conferences up to 2008, but excluding 2008, that said that the heads of the church, the Primates, have a particular role in maintaining the unity of the Church. Now both Lambeth 2008, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the progressive watering down of the Covenant have reduced, almost eliminated, the Primates from this particular role that other Lambeth Conferences were saying it was necessary for them to fulfill. I think that is a tragedy, because at one stroke it has made decision-making impossible. But I do feel that in addition to the Primates’ meeting – in a way the Primates’ meeting arises from what I am going to say next – I feel that what we need to be doing is to have a meeting of bishops, clergy and laypeople that comes together for consultation, for prayer, for identifying the issues and the opportunities that we have in our world, it comes together synodally – I’m not saying “synodically,” – synodally, let’s just say with the intention of walking together, walking in the way of the Lord. I hope that GAFCON 2 will be very much that, walking together in God’s way for God’s work according to God’s Word.

But within such a synodal and missional gathering, there must be a gathering of those who have oversight. I’m purposely avoiding the word bishops here, because it would be easy for me to say such a gathering should be a gathering of bishops. Bishops should certainly be included, but I think we’ve got to move beyond that to a gathering of people beside the bishop, in addition to the bishops, who also exercise one kind of oversight or another. That may be in the formation of people for Christian ministry; it may be people who are rectors of churches that are crucial to the future of our Communion. (I mean, rectors of churches like this one exercise enormous oversight and have very large staff which can be quite well compared to what happens in a diocese. Why should they be excluded from such a gathering?). It may be leaders in church planting ministries. This will certainly need a reform of, episcope in the Church, perhaps even of the episcopate. Now I know what I am saying is radical, and there will be natural Anglican resistance to it, even in my own mind some resistance, but I think in all fairness I must say it. I believe that in associating in these ways will make us more attuned to what actually God is saying to the churches - the local churches, the clusters of churches, you can call them if you want, not always that - and how God wants to glorify his church, the church as she is in his eternal plan and eternal sovereignty.

How do we go about it? I think it is here that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has a splendid opportunity to model this in our own life together as it emerges. That is to say, we do not to wait forever for non-existent Instruments of decision-making to make decisions that they will never make . You know, I’m tired of waiting. And you can’t say I haven’t had patience. But how long will this carry on? We have got to start doing this in our own life. So I’m hoping that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will begin to show us how the Church is to gather, how to pray together, how to decide together, what to teach and also how we include people and also sometimes sadly have to exclude people, for the sake of discipline. Exclusion, by the way, is real in the New Testament but always for the sake of restoration, always for the sake of restoration.

Practically, I think what this will mean at our next meeting, God willing, when it takes place next year, is to have a mechanism that brings together people with oversight. I am quite willing to talk about how that may happen, how difficulties might be overcome, who would be included and who shouldn’t, and all that can be talked about, but we shouldn’t miss this opportunity because, in addition to the bishops, there are other people who can contribute to our gathering, praying, deciding and teaching, which is so important for us, and, what is more, when they go back to wherever they are exercising oversight they can make it real. We must make sure that this takes place in the wider context of the church gathered. I’ve always thought that Acts 15 is a very good example of how the church should gather. The whole church gathered, the apostles speak, the apostles and the elders set out what the decisions of the church are, and then the whole church sends out the message that it wants to send out to the world.

So for purposes that have to do with our next meeting, there must be a wide gathering of fellowship of listening to God’s Word together, of praying together, consulting together, but in that context, those with oversight must have a special responsibility for setting out what we believe to be necessary for the future. And the Primates of course in their meeting will enable us to gather, to do these things and, later on of course, to implement what decisions have been made.

Now I am not saying that this should happen as a replacement for the Anglican Communion (God forbid!), but I am saying that this should be a model, a lesson that can be learnt by the wider church.

Finally, we must of course remain a dynamic movement, a movement that is committed to the Jerusalem Declaration. Some structures are necessary even for movements. Living beings move, and there are some very simple living beings that don’t have very much of a structure, but a lively, developed and progressive movement needs some structure. I don’t deny that; however, we must not forget that we are a movement in mission, and this may necessitate the inclusion of some people in our common life who do not belong to the structure, who are not people who are exercising oversight, who are not bishops or Primates or rectors of churches, or principals of theological colleges, but who are leaders in mission. In my time as a bishop both in Pakistan and as a bishop in England I have emphasized the voluntary principle in the life of the Church. Of course there are some things that the church must do officially, but the growing edge of the Church, the spread of the Gospel, the coming of people to faith, their growth and their nurture in the faith, often comes about from people who have been called to fulfill a particular vocation. Sometimes it means recognition and commissioning by the Church, but sometimes it just goes on, and we have to this voluntary principle. Paul Perkin was commenting at the beginning of this conference about the relationship of this church to CMS. Well, CMS was a voluntary movement by people called by God to fulfill a certain vision, just as the Clapham sect generally and locally here was called to fulfill that mission. I often say that when CMS was formed, it wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, seeking his blessing, and it took two years for the Archbishop of Canterbury even to reply. But that did not stop it from doing what it had to do, and we must be praying that God will produce, as indeed he has, movements in our Anglican Communion, in our local churches, in our national churches, for bringing people to faith, for renewal in the life of the Church, for leadership in worship, and that we shouldn’t be suspicious of these movements as if they were harmful for the institutions but celebrate them as God’s gift to us today. Effective leadership, effective episcope if you like, exercised by Primates and bishops, I think part of that for the future must be recognition of, and enabling of and empowering of, this voluntary principle, in that light once again we can learn from our past.
We can be confident of Christ’s Lordship in a Church which is faithful to his Word and which seeks to bring this Word to bear on the needs, aspirations, fears and hopes of the world to which it has been sent as an ambassador. Let us humbly, but properly, recover our confidence in the transforming power of God’s Word.

This address was followed by a lively question and answer period.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Canadian student suspended over Jesus T-shirt

A teenage Canadian student was suspended for wearing a yellow t-shirt to school that reads "Life is Wasted Without Jesus".

William Swinimer, a 19-year-old Nova Scotia resident who attends Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, was given multiple in-school suspensions for wearing the shirt. Finally, he was also handed a five day out of school suspension, which ends Monday.

Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Centre for Faith and Public Life of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told The Christian Post that the school's disciplinary efforts were "inappropriate". Read more

Left and Right politicians ... sing from same hymn sheet

[...] There is no Left of the old school – threatening to seize the means of production and the levers of the economy in the name of the proletariat. Not even Mr Livingstone advocates renationalising Britain’s industries or the wholesale confiscation and redistribution of private property. And Mr Johnson, while he is certainly a more forthright spokesman for business interests and lower taxes than David Cameron, would not deny the need to regulate the banks or protect the disadvantaged.

The difference between the Centre Right and the Centre Left (for they are all that remains of the two sides of that old titanic struggle) is now almost entirely rhetorical. The CR wants a free-market economy with an entitlements programme attached to guard against social unrest. The CL wants an entitlement society with free-market activity attached to provide the necessary funds. The argument about the mix is very much confined to the margins – and about how you describe it. The actual differences being so slight (and there being so much flexibility needed to cope with fluctuating reality) that it is necessary to lard the descriptions with emotive, absolutist language to generate some faux passion. Read more

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Atheist group wants cross removed from city war memorial

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is threatening legal action against the City of Woonsocket for a Christian Cross displayed on public property in front of Firestation 2. The cross is part of a World Ward 1 memorial erected in the city in 1921. In 1952 the monument was rededicated in honor of three Woonsocket brothers Alexandre, Henri, and Louis Gagne that were all killed in World War II.

The Freedom of Religion Foundation,(FFRF) a group based in Madison, Wisconsin, said in a letter to Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine, (click here to view letter) they have received complaints about the cross and that it’s display is “unlawful.” As first reported by the Woonsocket Call, the group is threatening legal action against the city if the situation is not rectified. Read more

Ministry Trust to be established in Southwark Diocese

Due to widespread concerns in the Diocese of Southwark, a Trust is being established to support the ministry cost of parish clergy. Read more

Friday, 13 April 2012

Bishop of Chelmsford: Church tax is a kick in the teeth

THE Bishop of Chelmsford says a possible tax on churches feels like “a kick in the teeth”.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell has written to the Chancellor, George Osborne, asking him to keep zero-rate VAT on alterations to listed church buildings.

As part of the Budget, the Chancellor proposed introducing VAT at 20 per cent on alterations to listed church buildings.

The Bishop said: “Listed church buildings are vital community assets, contributing a huge amount to community cohesion and development. Read more

Boris steps in to stop Christian poster campaign over use of anti-gay messages on the side of London buses

Boris Johnson has blocked Christian campaigners from using advertisements on London buses to promote their message on homosexuality.

The London mayor personally vetoed the campaign, which was due to start next week, because he said it suggested gay people can be cured.

The Christian adverts, which mimic an initiative by pro-gay group Stonewall, were intended to advertise 'gay conversion' through therapy.

Read more

German man who had four children with his sister loses European Court fight claiming incest conviction breached his human rights

A German man who fathered four children with his sister - and then claimed an incest conviction breached his human rights - has lost his European court case.

Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski argued they had rights to privacy and family life, which they say were violated when German courts jailed Steubing for 14 months in 2005.

The European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, ruled Germany was entitled to ban incest.

Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski, the German brother and sister who grew up apart, were reunited and then fell in love and had four children. Steubing was convicted of incest in 2005

The case led to calls for Germany to join countries such as France, Turkey, Japan and Brazil in legalising sex between relatives.

Read more

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Popular vicar converts to Catholicism ... and takes HALF his flock with him

A vicar led half his congregation in converting to Catholicism after complaining that the Church of England is telling believers in traditional values to ‘sod off'.

Father Donald Minchew was followed by 70 of his flock when he left the Anglican church where he has led services for nearly two decades to join a Catholic church less than 500 yards up the road.

He said the extraordinary leap of faith made him feel like the ‘Prodigal Son’ returning to a church with established beliefs after years of enduring the ‘pick and choose’ attitude of the CofE where congregations are fed on a diet of ‘pap and banality’.

Read more

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Archbishop panel member believes gay people can 'change' sexual desire

[...] The Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, the campaign for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Anglican communion, said Harrison's position on the commission appeared "cranky in the extreme".

Harrison's supporters insist his views reflect a substantial section of Anglican opinion about homosexuality and it would be impossible to elect a leader of an estimated 50 million churchgoers worldwide without such views being represented.

Harrison has written recent articles saying that gay relationships "fall short of God's purpose in creation". He argues that using that therapy and pastoral ministry may be remedies for those clergy drawn to a gay relationship but who feel it is unchristian, saying "there is evidence that some people with unwanted same sex attractions can achieve significant change".

He is one of three lay members of the commission voted in by the Church of England's General Synod in 2007. Its first meeting is expected in May. Read more

Saturday, 7 April 2012

... an avenging angel and BBC hypocrisy

[...] So far, so strange. A newspaper uncovers widespread criminality in health clinics. The minister responsible requests an immediate investigation, which takes only three days and costs a mere £1 million — less than one ten-millionth of the Health Department’s £105 billion budget.

The scandal is stamped out, the guilty face punishment . . . and instead of patting the Health Secretary on the back, the BBC swoops down on him like an avenging angel, flaming with wrath.


Indeed, the tone is set from the very opening words of the report, with that spurious reminder that someone had said the poor fellow should be taken out and shot. In my trade, this kind of reporting is known as a ‘hatchet job’. The question is: why is Auntie so angry with Mr Lansley?

I reckon I know exactly why. For unless I’m much mistaken, the one and only reason why the BBC went for Mr Lansley’s throat and thought it worth leading its news bulletins with the story is that the criminal behaviour on which he clamped down with such swiftness and efficiency was taking place in abortion clinics. And as we all know, the free availability of abortions is a central tenet of progressive thought, and therefore of the BBC.

Read more

Friday, 6 April 2012

Stoned yet again: the geriatrics who refuse to grow up

[...] Recently, Paul McCartney told Rolling Stone that, aged 69, he had decided to give up cannabis. The reasons he gave for his conversion to abstinence were unintentionally revealing, not only of him, but of our increasingly immature and self-centred, that is to say adolescent, world-view.

The slowly ageing idol said that it was finally time to give up smoking cannabis because he now had a “sense of responsibility” towards his eight-year-old daughter. He added, “When you’re bringing up a youngster, your sense of responsibility does kick in, if you’re lucky, at some point.”

This statement was very revealing – far more revealing than it was probably intended to be – because it constituted an admission that smoking cannabis was an act of irresponsibility. There is, of course, a time and place for irresponsibility in a man’s life, namely adolescence, but 69 is a little late in the day to grow out of it. Read more

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Chessun hears Evangelical protest over preferment

[...] In a sermon preached at the consecration of the Bishops of Woolwich and of Croydon on 21 March, the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, referred to “criti­cism voiced about some recent appointments in the diocese” by Canon Chris Sugden on Newsnight on BBC 2 on 16 March.

Dean Nunn said: “There’s a word which characterises our ministry in this place and in much of this diocese — a word that sends shivers down the spines of some, and that word is ‘inclusive’. Whatever others imagine comes bundled with that word, we’ll continue to use it, with confidence and with pride, because that’s what we see characterised in God and in Jesus, an inclusive love which honours every person.” Read more

Friday, 23 March 2012

‘Your God’s wrong’: Judge erupts in angry tirade, sends pro-life activist back to jail

(Judge) Clements was unmoved. “You have, in some measure, displayed utter contempt for the courts and the rights of others,” he said. “You appear to be governed by a higher moral order than the laws of our country.”

“Your determination to break the law is a potential threat to the well-being of society and plants the seeds of lawlessness, perhaps even anarchy … You are unable to accord some civility and respect to others. Your view in law is wrong.” Read more

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Times interviews the Dean of St Albans

... the Church’s opposition to gay relationships is so patently unprincipled. In the Church of England we readily bless the second and even third marriages of couples who never darken our doors, yet we reject hundreds of our own faithful clergy and laypeople who long to bring their love and commitment before God and ask his blessing. While we dare to preach justice and equality in Christ’s name to the world, we seek exemptions to equality laws when it comes to our own employment and disciplinary practices. While we threaten to demote or debar American and Canadian Anglicans for appointing openly gay bishops and blessing gay unions, we are trying to appease homophobic Anglican churches in Africa which support extreme social and legal measures against homosexuals.

Not only gay people are repelled by all this. Many more people of goodwill who instinctively expect the Church to uphold justice and truth are scandalised when it so obviously does not. If secularism has gained ground in Britain in recent years, along with the demand that the Church of England must be disestablished and surrender its voice in national life, then it is our mishandling of the gay issue more than anything else that has brought it about.Read more

Three-parent families may be as good as two, judges rule

In a case which tackled fundamental issues of "biology, human nature and the hand of fate", the Appeal Court judges said the decision to have a child can never be a matter of "dry legal contract" and the father's right to play a role in his son's life had to be recognised.

 Observing that "human emotions are powerful and inconstant", Lord Justice Thorpe said that, despite the women's desire to create "a two-parent lesbian nuclear family", the father was "seeking to offer a relationship of considerable value" to his son.

And he told the court: "It is generally accepted that a child gains by having two parents. It does not follow from that that the addition of a third is necessarily disadvantageous".
The boy's biological mother says she made a pact with the father during a restaurant meeting before conception that she and her lesbian lover would fill the role of "primary parents" and that he would not stand on his paternal rights.

She and her partner said they felt "bitter and betrayed" after the father - the mother's former husband in a "marriage of convenience" to mollify his family - demanded overnight and holiday contact with his son.Read more

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Synod Votes to Abolish Easter. Clergy Houses to Become Gambling Dens

(The headline and following article are intended for parish newsletters, etc)
No it hasn’t happened, and no, it isn’t likely to happen — not soon, anyway. But if it did, whose fault would it be?
The policies of the Church of England are, to a large extent, decided through its Synods and various governing bodies. In addition to the Diocesan and General Synod, there are numerous, and often very important, bodies like the Bishop’s Council, the Pastoral Committee, and so on.
Elections to these bodies take place every three years. But it is often the same few people who stand for them and therefore who get elected. They are doing the best they can, but not many of them tend to be from churches with a passion to put the proclamation of the gospel and the conversion of non-believers at the centre of diocesan life.
This year is election year. And it is time to ask, “Will you stand for election?” If enough good-hearted people got on the Synod, it would make a real difference to the life of the local church.
To be eligible for election as a layperson, you just have to be a communicant member of the Church of England, over 16 years of age and on an electoral roll of a parish in the diocese. You do not have to be a member of the Deanery Synod, though those are the people who actually get to vote.
Nominations will begin on the 14th May – just a couple of months away – and close on the 8th June. If you want to stand, now is the time to be thinking about it. Those alarmist headlines may be a ‘spoof’, but there have been and will be plenty of serious topics up for discussion. If you have the time and willingness, this could be a very valuable work of personal ministry. Speak to one of the clergy if you’d like more details.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Guardian editorial on same sex marriage – the full fisk

Earlier this week the Guardian published an editorial backing the legalisation of same sex marriage, titled ‘Gay marriage: torn asunder from reality’

Virtually every sentence in it contained claims that were inaccurate, distorted or simply false. It was, in short, a breathtakingly naïve and misleading piece of arrant nonsense.

I have reproduced it line by line below with my own comments in italics. Read more

The mistakes of Phillip Jensen

TP: It’s really interesting that your experience was after receiving that training, that theological framework, it actually equipped you to keep growing and changing your mind. The perception might be that you go to somewhere like Moore College and you learn a body of knowledge that is fixed forever more. But in fact what you learn is a framework and a set of tools to keep learning and growing.

PJ: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the exact reverse of expectation. My youth fellowship group took me through Louis Berkoff’s Systematic Theology. And so I went to Moore College thinking I knew it all. But instead they dismantled much of what I’d learned—especially the sense that here’s the question, here’s the Bible verse, here’s the answer. They said, “Well, what does this proof text verse say in its context, and what does the book say?” And it just didn’t actually prove the point that Louis said it proved. What Moore College did was radicalize my mind to think biblically and creatively, rather than giving me all the answers so I didn’t have to think any more. I had that before I went to College. College freed me from it.

TP: As you left College, and went out to apply your newfound understanding in ministry, you found yourself dealing with people, because ministry is people. Thinking back on your relationships with people and on the pastoral issues you’ve dealt with, what mistakes stick out in your mind? Things you wished you’d done differently, things you’ve learnt from?

PJ: Well, people are an inexact science! You can wish that every relationship is going to work perfectly—but they don’t and they’re never going to. And so there are certain people that I’ve hurt and people who have hurt me. And they would wish, hopefully, that they hadn’t hurt me, and I certainly wish that I hadn’t hurt them! And so there are just mistakes that we all make in relationships.
But in general, with people, I think I was too naïve and trusting of people, especially early in my ministry. I took people too much as I found them.

I didn’t really believe enough in the doctrine of sin. And so I took people on face value, which in one sense you have to if you’re going to trust people, and if you’re going to have a relationship with people. But over the years you learn that the enthusiast, especially the newcomer enthusiast, is often the shallow soil that will burn out very quickly when the opposition comes. And you need to be wary. Read more

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association, 17 March 2012

The next meeting of the CDEA, on the 17th March 2012, will be on "Transforming Evangelical Strategy".

Rev John Richardson will draw on themes from his recent book, "A Strategy that Changes the Denomination",  then John Dunnett, the head of the Church Pastoral Aid Society, and Paul Harcourt, vicar of All Saints Church, Woodford Wells, will offer responses to stimulate discussion on how evangelicals can join the diocesan strategy of Transforming Presence with enthusiasm.

Coffee at 9.3, finishing at 12.30. Venue: Meadgate Church, Meadgate Avenue, Great Baddow, Chelmsford, CM2 7LJ. All welcome.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The case against gay marriage

... objection to gay marriage isn’t about religion at all and the letter that the bishops are sending to Catholic churches does, to do them credit, make that clear.

It’s all to do with the nature of marriage. And that is, a natural institution providing the optimal situation for raising children. It’s vulgarly biological, marriage — a state for bringing up children in. And that’s how it’s been for almost all of human history. Even in ancient Greece, which practically invented homosexuality — alright, it was especially about the Socratic master-pupil relationship — reserved marriage for men and women, for the conceiving and bearing of children. And it’s that fundamental character of marriage which makes it essentially heterosexual. It’s to do with the complementarity of the sexes. Men and women fulfil different roles when it comes to the rearing of their offspring, and even in an atypical family like my own, in which I’m the sole breadwinner, those complementary roles make sense. Children relate differently to mothers and fathers; they pick up cues about how the sexes work, even children who go on to become gay. And departing from that biological foundation for marriage is a radically new departure.

Obviously, there are infertile normal marriages, which are no less valid and exemplary for that. The most perfect Catholic marriage I know is involuntarily childless. Some people marry post-menopause, and their marriages aren’t second class, just exceptional. Read more

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Church 'does not own marriage'

The Church does not "own" marriage nor have the exclusive right to say who can marry, a government minister has said.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said the government was entitled to introduce same-sex marriages, which she says would be a "change for the better".

Her comments come as ministers prepare to launch a public consultation on legalising gay marriage next month. [...]

Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat minister, responded to comments made by Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that "not even the Church" owns marriage.

She said: "(Marriage) is owned by neither the state nor the Church, as the former Archbishop Lord Carey rightly said.

"It is owned by the people."

Ms Featherstone also appealed to people not to "polarise" the debate about same-sex marriages.

"This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs," she said.

"This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms."

Read more

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hundreds attend Rev John Suddards memorial service in Witham

HUNDREDS of people attended a service in memory of an "inspirational" Witham vicar.

The service was held on Monday night at a packed St Nicolas Church in Chipping Hill, Witham. More than 500 people attended, many of whom were forced to stand.

The Bishop of Colchester, Christopher Morgan, led prayers, while the Bishop of Chelmsford was also in attendance and the Reverend Simon Garwood preached to the congregation.

"We got as many chairs in as we possibly could but some people still had to stand," said Rev Garwood.

"We estimate it to be well over 500 people – maybe even 550 – and a lot of people from John's previous parish also turned up.

"A lot of people were upset but it was a very good service and very fitting for such a good man." Read more

Abortion investigation: doctors filmed agreeing illegal abortions 'no questions asked'

Doctors at British clinics have been secretly filmed agreeing to terminate foetuses purely because they are either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” procedures. [...]

Acting on specific information, undercover reporters accompanied pregnant women to nine clinics in different parts of the country. In three instances doctors were recorded offering to arrange terminations after being told the mother-to-be did not want to go ahead with the pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child.

One consultant, Prabha Sivaraman, who works for both private clinics and NHS hospitals in Manchester, was filmed telling a pregnant woman who said she wanted to abort a female foetus: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination”. Read more

Urgent inquiry called after investigation uncovers doctors 'agreeing to abort babies for being the wrong sex'

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley last night launched an urgent investigation after it emerged that doctors were offering mothers abortions based purely on the gender of their unborn child. 

Doctors working for NHS and private clinics were said to be agreeing to carry out the terminations despite the fact that ‘sex-selection’ is against the law.

They were also allegedly recorded admitting they would falsify paperwork to arrange the illegal abortions.

An investigation by the Daily Telegraph saw undercover reporters accompany mothers-to-be to nine clinics in different regions. On three occasions doctors were reported to have offered to arrange abortions after the pregnant women said they did not want the baby because of its sex.

Mr Lansley has now instructed officials to investigate.

Friday, 10 February 2012

£1.2m funding for girl gang member rape victims

The government has announced £1.2 million of funding to help girls involved with gangs who are raped by male members.

A network of people will support victims of sexual violence or exploitation or those at risk of becoming victims, the Home Office said.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said the violence girls and young women in gangs experienced was shocking. Read more

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Bishop of Salisbury backs gay marriage

[...] “I think same-sex couples that I know who have formed a partnership have in many respects a relationship which is similar to a marriage and which I now think of as marriage.

“And of course now you can’t really say that a marriage is defined by the possibility of having children. Contraception created a barrier in that line of argument. Would you say that an infertile couple who were knowingly infertile when they got married, weren’t in a proper marriage? No you wouldn’t.”

Bishop Holtam acknowledged the importance the Church has given to marriage producing children, but said he saw perception changing, and argued that children could not be “the single defining criteria” of marriage. Read more

Chelmsford 'Transforming Presence' Website running

View the website, including feedback from the 'Time to Talk' day, here.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Revealed: angels say Giles Fraser 'not on our side'

Dr Giles Fraser, the self-appointed National Spokesman for Right-on Christians, has dismissed Lord Carey as a Thatcherite "yesterday's man" and "a one-man band" for supporting the Government's welfare reforms. It's an unpleasant attack – another one carried by the New Statesman. The former Archbishop of Canterbury said that the welfare state has rewarded “fecklessness and irresponsibility”, a fact which most Britons agree with. So Fraser instructs him: "George, do us all a favour – take up golf." (He's old and retired – gedditt?!?!?)

This represents "a slightly creepy attempt to please his audience at the expense of a monumentally disrespectful and personal attack on another clergyman," says Daniel Finkelstein at the Times. I agree: and it's incredibly badly judged. What is going on here? Is Giles Fraser trying to impress his new mates at The Guardian, where he's been given a job as a leader-writer? Read more

Why women (including me) say 'no' to Question Time

... I can only answer for myself, of course but here are some of the things that flash through my mind when yet another invitation comes along. Do I want to travel to Aberystwyth (yes, that was the last location I was offered) on a Thursday afternoon, to arrive home at maybe two or three am on Friday which is my busiest working day of the week? Do I want to spend the previous week preparing answers for every conceivable whimsical question that might be asked when I actually need to be concentrating on the one or two issues that are my chief journalistic concerns of the moment? Do I want to compete for a few seconds airtime with a handful of maniacally ambitious politicians who are determined to hog the show? (On one memorable programme, a very senior LibDem figure cut across me every single time that I was called on to speak.) Do I want to be bayed at by a well-organised crew of political axe-grinders in the audience?

So, generally speaking, I am afraid that I find myself thinking, "Who needs it?" Read more

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Big welcome for our new Bishop of Bradwell

A NEW bishop who will serve parishes across south Essex has been ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Rt Rev John Wraw, was formally ordained by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, during a ceremony at the famous London church.

In a further ceremony, which will be held at Chelmsford Cathedral on Sunday, Mr Wraw, 53, will be installed and welcomed as the fifth Bishop of Bradwell.

Formerly the Archdeacon of Wiltshire, Mr Wraw will succeed the Rt Rev Dr Laurie Green, who retired in February last year, after eight years in the post. Read more

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Archbishop of York John Sentamu slams same-sex marriage

David Cameron would be acting like a "dictator" if he allowed same-sex unions to be called marriages, the Archbishop of York has said.

Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior Church of England cleric, said the government should not overrule the Bible on the issue.

Marriage must be between a man and a woman, he told the Daily Telegraph.

Dr Sentamu also said the Church should do more to avoid its leadership being mainly white and middle class.
The government will open a consultation on the issue of same-sex marriages in March. A consultation on the subject by the Scottish government ended last month. Read more

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Payday loans 'sucking money' from poor, say assembly members

Companies that offer short-term loans at high interest rates have been accused of "sucking money" out of poor communities by Welsh assembly members.

The Welsh government was urged to work with councils and voluntary groups to promote alternatives to payday loans.

Assembly members expressed concern that it was becoming increasingly easy to borrow money through websites and smart phones.

But industry representatives said they did not target the poor. Read more

Ex-Archbishop Carey attacks bishops over benefit cap

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has criticised Church of England bishops for opposing the government's £26,000-a-year cap on benefits.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he says the scale of the UK's debt is the "greatest moral scandal" facing the country.

He says the welfare system is "fuelling vices and impoverishing us all', and accuses the bishops of ignoring popular opinion by opposing the cap.

The government has insisted it will press ahead with the policy. Read more

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Is it possible to have a happy open marriage?

[...] In interviews, people in open marriages say that although it is not for everyone, it is absolutely possible for adults to be in committed, emotionally satisfying relationships with more than one person at a time.

The preferred term is polyamory, a word coined in the early 1990s in the US in part to distinguish from swinging, in which couples approach sex with other people as a joint endeavour, or arrangements in which partners are allowed to have sex with other people without romantic attachments.

"Polyamorous relationships tend to be ongoing, sustainable, emotionally bonded, committed relationships with more than one person, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved," says Anita Wagner, who says she has been in polyamorous relationships on and off for the last 15 years.

"When it works, it's wonderful. It's an abundance of love and affection and experience."

The keys to a successful, happy polyamorous relationship are up-front consent and negotiation of ground rules and boundaries, say relationship counsellors, sex educators and polyamorous couples.

"That can range anywhere from 'you can only have sex when you go on business trips and you're out of the state', to 'you can have another girlfriend but I'm the primary partner, so I come first'," says Tristan Taormino, a sex educator, writer and feminist pornographer. Read more

Friday, 20 January 2012

University atheist society president forced to resign after cartoon of Muhammad having a drink with Jesus is posted on Facebook

A row has erupted over an atheist society at a top London University posting a cartoon sketch featuring the prophet Muhammad having a drink with Jesus on its Facebook page.

A student Muslim group is demanding the 'offensive' image of Jesus and Mo having a drink at the bar, taken from an online satirical sketch, be removed from the social networking site.
The president of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society at the prestigious University College London (UCL), Robbie Yellon, has stepped down over the controversy.

Read more: