Woman enters Canterbury's inner circle

"Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Church of England, installed its first female archdeacon in its 1,400-year history yesterday," reports Agence France-Presse.

Before a congregation of 500, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams led the service of installation for the Venerable Sheila Watson, 53, the first woman to join Archbishop Williams' senior staff.

The former archdeacon of Buckingham in the Diocese of Oxford, who succeeds the retired Patrick Evans, can now enthrone new diocesan bishops in 27 of England's 43 dioceses under Archbishop Williams' guidance.

The move comes as the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, takes the first steps toward the creation of female bishops. The Church of England ordained its first female priests in 1994.

Read it all here.

In The Episcopal Church women's ordination to the priesthood and consecration as bishops was approved by General Convention in 1976. Barbara Harris became a bishop in 1989. Female clergy are now over 30 percent of all clergy although in some dioceses the percentage is small or zero.

One in seven

"Births, deaths and marriages. They're the only events that get most people in the UK through church doors these days and even that is too often for some. But this doesn't stop the majority of us calling ourselves Christian. More than half of British people say they believe in God despite only one in seven actually attending a Christian church service each month, says a new study." So reported BBC News Magazine back on April 3.

More:

It seems that while people find the church thing a little bit difficult, they are willing to recognise God. There's even a cute catchphrase for this absent majority - believing without belonging.

The church says the results challenge the UK's secular image, proving not everyone has embraced consumerism as their modern-day god.

It's not often that it has much to shout about. Congregations have been declining for years, according to figures published by the Christian Research. While some churches are growing and the rate of decline in congregations has slowed, overall numbers are still dropping. It is not alone in suffering this "curse of apathy".

Local organisations have seen a slump in membership, according to a new YouGov poll, which found 70% of people have no links to community groups like the Women's Institute, Guides and Scouts.

Read it all here.

Some economists argue there is empirical evidence that believing promotes economic growth, but belonging has no independent effect. Belonging is an input to believing: more belonging with no more believing has no effect on gross national product, conventionally measured. See this Harvard study.

Archbishop of York warns voters about "wall of hate"

Ecclesia reports:

The Archbishop of York, has placed an advert in his local newspaper urging voters to come out against the BNP in Thursday's local elections.

In the advert, the Church of England's most senior black cleric Dr John Sentamu warns that if people fail to vote they will be sleepwalking into "a wall of hate".

The advert comes after criticism that he and other bishops in the church may be playing into the hands of extremist parties, by urging the defence of Britain's 'Christian culture'.

Groups such as the religious thinktank Ekklesia have warned that the BNP has recently stepped up its religious rhetoric. In recent local elections, the party's literature included copies of the controversial Mohammed cartoons
...
In the advert, which appears in York newspaper The Press, today, the Archbishop, says voters should beware of political parties which promise much but have policies that promote hate and division.

"Jesus warned us to be wary of wolves who come in sheep’s clothing," the Archbishop says in the quarter-page advert. "They come with honeycombed words, promising a New England, and a land of milk and honey. In reality they offer us a diet of bile and discord, a desert of hopelessness and policies which stoke the ashes of Clifford’s Tower."

Clifford's Tower was Britain's worst anti-Semitic attack, when 150 Jews were killed in York on March 16, 1190.

Read it all here. The take on The York Press is here.

Anglicans rending at Oxford seminary

Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent for the Guardian writes:

The discontent at Wycliffe Hall, an evangelical Anglican college which is part of Oxford University, has seen several resignations among its small academic staff and claims that one of its most prominent members, the regular Thought for the Day contributor Elaine Storkey, was threatened with disciplinary action.

The college has been accused of becoming more theologically conservative, more hostile to women's ordination and more homophobic since the appointment of its principal, Richard Turnbull, a vicar from Basingstoke and a former accountant without senior academic managerial experience, two years ago.

Last night, the governing council announced it had launched an internal review and pledged support for Dr Turnbull.
...
It counts two current diocesan bishops, Tom Wright of Durham and James Jones of Liverpool, who now chairs the governing council, among alumni as well as the Rev Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and founder of the Alpha Course.

According to its website, the college aims to be "an international centre of evangelical theology....

Read it all.
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Convenent For or Contract On?

Back in December the Church of England Evangelical Council (website) met with the Archbishop of Canterbury and presented him with a "Convenent for the Church of England."

The Covenant is available in full here (rtf). Some extracts:

At this time in the life of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, faced with a faulty view of revelation, false teaching and indiscipline, we believe that it is necessary to set out where we as orthodox Anglicans stand, and to invite others to join us.
...
“Existing ecclesiastical legal boundaries should be seen as permeable”. This means there cannot be any no-go areas for gospel growth and church planting. .... We will support mission-shaped expressions of church through prayer, finance and personnel, even when official permission is unreasonably withheld.
...
We can no longer be constrained by an over-centralised and increasingly ineffective control that is stifling the natural development of ministry. If the local Bishop unreasonably withholds authorisation, we will pay for, train and commission the ministers that are needed, and seek official Anglican recognition for them.
...
Our congregations will seek actively to become self-sustaining when and where we can, to donate a reasonable yet modest amount to support the administrative centre, to be part of mutually accountable financial partnerships, and to give generously to gospel ministries, at home and abroad, that share the same values.
...
We are aware of those who justifiably consider that their communion with their bishops is impaired, and will support and help them to find alternative oversight.
A companion document (rtf) further states:
We recognise that the fault-line running down through the Anglican Communion is also running through the Church of England.
...
The Church of England in its central decision-making structures is largely in the hands of a liberal leadership.
...
If Communion is finally broken by some with The Episcopal Church, there will be those in the Church of England who will continue publicly to express their strong support for TEC. This will put many parishes and clergy who are in their charge in impossible situations.
...
In the current position world-wide we are already in a situation of unregulated indiscipline. Our aim is to help prevent the situation getting worse. However, extraordinary times call for out-of-the-ordinary actions to deal with them.
...
Innovative, experimental, and even irregular [cross-boundary church plants], do not necessarily mean illegal.
One of those who drafted the covenant is The Rev. Dr. Richard Turnbull, Chairman-Director of CEEC and principal of Wycliffe Hall. (See our recent related post.) He has recently stated, “I am not a member of any evangelical pressure group and never have been."

Tale of two seminaries: Wycliffe and Trinity

Yesterday we reported on goings-on at Trinity Seminary in Pittsburgh, complaints that even Network bishops are biased against sending postulants to the conservative Episcopal seminary.

Today there is more on Wycliffe Hall, a Church of England seminary located at Oxford University. Thinking Anglicans reports:

First, wannabepriest has drawn attention to how the situation there has changed by linking to this:
Does the organisation Reform have a place within the evangelical firmament of the Church of England, not to mention the wider Anglican Communion? The question is prompted by the recent decision of the council of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, to ban meetings of the local student branch of the movement until a policy can be formulated on the ‘issue’…
Second, Giles Fraser has written a comment article Not faith, but fanaticism in today’s Guardian which concludes like this:
…Of course, what should really happen is that the bishops of the Church of England stop using colleges like this to train its priests. Places such as Wycliffe are turning Anglicanism into a cult. But it’s a symptom of how bad things are in the C of E, and how frightened its bishops have become of the financial muscle of conservative evangelicals, that they won’t find the gumption to cut Wycliffe adrift.

"Permeable Province" Proposed, Again

Forward in Faith UK has made its submission to the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group of the Church of England General Synod. For some reason, FiF abbreviates the name of the group to the Legislative Drafting Group. The charge to the group is "(i) preparing the draft measure and amending canon necessary to remove the legal obstacles to the consecration of women to the office of bishop; (ii) preparing a draft of possible additional legal provision consistent with Canon A4 to establish arrangements that would seek to maintain the highest possible degree of communion with those conscientiously unable to receive the ministry of women bishops; (iii) submitting the results of its work to the House of Bishops for consideration and submission to Synod;

Some selections from FiF's submission:

Forward in Faith was founded in November, 1992, in the wake of the decision that month by the General Synod to proceed to the ordination of women to the priesthood. Our opposition to the ordination of women as priests or bishops remains as firmly and utterly rooted in theology today as it was in 1992, as we have set out in detail on numerous occasions....
...
Our proposals for a new province were designed to permit all in the Church of England to flourish, and represent the only solution thus far suggested which would enable women bishops to exercise their ministry without hindrance in their own dioceses, thus fulfilling the aspiration lying behind Canon Jane Sinclair’s amendment to the motion passed by General Synod on 10 July, 2006.
...
In particular, we would ask the Group to note the following key features of the solution which we proposed [in 2004]:
• a province which would be an integral part of the Church of England
• a province which would provide a stable and secure solution to the problem
• a province the bishops of which would have ordinary jurisdiction
• a province the boundaries of which would be entirely permeable
• a province in which only male priests and bishops would minister sacramentally
• a province in which orders would derive from the historic episcopate as traditionally understood
• a province which would thus provide the necessary sacramental assurance
• a province which would enable renewal in mission and evangelism
• a province which would bring peace to the Church of England
A link to the full text of the FiF's submission can be found here.

In their submission (pdf) the group Women and the Church notes, "We would draw to the Group’s attention that never before in the history of our Church has a diversity of views on any subject been responded to by the creation of an alternative episcopal structure."

The Guilford Group report of January 2006 listed disadvantages of a free province including:

• It could represent a major schism within the Church of England, with less possibility of the two sides growing together, potentially allowing for the possibility of the new Province declaring itself out of communion with the Provinces of Canterbury and York;
• It would to all intents and purposes amount to a competing provincial jurisdiction which has so far run counter to Lambeth Conference Resolutions;
• It would be fundamentally unhealthy to establish a province solely on the grounds of opposition to women bishops;
• There would be a risk of it becoming another ‘continuing Anglican Church’.
The Guilford Group report is here (rft):

The General Synod next meets July 6-10.

Rule Book? Don't believe it

Hearts were aflutter in the Anglican blogscape on Sunday when The Telegraph ran a story headlined "Church to impose ‘rule book’ of beliefs." Here at The Lead the newsteam consulted and concluded the breathlessly told story just didn't add up so we held off passing it on.

Thinking Anglicans did too, but now has something concrete to say:

Here’s what is actually happening, based closely on the so-called “bishops’ paper” to which the Sunday Telegraph refers.

The House of Bishops met at Market Bosworth in May. At that meeting they were asked to agree to a process for the Church of England to respond to the request made for all provinces of the Anglican Communion to comment by the end of 2007 on The Proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

This is only the first stage in quite a protracted process, involving the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the subsequent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and the subsequent submission of a final Covenant text to all Anglican provinces for synodical approval.

Read it all here.

The UK papers seem to have a penchant for jumping the gun. The Times has pulled a story it just posted today underline byline of (drumroll) Ruth Gledhill.

Realignment spreading?

The Rev. George Conger's blog site has news that the Church of England in Europe may soon be experiencing the same sort of parish-leave-taking that the Episcopal Church has of late:
"The Church of England’s breakaway congregation in the Algarve is contemplating joining the Anglican Mission in America [AMiA].

In an announcement posted on its parish website, All Saints Algarve in Almancil, Portugal stated that the executive officer of the AMiA, Canon Ellis Brust would be visiting the congregation June 16-17.

The parish reported that Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini ‘has agreed to send his personal emissary’ to the parish ‘to visit with us and talk to us about All Saints becoming part of the growing family of AMiA churches.’"

Read the rest HERE.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez to address General Synod

Thinking Anglicans reports on the agenda for the General Synod of the Church of England in Anglican Covenant Proposal

The General Synod of the Church of England will debate the Anglican Covenant Proposal on Sunday 8 July in a session timed to run from 2.30 pm to 6.15 pm, and intended also to cover a separate debate on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.

The Agenda item reads as follows:

THE ANGLICAN COVENANT PROPOSAL (GS 1661)

17. At the invitation of the Presidents, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez (chair of the Anglican Covenant Design Group) will address the Synod.

A member of the House of Bishops to move:

18. ‘That this Synod:

a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.'

In the Forward to The Anglican Covenant Proposal, Archbishops Williams and Sentamu write:

Whether or not a Covenant is adopted, the question of handling conflict will not go away. In the age of instant global communication, this question is likely to be sharper than ever. If we do not have a Covenant in the Communion, we shall not be absolved from the imperative to manage our conflicts and tensions better than we have been doing. Unless we can do better, the future of the Communion is going to be more and more fragile and uncertain, and we can’t just appeal to some imagined traditional Anglican way of handling things without fuss. That is why many of those who have been engaged in dealing with the fallout from recent conflicts – in particular the Primates of the Communion and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council – have concluded that something like a Covenant is a constructive path for the future, and why the hope has been expressed that the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference will be ready to work with the concept and with the proposals already outlined. We hope the Synod will consider their arguments with sympathy.

+ Rowan Cantuar: + Sentamu Ebor:

Follow the General Synod here

Grace: for girls

The Independent reporters Jonathan Owen and Sadie Gray discuss the publication by the Church of England of a new magazine for 11 to 16 year old girls.

At first glance it looks like any other teen magazine, in a glossy colour cover and in a handbag size - aimed at "girls with spirit". But don't expect to find any tips on snogging techniques. Grace, to be launched next month, is anattempt by the church to appeal to a fresh audience as attendance figures fall.

Funded by a grant from the Archbishop of Canterbury and various church trusts,
Grace is the brainchild of Paul Handley, the editor of the Church Times, who said: "It is for girls who have got a spirit as well as a body and who think there is more to life than shopping."

One big difference, he says, is that the magazine will not contain articles about sex. "It's for 11- to 16-year-old girls, so the assumption is that they are not having sex. We say that the best place for sex is in a marriage, not in a magazine... The message of the magazine is that life at that age is about other things."

An independent focus group of 13-year-old girls from London took a look at Grace last Friday and was, broadly, in favour. Almost oblivious to the religious elements, they welcomed it as an antidote to existing fare aimed at their age group, which they felt is too sexually explicit and promotes super-thin bodies.

Tayra Fuentes, 13, said: "Other magazines make you feel like you're growing up too quickly - you've got to get a boy, got to wear lots of make-up. This one shows there are other things to worry about, like school and friends and sports."

Read the article here

Click here for more on Grace and to download a free copy in pdf.

HT to Dave Walker

The Church of England shall remain the established church

From Gordon Brown's speech before Parliament today, his first as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:

The Church of England is, and should remain, the established church in England. Establishment does not, however, justify the Prime Minister influencing senior church appointments, including bishops.
The speech, entitled "Constitutional Reform" layed these recommendations (quoting):
The Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers - the exclusive exercise of which by the Government should have no place in a modern democracy.

These are:
-the power of the executive to declare war;
-the power to request the dissolution of Parliament;
-the power over recall of Parliament;
-the power of the executive to ratify international treaties without decision by Parliament;
-the power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny;
-the power to restrict Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services;
-power to choose bishops;
-power in the appointment of judges;
-power to direct prosecutors in individual criminal cases;
-power over the civil service itself;
-and the executive powers to determine the rules governing entitlement to passports and the granting of pardons.


Read it all here.

What the Green Paper from the Ministry of Justice says about the Church is here from Thinking Anglicans.

The Bishop of York welcomes the change to method of appointment.

“I welcome the prospect of the Church being the ‘decisive voice in the appointment of bishops’ which the General Synod called for 33 years ago (in 1974).

“I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s thoughtfulness and for his overt support for the role of the Queen and the establishment by law of the Church of England which have been strongly reiterated in the Green Paper.

“The challenge we face as the Church of England is to use the sacred trust, enshrined in law, for the common good of all the people of England...."

Read the York web site here

Some clerics are Antidisestablishmentarians

Liberal readers will not be surprised that The Telegraph resists changes in the relationship between the Church of England and the state. In an article titled "Biggest change since Henry VIII and the Pope" Jonathan Petre writes

The decision by Gordon Brown to allow the Church of England to choose its own bishops for the first time since Henry VIII was broadly welcomed by Church leaders yesterday.

But the reform - one of the biggest changes in the relationship between Church and state since the Tudor king fell out with the Pope - will reopen the fraught issue of disestablishment.

It will also dismay many Anglicans that such a major reform could have been announced with so little consultation or public debate.
...
The row will surface next week when the General Synod meets in York as a debate on senior ecclesiastical appointments is already on the agenda.
...
Welcoming the proposals, Dr Sentamu said in his statement that Mr Brown had consulted both him and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, about his intentions.

He said he was "grateful" for the Prime Minister's backing of the continuing role of the Queen and the "establishment by law of the Church of England."


Petre made sure to include the voice of skepticism
But some clerics said that the removal of Downing Street from the process of choosing bishops and deans could further concentrate power in the hands of a few senior prelates.

Canon David Holding, a Synod member, said: "This goes to the heart of the Church/state relationship. It has huge implications.

"It will threaten the diversity of senior appointments, and could well lead to the old boy network running riot."

The article is here. The Lead's prior post on the Prime Minister's announcement is here.

If a governance role by an democratically elected government did ensure against the concentration of power in the hands of a few in the church, then what does that say about the polity of provinces in the Anglican Communion? If the church is not established, for instance, should the polity be one where the laity and clergy have a large voice in the election of bishops and the provincial bishop as in the American model?

Church of England to have greater say in bishop appointments

From the Living Church, an interesting sidebar to the question of how bishops get appointed—this time, from Great Britain. The Church of England does not have a full say in who gets to be bishop in each diocese. The involvement of the British government, however, may be reduced significantly as a result of a proposed constitutional change in which the Prime Minister will no longer be given a choice between two bishop candidates, of which only one could be formally nominated by the Queen.

The British government is set to give up its role in appointing bishops to the Church of England in one of a number of sweeping constitutional changes being proposed by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The constitutional green paper titled “The Governance of Britain,” was presented to Parliament July 3. Among changes proposed in the paper are that the prime minister should no longer use the royal prerogative “to exercise choice in recommending appointments of senior ecclesiastical posts, including diocesan bishops, to the Queen.”

The proposal will be debated at the Church of England’s General Synod, which begins July 6.

The whole thing is here.

Caution urged for Covenant

The Church Times has a good overview of some of the various views held by parties in the Church of England toward the question of whether an Anglican Covenant, as proposed by the Windsor Report, is warranted much less what it should address.

"Two amendments have already been tabled to the General Synod motion on the Anglican Covenant, both reflecting concern that the Church of England will have no further say in the Covenant process until it is presented next year with a text for its approval (News, 22 June). The Covenant is to be debated on Sunday, as part of the sessions that begin today.

The motion as it stands asks the Synod to:
(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year."

The full article can be found here.

Thinking Anglicans has been collecting various web resources and background articles about the upcoming synod as well.

Conservatives to create coalition?

Jonathan Petre, writing in the Telegraph, has more news about the maneuvering happening in the Church of England prior to the beginning of General Synod:

"Senior Church of England conservatives are plotting a new coalition to mount their biggest offensive yet against their liberal opponents over issues such as gay priests.

According to insiders, they are planning talks at this week's General Synod aimed at uniting a broad spectrum of evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics to act together during crucial debates.

Supporters of the new movement believe that it could gain the backing of up to half of the Synod, the Church''s 'parliament', frustrating the efforts of liberals to promote their agenda. Its leaders are expected to include prominent clergy and lay people within the Synod and the Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body.

...

One Synod member said that many conservatives were dismayed by the failure of the bishops to enforce their own guidelines against clergy who are openly in active gay relationships, in defiance of Church policy. 'The bishops are totally pathetic. They are abject cowards. The Archbishop of Canterbury does nothing but sit on the fence,' she said.

But liberals dismissed the latest initiative, predicting that the new coalition would fall apart because of internal squabbling."

Read the rest here.

The Church of England considers the covenant

Dean Colin Slee of Southwark says the church's General Synod is being asked to give the Archbishops of Canterbury and York a "blank check" to remake the church in negotiations with other primates. He doesn't think that is a very good idea. Father Jake provides an overview.

General Synod approves covenant concept

The General Synod of the Church of England, approved, without amendment, a resolution that approves engaging the rest of the Anglican Communion to adopt an Anglican Covenant. The full resolution was as follows:

That this Synod:

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.

An audio of the debate can be found here.

Father Jake has good analysis here.

Thinking Anglicans has details on the debate here.

Be not afraid

In his address to the General Synod of the Church of England, The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York challenged the church to act out of faith and not fear. Some quotes from his speech:

"There is a commanding invitation which echoes throughout the Bible. It’s a message given at various times to patriarchs and prophets, to nations and to shepherds, to Zechariah and to Mary, to disciples and to fledgling congregations in the church’s earliest days. 'Fear not, do not be afraid.'"

"As a church, we need to learn once again to become risk-takers, people who take risks for the Gospel, who take risks for Christ, who take risks in the service of God and one another. We have to take risks, in order to make the journey. We discover courage by doing courageous, God-like actions. 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.' An act at a particular time and place. It is the sin of the world that Christ takes away. Action!"

"So what are we afraid of? And what are the consequences of our fearfulness? The result of fear can be dangerous, fear itself can create its own risk. Because often when we’re reacting out of fear we don’t behave with courage and determination and grace, we become defensive, we behave badly."

"In the same way we Christians must beware of taking the holiness of God to imply that his wrath and judgement are out to destroy sinners instead of redeeming them, loving them and forgiving them. For those who follow the man of Galilee who was crucified, self-righteousness must die at his Cross. It’s from the Cross that the light of God shines forth upon the world in its fullest splendour. And as David Bosch has said (in Transforming Mission) 'The Church is an inseparable union of the divine and the dusty.'"

Read it all here

This day in Anglican history

From This Week in History over at Episcopalian Life Online:

On this day in 1533, Pope Clement VII excommunicates England's King Henry VIII for remarrying after his divorce.

In the same year Parliament passes the Buggery Act.

A chronology of the English Reformation is available here.

Synods and governance: courting irrelevance

The Church Times has a lead article that gives a sort of meta-view of the most recent General Synod in York and its functioning. Many of their observations are true of both our American General Convention and, to be honest, any church-wide meeting these days:

"Any governing body may fall under the condemnation, at some time or another, that it is little more than a talking shop. The charge is most likely to stick to the Synod when it seeks to express the Church’s mind on moral aspects of current affairs. The complaint comes most often from those who wish the C of E to keep its nose out of politics. But there is also, of course, a grain of truth in Giles Fraser’s suggestion in his column this week that there is something ridiculous about addressing the world when it is not listening. Our staff occasionally hear speakers warn that a Synod pronouncement is likely to get such-and-such a sensational headline in the daily papers, knowing that they are the only press reporters left in the gallery to hear it.

The Synod’s precursor, the Church Assembly, was once, and probably more than once, described as full of ‘elderly bores’. The age profile of the Synod — and there is indeed difficulty in getting busy younger people to stand for election — is not necessarily relevant to the quality of the debate. Sometimes a debate can be dominated by one or two members who would be told in a less gracious forum to ‘get a life’. But routine topics can take an unexpected turn; and speakers take heroic pains to make bread-and-butter business endurable. This group of sessions offered few thrills. There was, for example, a long clause-by-clause revision of draft legislation. But it concerned marriage in church, which is an aspect of pastoral work and outreach about which there are strong feelings. Not all will like the result; and few will be impressed to know that the matter had been under consideration since 1999. But there would also be complaints if new rules were imposed without a proper legislative process."

Read the rest here: Church Times - Sins of the Synod

Giles Fraser's article offers a warning to the Church of England that should resonate with Episcopalians as well. Two paragraphs worth special attention:

Reading Alastair Campbell’s diaries on the train back from another depressing General Synod made me wake up to the similarity between old Labour and the leadership of the Church of England: both are more concerned to please their own activists than to reach out to the country as a whole.

And:
The reality is that millions of people couldn’t care less what we say or think. They don’t care about covenants or gay vicars: they want the Church to speak about life and death, about love and grace, about justice and hope. And because we are not speaking about it, they will go elsewhere.

A bishop's forecast of number of English bishops attending Lambeth

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:

Following the debate on the Anglican covenant process at the meeting of the Church of England General Synod earlier this month in York, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, told the Gazette that if the bishops of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States do not meet the demands of the Dar es Salaam Primates’ Meeting required by next September’s deadline, and if the bishops of the Global South decline to attend next year’s Lambeth Conference, as many as six in ten Church of England bishops could be considering their own positions about attending the ten-yearly episcopal gathering.

However, Bishop Scott-Joynt added that such bishops would feel "constrained" by their loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who personally invites the bishops.

Here's a much earlier forecast by the conservative bishop, equating Windsor-compliant bishops to bishops seeking alternative oversight.

Read the Gazette's story here.

Ruth Gledhill of The Times reports on the Gazette story in rather sensationalized terms under the headline "Bishops threaten to boycott Lambeth Conference". Gledhill, of course, should admonish the headline writer. There is a difference between "bishops threatening to boycott" and "one bishop making a forecast on the number that might be thinking about not attending were it not for their loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury". But she writes the following, which you will not find in the Gazette:

Bishop Scott-Joynt says in the Gazette that for a boycott not to take place, the bishops of The Episcopal Church must meet the demands of the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam.

There of course are fissures in communion, and saber rattling all around. Among the latest to make an assessment of the strength of the opposing sides is Matt Kennedy. See his analysis here.

The Church of Ireland Gazette article also observes:

The debate [over an Anglican covenant] was preceded by a special address to the General Synod by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, who is the Chair of the Covenant Design Group, of which the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, is a member.

Referring to the current inter-Anglican crisis, Archbishop Gomez said that "scaremongering is commonplace". He said that there was a need "to identify the fundamentals that we share in common, and to state the common basis on which our mutual trust can be rebuilt".

While Archbishop Gomez is a member of the Global South Steering Committee he was one of several primates who did not attend its recent meeting. At that meeting the committee issued a statement which "consists of 12 points, many of which speak to the concerns of the Steering Committee vis-a-viz the response of the Episcopal Church to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué issued by the most recent Primate's meeting."

The Archbishop of Ireland recently stated in a sermon:

In breaking with me you will have cut yourself off from any gift of God that I might otherwise have had the chance to share with you. It is not then the case that unity is maintained at the expense of truth, but rather that disunity guarantees that access to a fuller knowledge of the truth is consciously inhibited.

Interview with Bishop Robinson

Ruth Gledhill has published the transcript of an extensive interview given by Bishop Gene Robinson to Andrew Collier a Scottish journalist.

Gledhill writes of the interview:

"This is the bit I liked best: 'I think the thing that is the most mystifying to me and the most troubling about the Church of England is its refusal to be honest about just how many gay clergy it has – many of them partnered and many of them living in rectories. I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy. It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support the Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its wardens.....it just seems less than humble not to admit that.'"
You can find the entire transcript of the article here.

Update: Ruth's version of the article for the Times is found here.

Monday blues

It's Labor Day Monday in America, one of those comparatively rare holidays relative to number mandated in European countries. In the UK today, they're not on holiday. Indeed many are returning to work after the traditional summer holiday period in August.

To help with the Monday blues the Church of England has provided prayers for everyday life. Perhaps after the flurry of consecrations in the communion in recent days the Archbishop of Canterbury is saying this one today

Breathe in, breathe out, for the sake of my sanity.
A CoE spokesperson said,
Clearly the Church is concerned about the big global issues but we believe that God is concerned about our everyday lives just as much.
All kidding aside the prayers can be found here at the Church of England website.

Extremistvicars.com

England has its own "Onion" called The Daily Shame. Here is a recent article:

A group of Anglican extremists have attacked Cackwater shopping centre in Gutborough. There are no casualties, although several people are reported to be “quite confused”.

The attack took place at midday outside the local branch of TK Maxx. A bomb, made from cake mixture and “hundreds and thousands” was left in front of the store and exploded, leaving two men splattered and one man needing counselling. Shoppers ran for cover, fearing that the cake-bomb was the first of many, but were disappointed.

Shortly after the attack, a video appeared on the Anglican fundamentalist website extremistvicars.co.uk claiming that “all those who do not worship the Lord shall lead a rather average life” and that “if you do not follow the path of Jesus Christ, then I shall wag my finger at you”.

Read it all.

Are clerical collars dangerous?

A security consultant for the Church of England has recommended that clergy in that church change some long cherished ways of doing business, including giving up wearing the clerical collar, in the interest of safety.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wynne-Jones says that the recommendations came after the murder last March of the Rev. Paul Bennett, vicar of St Fagan's Church in Trecynon. This was the fifth murder of a cleric in a decade.

A new report warns clergy that the collars make them an "easy target" and says they should adopt more casual clothing in a bid to give them greater safety....

Other safety measures proposed include disguising the whereabouts of the vicarage by taking down signs and ensuring that the front doors of their homes do not have a letter box that people can look through.


The report says that attacking a member of the clergy is seen by most criminals as "no different to attacking a shopkeeper, robbing an old lady or any other member of society." Between 1997 and 1999, 12 per cent of clergy were assaulted and seven out of ten were abused or threatened.

The recommendation to dispense with the clerical collar has met with resistance.

The Rev David Houlding, a prebendary at St Paul's cathedral, attacked the recommendation as a "silly, fashionable idea".

"I feel much safer wearing my dog collar when I'm walking through the streets at night. There is still an air of respect to it," he said. "Most of the time I wear it every day. It's my uniform. We'd lose our presence in the community and our witness."

He argued that he is well aware of the risks of being a cleric, but that he has already made sensible changes, such as refusing to see people on their own at the vicarage.

The report was submitted to an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, according the Telegraph, will then send it to dioceses ahead of a meeting next year at which the Church will decide whether to endorse the proposals.

Read: Vicars urged to drop 'risky' dog collars in the Telegraph. The Church Times also has an article on the subject.

Archbishop of York marks anniversary of abolition of slave trade

The York Press

"Roads were packed, tents were pitched, and crowds wearing their Sunday best were out in droves, as thousands of people gathered in Jamaica to hear the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, speak to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
...
God rejoices in the fact that he created each one of you. That is the greatest message of the sermon this morning, be yourself and don't try and be somebody else," he said. Quoting a sermon from the Archbishop of Zanzibar, he asked the people to reach out and work at the grassroots: "Go out to the highways and byways look for the people who have lost hope and those who are struggling to make good. "Have Jesus on your lips and the world in your heart, you have been called to freedom to work with justice and to embrace responsibility."

In unrelated news, the Archbishop is branching out into modern music:
Dr John Sentamu took a break from the day job to provide the lyrics for a track on Christian band Psalm Drummers' latest album. He recites a passage from chapter 3 of Ephesians, against a jazz-style backing, with cymbal and piano.

Thank you to Kendall Harmon for pointing to The Press article here.

The big push?

The Anglican Scotist analyzes the Campaign to Frighten Rowan (CaFRow) currently being conducted by the Anglican right. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali is the latest campaigner to issue a most likely empty threat to "boycott" the Lambeth Conference. The campaign is foundering, however. Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in African rebuffed Archbishop Peter Akinola's attempt to organize a continent-wide boycott at their recent meeting, and some bishops from Akinola's own province, the Church of Nigeria, have already accepted their invitations.

The Scotist's prediction:

[W]hether they leave soon for a new communion of their own devising, or waffle and wrangle some more--and it seems to me this type of pressure will continue as long as it can be ginned up by the usual suspects--this is the high-water mark. The big bombs yet to fall--Fort Worth and others trying to leave--will not yield the hoped for results, separation and replacement, because there isn't sufficient support in the [Church of England], as that would require being willing to split the CoE: the quitters becoming disestablished. The big bombs will fall in all likelihood, and there will be a big crash, but that will not qualitatively shift the situation.

Four British bishops back Duncan

Four British bishops have written in support of Bishop Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and have taken the American Presiding Bishop to task for the tone of her recent letter to him. Thinking Anglicans has the summary and a link to the article in the Church Times.

"THE BISHOPS of Chester, Chichester, Exeter, and Rochester issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, after the warning letter sent to him by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori…

…The English bishops’ statement, which was instigated by the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, read: ‘We deeply regret the increase in the atmosphere of litigiousness revealed by the Presiding Bishop’s letter to Bishop Duncan. At this time, we stand with him and with all who respond positively to the Primates’ Dar es Salaam requests. We hope the Archbishop’s response to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida will also apply to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh.’

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said on Tuesday that the statement gave personal support to Bishop Duncan. He described the Presiding Bishop’s letter as ‘aggressive, inappropriate, and unfortunate’. ‘They are acting as if it is the OK Corral. This is the North American culture: it is a managerial rather than a pastoral approach.’

Dr Forster emphasised that issuing the statement did not imply support for decisions taken at the Pittsburgh diocesan convention."

Read the rest here.

Majority of new clergy in Church of England are women

The Church of England ordained more women than men during 2006, the first year this has happened. This and other statistics are provided in statistics released today by the church.

But there's more to be told when you look at stipendiary ministry only:

The Church ordained 478 new clergy in 2006, a drop on the 505 ordained in 2005, the highest number since 2002.... Overall, more women (244) than men (234) were ordained in 2006, though the majority of these were ordained to non-stipendiary ministry. Of those ordained to full-time, stipendiary ministry, 128 were men and 95 were women.

Regarding attendance the figures "show a mixed picture for trends in church attendance." "The decline in infant baptisms continued.

"Total income rose. "Average giving to the church is around three per cent of average incomes."

Read it here.

Church of England statistics on giving and attendance released

Earlier this week we had a discussion of the latest Episcopal Church statistics. Now the Church of England is releasing her results from the past year. In a nutshell, attendance is down, money is up and there are an increasing number of woman in the priesthood.

From the article:

"THREE MILESTONES were recorded in Church of England statistics, released on Tuesday. Average weekly giving rose above £5 a week in 2005; average Sunday attendance fell below one million in the same year; and more women than men were ordained in 2006.

Direct giving to parish churches by electoral-roll members averaged £5.08 a week, while subscribers to tax-efficient schemes gave an average of £8.26 a week.

...Churchgoers continued to give generously to charitable causes compared with the population at large, said John Preston, the Church’s National Stewardship and Resources Officer. ‘Average giving to the Church is about three per cent of average incomes, still somewhere short of the five per cent of disposable income recommended by the General Synod since 1978.’

...Attendance figures for this period, included in this week’s package, were released earlier in the year (News, 26 January). They showed a fall of two per cent for Sunday worship — from 1,010,000 in 2004 to 988,000 in 2005. The picture was acknowledged to be mixed, since 15 dioceses saw annual increases in their attendance figures, as well as a dramatic increase in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance."

Read the rest here.

Elect the bishops in Britain!

Andrew Linzey, member of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, writes that the Church of England has an historic opportunity now that the Prime Minister has decided to pull the government out of the process used to choose British bishops. Prof. Linzey calls for the Church of England to follow the model used by the Episcopal Church and have the laity and clergy of each diocese directly choose their bishops by election.

Linzey writes:

Bishops are currently chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission, a mixture of synodical and local representatives, church and state advisers, and the archbishops themselves. No aspect of church government is more imbued with unease and suspicion, if not downright distrust. The proceedings are confidential so that even those who are under consideration may not be aware of it, and the antecedent process (I am told) involves bishops circulating lists of individuals deemed suitable for preferment.

This process has traditionally been defended on the ground that, since these are Crown appointments, there is no other way because confidentiality must be ensured. But one result of appointment by committee is that the process of making bishops has become remote from ordinary Anglicans. Indeed, most are in total ignorance of the system and assume (with some justification) that appointments are rewards for deference and docility. Since the heady days of Bishops John Robinson and David Jenkins, appointments have increasingly been of the “safe” managerial variety. Church leaders, in the words of Donald Reeves, “have probably never been so competent, hard-working, moderate and dull”.

...Candidates should be required — as is currently the case in the Episcopal Church — to answer questions in person and in writing, usually about their own histories, their beliefs, as well as their views on church polity. The diocesan cathedral should be given over to a whole week's public interrogation of the candidates, interspersed with prayer and communion, culminating in a ballot based on the preferable vote system. We would at last see the Body of Christ in operation — as a body with equal votes for all.

Such an arrangement would have one redeeming characteristic above all: transparency. With no more closed committees or backroom jockeying for power, Anglicans could debate openly the issues that face them and, where there are differences — well, at least they will be public ones properly aired and in the context of prayer. Some will reply that this devolution of power would reduce the Church to autonomous dioceses and threaten catholicity. But safeguards could easily be built into the system. In the Episcopal Church, for example, each diocesan election must be ratified by a majority of “consents” from diocesan bishops and their standing committees. Thus the Episcopal Church allows a high degree of autonomy within a unitary system.

Read the full article here.

Read more »

Drenched in grace

180 people gathered in Derbyshire, England, for Inclusive Church's first residential conference called "Drenched in Grace." The goal was to offer "a model of engagement to the Communion at large. In our disagreements we acknowledged the primacy of God's love in which we are all held together, but we did not keep silent about our differences."

Attendees represented every tradition and stripe of Anglicanism. According to Inclusive Church, the conference included:

Dr Jenny Te Paa (St John's College, Auckland NZ) opened the conference. In a strong speech, Te Paa reminded us "how pervasive the reach of enmity has become amongst us.” She urged us "not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew on the very good behaviour of the many.”

Revd Dr Sharon Moughtin-Mumby in her talk "Out of the Silence” said "I believe it is vital for us to .... refuse to skip over the difficult and challenging or awkward passages of the Bible, just as in Inclusive Church we are committed to refusing to skip over those who can be made to feel like the difficult, challenging or awkward members of the people of God.”

Revd Dr Louis Weil (Berkeley, California) spoke about the central place baptism holds in our ecclesial understanding. Speaking of the sacraments of baptism and communion, he said "our obsession with validity has weakened the boldness of the sacramental signs. This creates a low level of expectation and weakens our understanding of mission.” We are in communion with one another by God's grace, not by any human action. "I am in communion with Peter Akinola (the Archbishop of Nigeria)” he said. "I will remain in communion with Peter Akinola until we are both on the other side.”

Canon Lucy Winkett (St Paul's Cathedral) spoke of the need to "forge relationships on the anvil of profound disagreement.” "The worry that we have as Anglicans is that our faith can be so driven by fear that our liturgy is tedious and our public pronouncements shrill and irrelevant.” In a powerful and wide ranging address she called for engagement with others across the theological spectrum.

Mark Russell, the Chief Executive of Church Army, sent us out into the world, calling passionately for the church to unite. "Unity is not saying that we will always agree with each other, unity is a deeper spiritual concept. Unity allows me to love my brothers and sisters even when I don't always agree with them. Love allows me to hold difference and diversity.” He challenged us to "go from here, with a renewed vision to pursue a costly unity, and a vision to bring a gospel of hope to all.”

Giles Goddard said in remarks that opened the conference:

We believe that the Gospel as it has been received by the Church of England and across the Communion has something special to say about the love of God and the love of Jesus Christ. Something about welcome; something about openness, and something about including everyone, regardless of who, what or why they are.

Read more here. From this page you will be able to link to full texts of the lectures given.

Facebook Christmas cards

The Church of England has created free virtual greeting cards which can be sent on with a personalized message to any of the seven million active users in the UK registered on Facebook. Recipients will be able to follow web links from the ‘application’ homepage to find information about their local churches and explore more about the Christian faith.

Created by a leading London web design company, the "designs feature colorful animations representing key elements of the nativity story, including the journey of the wise men to see the ‘new born King’."

The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, comments: “I think this is a brilliant idea. Like a number of my clergy and hundreds of their parishioners, I’ve got a page on Facebook. It’s a quick and easy way for people to stay in touch and the Church needs to use websites like this to reach out to as many people as possible.

“Christmas gives us the perfect opportunity to get the Christian message across even to those who think religion is scary, outmoded or pointless. These virtual cards are a simple idea but I hope they capture the imaginations of Christians across the country who want to spread the life-changing message of their faith among their friends.”

The idea for the Facebook application follows last year’s Church of England online Advent calendar, which received wide media coverage and around 1,000 unique visitors each day during December. The virtual calendar, also developed by Rechord, shared real life stories behind each window of what Christmas means to people across the country - from a paramedic in Carlisle, to an expectant mum in Wigan, to an estate agent in Tunbridge Wells.

Dave Walker over at Cartoon Church says:

The good thing about this is that Facebook is a good place for the church to be, as it is where a lot of the people are. It will also provide a means by which people can find out about going to their local church via the A Church Near You site, which is a splendid idea (by the way, if your church isn’t on there it is worth adding it if you can).

The slightly not so good thing is that receivers of cards will need to add the application, which they may not wish to do. Adding Facebook applications is of course a bit of a privacy risk as you are giving your information to a third party (the creator of the application) about whom you know nothing. I am of course willing to give the Church of England my information, but not everyone will be.

The result is that not all of the people you send these Christmas cards to will get them, whereas if you send them a wall post or a message they will get them. Of course if you are a real luddite you could send them an actual card made out of card in the style of yesteryear.

Facebook users can access the application (when logged in to the site) here or can search for 'Real Christmas Cards' within the Facebook website.

Read: The Church of England: Church hands out virtual cards for Facebook friends to share Christmas message

Hat tip to Cartoon Church.

Sentamu challenges Mugabe

(Updated) Saying that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has "taken people's identity" and "cut it to pieces," the Most Rev. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has cut up his dog collar and said he will not replace it until Mugabe is out of office.

Dr John Sentamu made the symbolic protest gesture live on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has boycotted an EU-Africa summit taking place in Portugal because of Mr Mugabe's presence. The BBC says that while Mr Mugabe is banned from the EU, African leaders demanded the Zimbabwean leader be invited to attend the event in Portugal.

In the interview on the Andrew Marr Show, the Archbishop had this exchange:

ANDREW MARR: So what in concrete terms should be happening now? We've had this, this sort of dialogue of the deaf as you called it, Angela Merkel's said her thing, but what should actually be happening now to get Mugabe out?

DR JOHN SENTAMU: We need the world to unite against Mugabe really and his regime.

Why, what I don't understand - they did it against Ian Smith, the world did it against apartheid South Africa.

Two black leaders are actually carrying out quite a lot of killing, very bad management, you know. Zimbabwe one time was a bread basket, has now become a basket, a basket case itself.

I can't understand why the same pressure on sanctions doesn't apply. You see when Mugabe says the economy has gone down simply because of what the West has done to his - no.

The sanctions are purely on travel and financial assistance to a hundred and thirty of his clique. That's all it is. And Britain also is the second largest donor of humanitarian aid.

So when he talks about because of this has happened - no. He's actually taken a country really into sheer chaos. And has been so brutal that in the long run the world has got to say if the South African people won't do it and the leaders of Africa have actually become sycophantic hero worshipers, something has got to happen.

And:

DR JOHN SENTAMU: I suspect, because you see his, his card is, we are negotiating for the elections next year. But you and I know that those re-elections, whatever happens, are going to be rigged like they've been since Mugabe came to power. So South Africa's got to actually wake up to the fact that people there are starving. A lot of people are traumatised.

You know ... you see as an Anglican, this is what I wear to identify myself that I'm a clergyman. Do you know what Mugabe has done? He's taken people's identity and literally if you don't mind, cut it to pieces. This is what he's actually done, to a lot of - and in the end there's nothing. So as far as I'm concerned from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe's gone.

Sentamu chastised African leaders for defending Mugabe and insisting on his presence at the EU-Africa summit:

People don't know where their next meals are going to come from. But of course Mugabe and his clique are living ... wonderfully.

I've said yes to the prime minister, I don't understand why Britain doesn't have an intra-section instead of having an embassy. Why all the world don't do the same thing what they did to Libya at one point. Is it because this happens to be a black person? Because what is going on for me, there is this pernicious, self destructing racism. A white man does it the whole world cries. A black person does it, there is a certain sense oh this is colonialism. I'm sorry I don't buy this. Africa and all the world have got to liberate Africa from this mental slavery and this colonial mentality - whenever there's anything you blame somebody else instead of yourself.

While the Archbishop does not expect other clergy to take scissors to their own dog collars, he does call for Christians to take action against the injustices of the Mugabe regime:

I think what I want to say is what happened to, during the time of Ian Smith in this country and apartheid South Africa. We prayed. We marched, protested. We collected money. As Christmas comes around spare a pound, spare a pound for child starving in Darfur and in Zimbabwe.

Let this money be collected so that when a time comes people can actually have their houses and their homes rebuilt. And to me that's the greatest thing we can actually do as a nation.

Dave Walker over at The Cartoon Blog says: "I for one applaud the Archbishop. May his example inspire us all to stand up to injustice in our various ways."

Read: BBC- Archbishop makes Zimbabwe protest.

Here is the transcript of the interview.

Dave Walker's The Cartoon Church on this story.

The Diocese of York put out this news release.

(New) The Guardian has this item.

Church of England publishes protocol on child protection

Ekklesia:

The full guidelines will now be made available to dioceses for implementation over the next 18 months. They are available at:
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr10007.html

The full protocol, which forms part of what the Church of England describes as its "commitment continually to develop best practice in this area", can be found on the C of E website:
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/info/childprotect/cpreviewprotocol.pdf

Too many british bishops?

According to a news article in the Telegraph, there are plans on file to reduce the number of bishop but not the number of dioceses in an attempt to reduce the operating costs of the Church of England. The primary targets are dioceses that have more than three bishops serving them.

Jonathan Petre writes:

"More than a fifth of the Church of England's bishops could face the axe under new proposals being drawn up by its leaders.

Secret documents discovered by The Daily Telegraph reveal that the Church Commissioners - the financial wing of the Church of England - are considering reducing traditional funding for the hierarchy.

The proposals come in the wake of criticism that the Church is top heavy and the bishops too costly, while congregations are shrinking and parishes are strapped for cash."

Read the rest here.

Church of England responds to the draft Anglican Covenant

(Updated)

Thinking Anglicans provides news of the Church of England response to the draft Anglican Covenant:

Press Release

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as Presidents of the General Synod, have submitted a Church of England Response to the draft Anglican Covenant published last year for discussion around the Anglican Communion.

All Anglican Provinces were invited to comment on the text prepared by the Covenant Design Group chaired by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez.
...
The text of the response has been overseen by the House of Bishops’ Theological Group and builds on the earlier work of the Faith and Order Advisory Group. The draft response was discussed by the House of Bishops in October and by the Archbishops’ Council in November.

The Covenant Design Group will be meeting at the end of January to consider all Provincial responses. A ‘take note’ debate on the Church of England response to the Anglican Covenant is planned for the General Synod in February 2008.

Here's the text of response (rtf format). The response is an extensive examination of the covenant. One comment of many:
An important question that is raised by this Preamble is what is meant by the phrase ‘the Churches of the Anglican Communion.’ Are the churches of the Anglican communion, properly so called, the thirty eight national bodies that belong to the Communion or are they the dioceses of the Communion gathered round their diocesan bishops? This is not just a theoretical ecclesiological question, but also a practical one since it raises the question of whether the bodies that should subscribe to the Covenant are the national bodies or the dioceses.

Update at 5pm. The BBC has a story. An excerpt:

The Church of England has made clear its disapproval of Anglican provinces which intervene in the affairs of other churches without authorisation.
In a document it said such interventions should not take place except as part of "properly authorised schemes of pastoral oversight".

Update at 8pm. Tobias Haller has a reading here.

No-go or not no-go, that is the question

(Updated) A Pakistani-born Bishop in the Church of England has written that some areas of Britain have become so dominated by Islam that these areas are a "no-go" area for Christians and anyone who is not Muslim. His comments have prompted an angry response from Muslim groups in England who accuse him of fear mongering.

Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that,

In fewer than 50 years, Britain has changed from being a society with an acknowledged Christian basis to one which is increasingly described by politicians and the media as "multifaith".

One reason for this is the arrival of large numbers of people of other faiths to these shores. Their arrival has coincided with the end of the Empire which brought about a widespread questioning of Britain's role.

On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of "multiculturalism".

This required that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority.

In addition to immigration and multi-culturalism, Nazir-Ali also blames the loss of consciousness of the Christian roots of British culture. He says it less "less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain" because of the rise of multi-faith chaplaincies and programs that treat different faiths with the same favor.

Needless to say, Nazir-Ali's words have provoked a reaction.

(New:) Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writing in the Independent, called his column a "rant" that uses "divisive rhetoric and stoking up hatred" which "cannot and should not be forgiven."

The nutter, I thought when first skimming through yet another fundamentalist intervention by the Bishop of Rochester, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Pakistani son of Christian converts. Or maybe he is again seeking attention because he needs it so, sad guy that he is.

It could be his disappointment speaking – he never got to be an Archbishop, and possibly still thinks it should have been him when they were choosing the great men of York and Canterbury. Whatever his psychological flaws (and in true Islamic spirit I extend my sympathy to the brother), his latest rant in a right-wing newspaper cannot and should not be forgiven.

She says that his writing will inflame Britons justifiable concern over religiously driven terrorism into hatred, and that the Bishops words will "validate hostility." She also wonders why the Bishop has not addressed the question of violence against Eastern European immigrants in "white enclaves where Eastern Europeans are regularly beaten up and driven out by indigenous Brits." At the same time, she acknowledges that there is a segment of the Muslim community that is committed to another, more exclusive and radical vision of Islam.

He knows the nation is already edgy and suspicious of Muslims and that his words will validate the hostility. I do understand why so many non-Muslim Britons are wary of us. Islamicists pose real terrorist threats, and have successfully launched one terrible attack. There are indeed some localities where Wahabi Islam has taken a hold and imposed cultural separatism between those believers and the rest, including diverse other Muslims who are contentedly European. The power of the Wahabis – funded by our ropey friends the House of Saud – is frightening and growing. Some Muslim organisations are mad, bad and dangerous, make demands on the state that are unacceptable. They encourage total religious identification and self-exclusion. Readers know I detest this willed disconnect from the nation and its other citizens.

Read the rest here.

The Independent also reported other reactions:

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused Dr Nazir-Ali of scaremongering.

"Bishop Nazir-Ali's remarks are quite frankly more like the kind of commentary we would have expected from the far-right BNP, not a responsible figure in the Church of England," he said. "Where are these so-called "no-go" areas that he speaks of? He doesn't say."

The Bishop cited the fact that several mosques have applied for permission from local authorities to broadcast the daily call to prayer using loudspeakers.

Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an "Islamic" character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.

Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker.

Sheikh Imam Ibrahim Mogra, a Leicester-based imam who runs interfaith programs with Christian clergy, said he was very disappointed by the bishop's decision to criticize the call to prayer.

"I cannot understand why a man of faith would have a problem with God's name being called out in an increasingly non-religious society – it's beyond belief," he said. "We've had church bells ringing in our country for centuries and yet the character of our country is not really Christian, we are a predominantly non-religious society."

Reuters reports that there has been a wide-ranging debate in Britain over integration and radicalization among Britain's 1.8 million Muslims since four UK Muslims killed 52 people in suicide attacks in London in 2005.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken of the need to integrate communities better and isolate extremists from the moderate majority of Muslims.

A spokesman for his Downing Street office had no comment on the bishop's remarks.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said Nazir-Ali was "talking nonsense" and had no evidence to support his views.

"This is irresponsible scaremongering," an MCB spokesman said. "Where are these so-called areas that he's talking about?"

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the idea of no-go areas was "a gross caricature of reality", while Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News the bishop had "probably put it too strongly".

Bishop Nazir-Ali is president of the Network for Inter-faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion, but also has been known to play up the differences between Britain's various faiths. Some in the Muslim community believe that he can no longer be trusted to lead efforts at interfaith dialog. Others have accused him of whipping up hatred for Islam.

Mohammed Shafiq, a spokesman for the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, caalled on the bishop to resign. "His article is once again an attempt to whip up hatred against Muslims and cause division," he said.

Ajmal Masroor, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Great Britain, said: "It's nonsense. It's a distortion of reality. I believe our communities are far more integrated than they were 10 years ago. If the Church of England had an iota of fairness in their minds they would definitely take serious action."

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the bishop of scaremongering. "Bishop Nazir-Ali appears to be exercised by what he perceives as the decline in the influence of Christianity upon this country, but trying to frantically scaremonger about Islam and Muslims seems to us to be a rather unethical way of trying to reverse this," he said.

An editorial in the Telegraph differs with Nazir-Ali on some points but lends support to his claim by saying that the problem is not religious difference, but a perceived misunderstanding of the nature of democratic procedure in Britain, the nature of the rule of law, and a resistence of the new groups to take on 'British values.'

In 2008, it is not necessary to be Christian to enjoy the full liberties of the British subject (and it has not been for at least 150 years). Although it may be the result of a Christian heritage, the British way of doing things today has little to do with commitment to a specific religion: those of different faiths, whether Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever, are of course full members of any British society that is worth having and preserving. What is required, however, is commitment to the democratic procedures by which law is made in Britain, and to the laws those procedures produce.

That is not a commitment that excludes much - but it does exclude the idea that all "man-made", as opposed to "God-made", law is illegitimate. So it excludes, for example, the narrow theocratic extremism of the Islamist sects that insist that only laws which derive from the Koran or Islamic tradition should be obeyed or enforced, and that they must be allowed to rule their own communities by Koranic law.

Multiculturalism allowed narrow theocratic extremism of that kind to flourish in Britain. The Government has finally realised that this was a mistake, and has promised new policies based around inculcating "British values". That is a huge improvement on multi-culturalism, which did not even insist that immigrants learn English. But it has yet to dismantle the enormous bureaucracy dedicated to promoting multiculturalism, or the jobs of the thousands of officials that depend on it.

The government has been more circumspect in it's response but it is critical nonetheless.

A spokesman for the department of Communities and Local Government said most Muslims found the views of extremists "completely abhorrent".

He said: "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful, make a huge contribution to British life and find the views of a small minority of violent extremists completely abhorrent. Britain also has a proud tradition of different communities living together side by side. But we are not complacent - the Government has completely re-balanced its community cohesion strategy putting far greater emphasis on promoting integration and shared British values (as the Bishop acknowledges in his article)."

Read Nazir-Ali's column here
and the editorial in the Telegraph here.

Here is the Reuters article and here is the Press Association reaction piece.

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans for gathering the material on this here and here.

New: Ekklesia said this.

Inclusive Church says Bp Nazir-Ali undermines the work of the Church of England here.

New chaplain for Her Majesty

Queen Elizabeth II has appointed a number of royal chaplains during her reign. Her recent appointment of the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin is slightly different though than many of her previous choices:

"Jamaica-born, Rose, as she is know to her parishioners, regards her recent appointment to the roster of scarlet-robed royal chaplains serving the monarch as a great honor for the people of her parish and herself, but says she will not be changing her style of preaching.

'One of the things I am passionate about is that we belong to one another and that we should not allow cultural differences to become a hindrance to finding a way to connect. I shall want to bring an awareness to others of the lives of the people I serve at Holy Trinity, Dalston and All Saints, Haggerston [in the district of Hackney],' Hudson-Wilkin told Ecumenical News International.

..On the issue of homosexuality, she is typically forthright. 'We are playing games to our detriment,' she said. 'There are much more important problems to be concerned about than homosexuality. Look at what is happening in Kenya and Zimbabwe and with child soldiers and AIDS. This is where our prayers should be and our attention directed to what we can do.'"

Read the rest here.

Reactions to Rowan on Sharia Law

There have been many articles and posts over the evening on Rowan Williams' suggestion that some form of British accomadation for Muslim Sharia law was inevitable. We've tried to collect a number of those here.

The New York Times article summarizes the responses of various government voices:

The 57-year-old archbishop, an Oxford-educated theologian, was met with immediate repudiation from political and legal leaders.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking anonymously in the tradition of Downing Street, told reporters that Mr. Brown did not “welcome or support” the proposals, and added that Mr. Brown “believes that British laws should be based on British values.”

Spokesmen for the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, the main opposition groups, issued similar responses.

Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, a 36-year-old lawyer who is a rising star in the Conservative Party and one of its most influential Muslim figures, issued a statement calling the archbishop’s remarks “unhelpful.”

“Of course the important principle is one of equality, and we must ensure that people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law,” she said. “But let’s be absolutely clear: All British citizens must be subject to British laws developed through Parliament and the courts.”

The folks over at the Telegraph think that these remarks may very well end the Archbishop's ability to serve:

What will the Archbishop of Canterbury's fatuous remarks about Sharia do to his authority as head of the Anglican Communion? Pretty well finish it off, I should think.

[...]Anglicans in parts of Nigeria live under what is, in effect, totalitarian Sharia. It goes without saying Williams does not defend the stoning of adulterous women and other charming Islamic practices. But, in his interview with the BBC, his condemnation of "bad" Sharia is deeply buried in acres of Vichyite waffle about the need to see Sharia "case by case within an overall framework of the principles laid down in the Koran and the Hadith".

For the Archbishop of Canterbury to propose an extension of British Sharia in the same week that we learned of the extent to which the Sharia authorities cover up "honour crimes" reveals a degree of ineptitude that even George Carey never managed.

And, talking of George, watch this space. Lord Carey of Clifton is no fan of his successor, but a very big fan of African Anglicans persecuted by Sharia. I would be very surprised if he can resist intervening in this dispute.

Thinking Anglicans of course has their typically exhaustive coverage of British reactions.

Paul Vallely, in particular, makes an interesting point:

Rowan Williams bridles when anyone suggests that he is the Anglican church’s equivalent of the Pope. But he has made the same mistake in discussing sharia law that Pope Benedict XVI made in his ill-fated foray on the subject of Islam at the University of Regensburg two years ago, which sparked protests around the world, the murder of a nun and much else.

The error is assuming that the leader of a major church has the same intellectual freedom that he had when he was merely an eminent theologian. The cold fact is that the semiotics are entirely different. An academic may call for a nuanced renegotiation of society’s attitudes to the internal laws of religious communities. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury does that the headline follows, as night follows day: “Sharia law in UK is unavoidable, says Archbishop.”

This is not what he was saying, and yet it is. News has little room for the subtleties of academic gavottes around delicate subjects. A canny religious leader – or at any rate his press office – ought to know that.

(hat tip to Jody Howard for drawing attention to this)

We'll be updating this post throughout the day. You can find more links (like this one to Dave Walker's blog) below.

Read more »

Time table set out

Today the General Synod House of Bishops of the Church of England "took note of the report" on the Anglican Communion Covenant.

The report included details of a "time table set out"

5. In terms of the process thereafter in the Anglican Communion, Canon Gregory Cameron (Secretary to the Covenant Design Group) has confirmed that this is as follows:
“(a) to receive such comments on draft version 1 [as circulated to the July 2007 Synod] as submitted to inform redrafting to be done at a meeting of the CDG at the end of January 2008.
(b) to submit revised draft (version 2 – ie following the January 2008 CDG meeting) to Lambeth for bishops to add commentary. We don't want the bishops to vote a text - or any part of it - up or down, but to make their views clear on the development of the text, and to catalyse the discussion at Provincial level, informing the development of the third draft, so the next phase is
(c) to send version 2 and Lambeth commentary to Provinces for consultation and ask for formal submissions on draft in light of commentary
(d) to prepare third draft (version 3) for submission to ACC-14 in 2009.”

6. The process thereafter would depend on decisions taken by the ACC. The time table set out by Canon Cameron means that there will be further opportunity for provincial comments – including some discussion in General Synod - in the period between Lambeth 2008 and leading into ACC-14 in 2009.

Read the two page report here. Audio of this afternoon's debate is here.

Disestablishment on the radar screen again

The controversy after the Archbishop of Canterbury's "sharia speech" has become a discussion over the status of the Church of England itself and the question of disestablishement seems to be on the radar screen.

The Economist editorializes that 'religions should have a smaller official role in England, not a greater one.'

...the archbishop proposes to expand the privileges of all religions. It would be better instead to curtail the entitlements of his one. It makes no sense in a pluralistic society to give one church special status. Nor does it make sense, in a largely secular country, to give special status to all faiths. The point of democracies is that the public arena is open to all groups—religious, humanist or football fans. The quality of the argument, not the quality of the access to power, is what matters. And citizens, not theocrats, choose.

Ekklesia writes:

Pressures from several directions are putting the disestablishment of the Church of England back on the agenda, say reports following the General Synod and concerns about the long term impact of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Sharia speech.

A survey of the Church's governing body found up to 63 per cent of members now believe the Church will be disestablished within a generation, says the Sunday Telegraph.

Labour MPs recently tabled a parliamentary Early Day Motion on the subject, a Home Office report some months back is reported to have expressed concern over the impact of Establishment on other sections of society, and there were some calls for the cutting of the Church-Crown link following the row about Dr Williams' comments on religious and civil law.

Now the Sunday Telegraph newspaper claims that senior Anglican bishops now fear that the Church of England's special link with the state is under threat following moves to end the prime minister's involvement in key clerical appointments.

Read: The Economist: Church and state- Sever them.

Also: Ekklesia: Disestablishment may be back on the agenda as church feels pressure.

HT to Thinking Anglicans. Firestorm: The Economist weighs in.

Women bishops “highly unlikely” for another five years

In a press release today the Church of England group Women and the Church (WATCH) reports:

At the recent meeting of General Synod, members were told by the Chair of the Legislative Drafting Group that it was “highly unlikely” that the vote on women bishops would be taken by July 2010.
It goes on to quote Professor Anthony Berry, a member of General Synod, from Chester diocese:
“It is inconceivable that the process of legislation to put into effect the decision of General Synod to proceed to Women Bishops should take more than a year and a half. Certainly the legislative process could easily be completed by July 2010. It would be negligent of the General Synod to permit the matter to drag on into the next decade. The business managers of Synod should already be considering having additional meetings of Synod to ensure that this business is accomplished.”
The press release is here [link to pdf broken]. Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans where further extracts from the press release can be found.

No to disestablishment!

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian newspaper, sees something of where England might be headed, should the present cries for disestablishment be heeded.

These cries for the disestablishment of the Church of England are especially strong at the moment, given the recent dustup over the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks on proper role of Sharia law in English society.

"It is time to look at the damage he has done to others, and not just himself; one of the things that his flameout has illuminated is just how dangerous disestablishment might prove. The last thought-provoking thing that I heard him say was at a radio award ceremony where he had to present himself, or at least his producer, with a third place prize for religious radio. He said that it was not true that religion must always lead to conflict, but almost always true that in any sufficiently serious conflict you would find religion.

I wish he had developed and made more explicit that line of thought, because it provides the beginning of a justification for the existence of the Church of England. The defenders of a place for religion in public life do not have to suppose that religious belief is true, and many of them don't - in fact all of them suppose that most religious dogma must be false. The question is not whether irrationality is irrational; it is how it can best be managed.

Irrationality won't be abolished just because life would be simpler without it. Whether you prefer to think we live in a fallen world or a Darwinian one, it isn't rational. There are some conflicts that can be resolved only by force and many where real interests are at stake and it is crucial to win. Humans, being the animals we are, tell ourselves that the reasons for which we are prepared to fight -to die or to kill- are the most important causes in the world; so naturally our stories about them will get attached to other tales of the same sort. That means religion. We have watched this happening even in the secular 20th century."

Brown then argues that the level of hysteria surrounding the rhetoric calling for the Archbishop's removal reveals a fundamental intolerance in the broadest part of the English public, especially toward "foreign" faiths and practices. To Brown's way of thinking, it's the Church of England with its broad practice of tolerance based on the Elizabethan Settlement and its sense of duty toward all that has kept England free of the worst sort of religious based jingoism; such as one finds, according to Brown, here in the USA.

One of the things that has emerged from the debacle is that there is a very strong body of opinion in this country which holds that you can't be truly Muslim and truly British. This isn't just the belief of the Islamist nutters, though they make it their central claim. It also animates an astonishing number of people writing in or to the media who would describe themselves as Christians. It is as if three quarters of the country had risen to sing "Land of hope and glory" at the Last Night of the Proms.

It is at moments like that that we need an established church, precisely because it dampens zeal down. The undemocratic privileges of the Church of England are much better for everyone than democratically won privilege would be. Bishops in the Lords are infinitely preferable to priests who tell people how to vote.

If, say, the Economist got its way and the Church of England were disestablished, and replaced by the American model of a confusion of sects all competing for votes, what could stop them responding to the popular demand for a condemnation of Islam? What could give them anything of the Church of England's woolly, incoherent but essential belief that it has a duty to everyone in this country, no matter what their beliefs are. Can any sane person want a hundred English Paisleys competing against each other for the nationalist Christian congregations, and their money, and at last their votes? Because that is the spectre that rose from the debacle caused by Williams' speech and interview

Read the full essay here.

Odds on Replacement

An Irish bookie, believing that the Archbishop of Canterbury's days are now numbered because of his comments on Sharia Law, has opened betting on who William's successor will be.

The Church Times web edition has the details of the betting so far:

"The 2/1 favourite is the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu. Among Dr Williams’s critics was the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who has been given an 8/1 chance of succeeding him. More highly favoured is the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, at 3/1, and the Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr Kenneth Stevenson, at 5/1.

The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, is at 6/1; the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, is at 13/2; and the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, is at 8/1.
The remaining contenders include the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, who has been given a 9/1 chance. The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, is a 14/1 outsider; while the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, is lagging behind at an unlikely 25/1.

More than 100 bets were placed with Paddy Power in the first 48 hours. ‘We expect it will heat up further if Williams gets more bad press,’ said Sharon McHugh, a spokeswoman for the bookmaker. ‘It’s a very interesting market to us, as the next Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed by Downing Street. This makes for interesting betting.’"

So, a new way to spark interest in the ongoing Anglican saga?

Read the rest here.

General Synod reports posted

Thinking Anglicans has put together an omnibus post of all the document presented at the Church of England's General Synod earlier this month.

Of particular interest may be the full text of the Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the report of the Church of England's reaction to the second draft of the Anglican Covenant.

Read them here.

Easter baptisms outdoors

Archbishop of York John Sentamu baptized twenty people by full immersion outside of a church in the city of York on Easter Sunday. This is the third year in a row that Sentamu has baptized anyone who wanted it taking "as long as it takes" as part of the Easter festivities of a coalition of churches from different denominations in the city.

The BBC reports:

The Archbishop of York has totally immersed 20 people in a tank of water as part of an Easter baptism ceremony.

Archbishop John Sentamu baptised the new worshippers using a large pool outside the Church of St Michael-le-Belfrey in York.

Hundreds of people watched as Dr Sentamu stood in the water to immerse each of the adults involved.

The outdoor baptism ceremony first took place in 2006 and involves a network of churches across the city.

Church officials said the total immersion during the service represents a person's death of their old life.

By emerging from the water, the service is meant to be symbolic of being reunited with Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, the day his resurrection is celebrated.

The (York) Press wrote in advance of the event:

The baptisms, organised by One Voice York - an inter-denominational network of Christian churches in the city - first took place in 2006 and last year's event, which was shown on news bulletins around the world, attracted more than 1,000 people to either be baptised or watch the ceremony.

A spokesman for the Archbishop said: "It is all about attempting to revive the tradition of full-immersion and baptism.

"Anybody who wishes to be baptised by the archbishop should contact their local Anglican church or One Voice York.

"He will baptise as many people as want to be baptised and will be there for as long as it takes."

Graham Hutchinson, joint chairman of One Voice York, which organized the event, told the BBC: "New life in Jesus Christ is open to everyone, always, but Easter is a great time for people to make that public commitment.

"The open-air baptisms in the centre of York are a sign that Jesus is alive and with us."

Read: BBC: Archbishop lead outdoor baptisms.

Read: The Press: Archbishop to perform full-body immersions.

Learn about One Voice York here.

Act of Settlement under review

And it was thereby further enacted That all and every Person and Persons that then were or afterwards should be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or should professe the Popish Religion or marry a Papist should be excluded and are by that Act made for ever [X1 incapable] to inherit possess or enjoy the Crown and Government of this Realm and Ireland and the Dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same or to have use or exercise any regall Power Authority or Jurisdiction within the same And in all and every such Case and Cases the People of these Realms shall be and are thereby absolved of their Allegiance And that the said Crown and Government shall from time to time descend to and be enjoyed by such Person or Persons being Protestants as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case the said Person or Persons so reconciled holding Communion professing or marrying as aforesaid were naturally dead - from the Act of Settlement 1701 (1700)
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering changes:
All recent attempts to get the 1701 act repealed have failed. In 2001, Tony Blair - now a Catholic - promised to re-examine the 300-year-old piece of legislation but did nothing about it.

Jack Straw, Westminster's Justice Secretary, gave hope to those wanting a change in the law that the Prime Minister could grasp the constitutional nettle and repeal a law which discriminates against one section of society.

MP for Livingston Jim Devine, one of 13 Scottish Labour members who are Catholics, raised the issue during the Commons debate on the White Paper, when he asked the Secretary of State to include it in the abolition of the act, which discriminated against Roman Catholics. He said: "It is legalised sectarianism that has no role in the 21st century."

Mr Straw replied: "Because of the position Her Majesty occupies as head of the Anglican Church, it is rather more complicated than maybe anticipated. But we are certainly ready to consider this. I fully understand that to my honourable friend and many on both sides of the House, it is seen as something which is antiquated."

Last summer, Alex Salmond, the First Minister, after gaining power at Holyrood made a point that he would raise the issue of abolishing the Act of Settlement.

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "There is no doubt that this piece of discrimination has no place in modern society. While Jack Straw's remarks are welcome in indicating that the UK Government is moving in the right direction, it will be important to see what the UK Government will propose. We will be seeking clarification as to what Mr Straw precisely meant."

One of the main stumbling blocks to repealing all parts of the act is that it could in theory mean a Catholic could become head of the Anglican Church.

During the debate, this issue was raised by David Hamilton, Labour MP for Midlothian, who said: "Could I make an alternative point of view and that is not to encourage the Catholic Church to come in nor indeed the Church of Scotland, which is also excluded, but use this (reform) taking us into the 21st century to separate state from church and therefore take churches out of state business."

Mr Straw insisted the Established Church played a "very important role" in the constitution.

Senior layperson in Church of England: enough mosques

Displaying a level of intolerance that might make Archbishop Akinola blush, a lay member of the General Synod of the Church England has said "There are enough mosques for Muslims in this country, they don’t need any more." The Telegraph describes Mrs. Alison Ruoff as a conservative evangelical. She also sits on the Council for the Bishop of London. Spokespersons for the Diocese of London and for Church of England say the remarks are her own and do not represent the church.

For an excellent roundup of the story go to Thinking Anglicans.

Leap of Faith

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu, will take off in and then abandon a perfectly good airplane for a good cause later this month.

He is doing this to raise money for British airborne troops who served in Afghanistan and their families.

THE Archbishop of York is set to take the ultimate "leap of faith" to raise money for the families of soldiers killed or injured in Afghanistan.

Dr John Sentamu will hurl himself from a plane at 12,500ft with the Parachute Regiment Red Devils display team from RAF Langer near Nottingham on May 27, 2008.

The Archbishop is urging the public to sponsor him to complete the daring parachute jump to generate funds for the Afghanistan Trust - a charity formed in March 15, 2007 to help support soldiers and their families who have served with 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, and who have been wounded or killed as a consequence.

Dr Sentamu will jump in tandem with businessman Guy Brudenell, who brought the plight of bereaved families to his attention at a special dinner.


Read the rest here.

Jerusalem banned, again

Commentary in The Times:

Why this fastidious anguish over the use of such majestic poetry in a church service? Blake’s vision may be based on the legend that, as a boy, Jesus Christ was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea, on one of his trading trips. But it does conjure a wonderful image of the Lamb of God hiking across 1st-century England – perhaps enjoying a stroll on the South Downs or gazing in awe at Stonehenge. Two things, however, cause misgivings among some purist clerics. The first is that Blake seems to be calling for mankind, rather than God, to create a “Heaven on Earth”. In other words, Jerusalem is closer to being a humanist cry for social justice than a religious prayer for divine intervention. But doesn’t the Church promote social justice? Don’t congregations pour thousands of pounds on to collection plates to help to alleviate Third World poverty?

Perhaps, then, the second objection is more pertinent: that Jerusalem stirs up nationalist sentiments. It is true that Blake includes the word England four times in two verses. But the references to “dark satanic mills” and “clouded hills” are hardly flattering. And England in this context surely represents earthly existence, just as Jerusalem represents paradise. Besides, it is odd for a priest in the Church of England to object to the use of the word England in a religious context.

My hunch? In his lifetime the anti-Establishment Blake made no secret of his contempt for organised religion in general, and clerics in particular. It is said that he attended church only three times: for his baptism, his wedding and his funeral.

Read more »

Women in the English Episcopate

The Legislative Drafting Group of the House of Bishops has put forward proposals to allow for women bishops in the Church of England called the "Manchester Report."

The news release from the Church of England says:

“The central issue for the Church of England, as our report points out, is the extent to which the Church wishes to accommodate the breadth of theological views that it currently encompasses in relation to women priests and bishops. Against that background, we have set out the three broad approaches which the Church of England could take if it wishes to move towards ordaining women bishops.”

The three approaches set out by the Legislative Drafting Group are:

• The simplest national statutory approach with no binding national arrangements;

• Legislation that would provide some basis for special arrangements for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, such arrangements to be made within the present structures of the Church of England;

• Legislation that would create new structures within the Church of England for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops.

The Group does not offer a recommendation of its own but analyses the pros and cons of each approach, identifying, where relevant, various sub options.

You can see the whole report here, but as Thinking Anglicans says "Unfortunately, it is provided only as a series of separate, mostly .doc files. Perhaps the situation will improve later."

Thinking Anglicans: Report on Women as Bishops as an extensive and growing roundup.

Church of England: Women in the Episcopate – Manchester Report published

The Telegraph reports that the Church plans "men only" dioceses here.

Williams won't allow Robinson to function as priest in England

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson's episcopacy, not his priesthood.

Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams' ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate.

The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion.

Sources who have read the email say Williams expresses sorrow for the way the ban on Robinson must appear to the bishop and his supporters, but says he is acting for the good of the Church and the Communion.

At Church Times Blog, Dave Walker advances the story in the legal direction:

Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that he would have a strong case for being able to preach if invited.

However, Gene Robinson has ruled out preaching without the permission of the Archbishop. From the Hardtalk [TV] interview (only available for a week) on the BBC [Robinson said]: "In the past he has... declined to give me permission to preach and to celebrate the Holy Communion and I would never do so without his permission."

Read Walker's post here.

Earlier in the day Bishop Robinson had said on BBC Radio that God was "very disappointed" in Williams for his failure to confront Akinola over his treatment of gays. Read here. Listen here.

Two views of the future of the Church of England

The Rev George Pitcher, Curate of St Bride's, Fleet Street, London in an op-ed in The Telegraph:

It looks as if Dr Williams will continue to strive for worldwide Anglican unity in the face of the lightning-rod issues of dissent - women's and homosexuals' ordination - that so mystify secular society and so enrage the extreme factions of his church. Paradoxically, that suggests he may be facing options that split the Anglican communion on specifics in order to maintain its overall unity.

I don't think he can achieve that kind of compromise. More important, I don't think he has to.

A schism in the Anglican Communion would drive its fissures through the Church of England and elsewhere, but secessionists such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and those of the "alternative" Lambeth Conference, Gafcon, which will meet in the Holy Lands at the end of June, seriously overstate their power and influence, especially in congregations such as the Church of England's.

Some 20 per cent of the Lambeth Conference may go AWOL in a boycott, but it does not speak for the broad swathes of Anglican congregations in countries such as Britain.

The Church of Middle England's silent majority is far more tolerant, fair-minded and, yes, even liberal, than the fundamentalists give it credit for.

The household of faith may blush at matters of sexuality, as it blushes at the heavy mysteries of theology, but it is altogether more pluralistic than is commonly imagined. It is part of the genius of the Church of England that it doesn't lose touch with the mindset of this constituency.

My prediction? Women bishops will follow as an inevitable consequence of women priests. As a consequence, some will split away and make their own arrangements but, as part of the miraculous survival of the Church of England, we'll soon wonder what all the fuss was about.

In the current melee, it's a future to which Dr Rowan Williams's leadership should aspire.

Theo Hobson blogging at The Guardian:
What explains such jelly-headedness? Why has the church failed to put its authority behind this reform, to see it through?

Could it be that there is a fundamental incompatibility between ecclesiastical authority and modernity? Maybe the very idea of an authoritative spiritual hierarchy is irredeemably pre-modern. That is why the reactionaries can't be defeated: they are always more in tune with the logic of the institution than the progressives. The fact is that the feminist movement is ecclesiastically subversive - and the gay rights movement, too. For they both expose the fact that church authority has a different logic to secular liberal principles.

There's an analogy with the monarchy. To call for it to move with the times, and give equal rights to female heirs, as Vera Baird at least appeared to do the other week, begs a larger question: if equal rights are so important, why is the succession limited to a particular posh white family? In the same way, to press the question of why a woman or homosexual shouldn't be a priest raises the question: "why should anyone be a priest?"

Well, why? The question can only be answered from within a particular church tradition. From a secular liberal point of view, it's meaningless. The fact is that progressive Anglicans have failed to win the church round, to give a compelling account of priesthood that opens it beyond straight males.

What the church gets right

Two things that the church gets right, says Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins over at Comment Is Free, are architecture and unofficial welfare. Describing the apparently magnificent restoration of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at Trafalgar Square, Jenkins provides a singular portrait of the architectural anomaly of steeple-upon-portico that became, in the 18th century, the template for many a church to come. But more than that, he adds, are the features that are at once just as permanent and, as individuals, totally transient:

The church is resplendent and the crypt still a refuge for those who have faltered in the battle for urban survival. Yesterday the homeless, the addicted and the miserable were still dozing on the seats among the tourists.

Critics of the Church of England should give credit where it is due. Its house journal, the Church Times, may be filled with feuding bishops, gay rights, embryo conflicts and health-and-safety woes. But there are some things the church does well. One is architecture and the other is unofficial welfare.

Across Britain's cities historic neighbourhoods are being demolished and civic institutions fleeing to the suburbs, to be replaced by shopping malls. The police station is gone, the primary school closed, the youth club defunct, the library and post office shut, their staffs unionised into apathy or regulated beyond financial viability. Yet the old church plods on. The sooty spire soars over the wilderness while round its base fusses the exhausted vicar.

...

The network of rebuilt crypts beneath the church is a warren of activity. Here are a clinic, a chapel and even a small concert hall. The homeless and other lost souls find beds, showers, laundry, counselling and comfort. They find a surgery, pedicurist and help with alcoholism and mental illness. Given the proximity to Chinatown these services are also available in Chinese. St Martin's offers a one-stop urban welfare state, at an annual cost of £4m.

Jenkins is no big fan of the Church of England, mind. But he's happy to give credit where he sees it fit. You can read the whole thing, including the critical bits and the comments on what Jesus would have done with the £36m it cost to refurbish St. Martin-in-the-Fields in the first place, here.

What's that police box doing in the church yard?

The number of young people under 16 who attend church dropped 20 percent over the period 2000-2006, so some in the Church of England are turning to the time-traveling Dr. Who for help.

The Sunday Telegraph says that some clergy in the Church of England are studying the religious parallels and themes in the science fiction series Dr. Who so that they might convey the Gospel to young people and others who have drifted away or are outside the Church.

He has inspired devotion from a tiny band of followers, has sacrificed himself for the good of mankind and is destined to live for ever.

Now, Doctor Who has caught the attention of church leaders, who are encouraging clergy to study the science fiction series to learn about its religious parallels.

They have been urged to use examples from the programme in their sermons in an attempt to make Christianity more relevant to teenagers.

At a conference last week, vicars watched Doctor Who clips that were said to illustrate themes of resurrection, redemption and evil.

It analysed the similarities between the Doctor and Christ, and whether daleks are capable of change.

The number of under-16s attending Church of England services fell by almost 20 per cent between 2000 and 2006, but the Church believes that improving communication can reverse that trend.

Andrew Wooding, a spokesman for the Church Army, which organised the conference, said that its intention was to give vicars new ideas for conveying their message.

"There are countless examples of Christian symbolism in Doctor Who, which we can use to get across ideas that can otherwise be difficult to explain."

"Clergy shouldn't be afraid to engage with popular culture as for many young people television plays a large role in their thinking," he said.

Although an atheist, Russell T Davies, the chief writer of the current series has previously acknowledged the benefits of religion.

“I think religion is a very primal instinct within humans, a very good one, part of our imagination,” he said.

While he has talked about the humanism in his work he has never admitted to putting overtly religious messages in the story-lines.

However, with sessions including titles such as "Meaningful Monsters: Daleks through the decades", the clergy looked at several episodes that could have religious meaning.

Examples highlighted for their symbolism included the Doctor ascending with angels, Rose Tyler inspired by a vision and Daleks terrorising mankind.

The Tardis was considered to represent a Church by being an ordinary object that points to something higher while the Doctor was likened to Christ in his willingness to sacrifice himself for others.

The Rev Andrew Myers, vicar at St Aidan’s in Leeds, attended the course and said that he would use Doctor Who in future sermons.

“We saw the Doctor persuaded to save a family of Pompeians in one of the most recent episodes, surely a reference to Genesis and Abraham’s bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said.

"There are many themes relevant to spirituality, such as the Daleks as supreme embodiments of moral evil. Even the more cynical have been convinced that this immensely successful series provides a wonderful toolkit."

The Rt Rev Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood, said it was vital that clergy adapt to the culture around them.

Read: The Sunday Telegraph: The church is ailing - send for Dr Who

Female clergy in Church of England speak out

Via Thinking Anglicans comes a statement from female clergy in the Church of England regarding regarding the consecration of women as bishops. Here's a key paragraph from the statement:

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws.
Read it all here.

Update - Also via Thinking Anglicans comes the Australian protocol, a key sentence of which is "Accordingly, we encourage all dioceses who desire to appoint or elect women as bishops to make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry, addressing matters including the following." Considere, also, "We encourage Metropolitans, when planning consecration services, to consider that for some it will be important that three of the consecrating bishops are men, and we also pledge to act with respect for one another in the ordering of services of consecration."

The pdf of the Australian protocal is here.

Robinson to preach at London Church in July

Bishop Gene Robinson will preach at St. Mary's, Putney in London on Sunday July 13 at 6 p.m. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has prohibited Robinson from presiding at the Eucharist, but does not have the canonical authority to prohibit him from preaching, although he attempted to dissuade him from doing so. The invitation was made by the Rev. Giles Fraser.

Previous stories are here.

Under the headings of reconsideration and apology, the Living Church made an important point regarding the issue of Bishop Robinson's right to preach, and we responded in a churlish way.

Evaluating clergy competence

The ministry division of the Church of England has released a report indicating that as many as half of the current parish clergy are unable to cope with the demands of ministry.

The Sunday Telegraph reports:

A survey of diocesan bishops found that one-third believe that more than half of current clergy - as many as 6,000 - are unable to cope with the demands of the job.

In addition, 90 per cent of the bishops believe that a third of the new intake of clergy do not have the necessary gifts and abilities.

One bishop, who is unnamed, offers a damning verdict on the ability of priests entering the Church.

“Most candidates have little or no skills in working co-operatively, or knowing how to share, as distinct or delegate, ministry,” he says.

“Truthfully, it is deeply depressing. Egotism rules. Contemporary worship is feeble, 'sweet’, and leads no one to the Majesty of God.”

Dave Walker summarizes blog responses to the report, which generally question either the methodology of the report or the quality of some bishops.

More discussion may be found at Thinking Anglicans.

What do you think? How does one evaluate the preparation and the quality of the work of clergy (including bishops) in a way that is both descriptive and useful?

No special dioceses for opponents of female bishops

Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu have released the text of a proposed resolution on the consecration of female bishops in the Church of England. Read the resolution and their accompanying letter.

Read more »

Same sex wedding held in London church

In what is apparently the first public same-sex wedding in the Church of England, two gay priests were married at one of London's oldest church, using a ritual taken substantially from the Book of Common Prayer . The ceremony included marriage vows, exchanging rings, and the Eucharist. The language was slightly edited for use by two men.

The ceremony for the Rev. Peter Cowell, Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey, and the Rev. Dr. David Lord was held at The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great in London.

See bulletin from the Liturgy here.

The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great was a location used in the filming of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Male priests marry in Anglican church's first gay 'wedding'

UPDATED

The Sunday Mail and the Sunday Telegraph have reports on the news broken earlier today on The Lead of the marriage of two male priests.

The Sunday Telegraph runs this story at the top of its homepage:

Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.

The ceremony broke Church of England guidelines and was carried out last month in defiance of the Bishop of London, in whose diocese it took place. News of the "wedding" emerged days before a crucial summit of the Anglican Church's conservative bishops and archbishops, who are threatening to split the worldwide Church over the issue of homosexual clergy.
...
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was "blasphemous." He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to "disintegrate". Archbishop Orombi added: "What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.

"The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."

The Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester – a powerful conservative figure – said that the service represented a wedding "in all but name". He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but the language is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."
...
The service was held at St Bartholomew the Great in London – one of England's oldest churches, which featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral – and was conducted by the parish rector, the Rev Martin Dudley.

The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, who is a cleric at one of the Queen's churches, and the Rev Dr David Lord, had registered their civil partnership before the ceremony.

In a second article the Telegraph reports,

Among those celebrating with the couple were some of the Church's most senior clergy, including Canon Robert Wright from Westminster Abbey and chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
...
A champagne reception was held in the Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital, where Dr Lord, an ordained priest, works as a doctor. It is there they met five years ago.

And in a third article there is this story in the same paper about the reactions and potential reactions to the event. It includes this: "The Rev Martin Dudley, who presided at the service, is understood to have received a plea from the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, not to offer such a ceremony."

The Mail says "The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, was not told of the service."

More from the Mail:

The pair exchanged vows and rings before 300 guests during a ceremony that was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional church marriage ceremony.

The service was held in one of London’s best known churches and included Latin verse, trumpet fanfares and rose petal confetti.
...
The couple, the Rev Peter Cowell, 50, chaplain at nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital and a priest-vicar at Westminster Abbey, and the Rev Dr David Lord, an Anglican priest from New Zealand, wore dark suits.

Each had their own ‘best man’.
...
Mr Dudley said he was unrepentant. He said he had written to Bishop Chartres 18 months ago for guidance on blessings for same-sex couples in civil partnerships, but was told the Church’s House of Bishops had not approved them.
...
He said he regarded the service as a blessing rather than a marriage and added that he was not worried about discipline because he had acted with integrity.

See The Lead's earlier coverage of the marriage here, where a copy of the order of service is also to be found.

Update - Thinking Anglicans brings attention to this from Dudley,

From the comments on the Telegraph site:
19. Posted by The Revd Dr Martin Dudley on June 15, 2008 08:54 AM As the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, who officiated at this service, I would like to add a little clarity to the story.

First, it was not a wedding or a marriage but the blessing of a civil partnership. Mr Wynne-Jones was well aware of this from his conversation with me today. If others construe it as a wedding, than they do so deliberately in order to ferment division.

Second, it was not and was [not] intended to be a provocative act. It was not undertaken in defiance of the Bishop of London and there was no plea from him that I should not officiate at the service.

Third, we should remember that this service celebrated the love that the two persons involved have for each other. I officiated at it because Fr Peter Cowell has been my friend and colleague for many years. 300 people joined in the service; nearly 200 received communion, and there were dozens of other clergy present. It was not a rally or a demonstration. If other people want to turn into a loveless battlefield for the future of the Church of England, then it is they who will carry responsibility for the consequences.

Officiant speaks to media

Updated

The Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord had formed a civil partnership and that union was blessed says the officiant, the Rev. Martin Dudley about the service at St Bartholomew the Great Church in the City of London last month.

Yet the formal rites used were based substantially on the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The ceremony included marriage vows, exchanging rings, and the Eucharist. The language was slightly edited for use by two men. See the service here at The Lead.

The Rev. Martin Dudley was interviewed on the BBC's Sunday. See the BBC's written report here, and audio of the program here (23 minutes in; link to the individual item will added when available; ed.). Dudley is also quoted by the Press Association.

The BBC's written report says,

Under Church of England guidance, gay priests can enter civil partnerships as long as they remain celibate.

Guidance also says that gay couples who ask a priest to bless their partnership must be treated "pastorally and sensitively".

Update

From a joint statement found here from the Bishop of Bishop of Waikato and the Waikato priest concerned, the Rev. Dr. David Lord: "The New Zealand priest involved has felt it appropriate to lay down his clergy license, in the light of Anglican Communion processes and discussions in the area of same gender Blessings and ordination."

And from AP: "Church of England spokesman Lou Henderson said the archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion’s spiritual leader, was unlikely to make any public comment about the controversy."

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for rounding up many of these links.

The Lead's earlier coverage is here, and here.

Consequences for officiant in same-sex marriage?

Updated

The Daily Mail is reporting that the Bishop of London has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the same sex marriage ceremony that we reported on here, here, and here:

A rector faces the sack after becoming the first clergyman to conduct a gay 'marriage' in an Anglican church.

Reverend Martin Dudley flouted Church of England rules by blessing two homosexual priests in a service that used a traditional wedding liturgy in which the couple exchanged vows and rings.

Details of the ceremony provoked fury among many senior ministers and fuelled the row over gay clergy which already threatens to tear apart the worldwide Anglican church.

Last night Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev Richard Chartres, ordered an urgent inquiry into the ceremony, which was held in one of the capital's oldest churches last month.

He said: 'Services of public blessings for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England or the Diocese of London.

'I will be asking the Archdeacon of London to investigate what took place.'

If Rev Dudley is found to have broken church rules he faces potential disciplinary action ranging from a rebuke to dismissal.

Last night he insisted he had no regrets about the service, saying: 'It seems to me that Jesus would have been sitting in the congregation.'

Read it all here.

Update

Here is a round-up of other British press reports on the fall-out from the reports of a same sex marriage ceremony.

The Daily Telegraph offers this update, which discusses both the reaction of the Bishop of London and the reaction from those atrending Gafcon:

The Bishop of London has launched an investigation into the gay 'wedding'.

In a statement, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres said: "Services of public blessings for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England or the Diocese of London.

"I will be asking the Archdeacon of London to investigate what took place at the church of St Bartholomew the Great."

. . .

But Dr Dudley, who describes himself as "robustly heterosexual," told the Daily Telegraph he was unworried by the investigation: "I am not bothered about the 'rules' because they are only guidelines.

"This was a personal response to someone who is a friend. Peter and I have known each other for many years and given that this was two priests entering into a civil partnership there was a question of what kind of ceremony to hold.

"They wanted to go much further than I wanted but we worked on a text between us that was appropriate and expressed their sense of commitment. This was new territory because no one else has produced a text of this kind but I am quite clear this was not a marriage ceremony."

. . .

The news of the first church ceremony for a homosexual couple means they are now more likely than ever to claim the Communion has been irreversibly split. Some traditionalists may even say they must formally sever links with the Archbishop of Canterbury and form a new "orthodox" church.

Canon Chris Sugden, one of the organizers of "Gafcon", said: "The timing is presumably deliberate. The hopes that some have that this movement might be stopped in its tracks as a solution to the crisis will clearly not come about."

The Reverend David Banting, chairman of the group Reform, said: "There are bound to be consequences. It is very difficult to exercise discipline in the Church of England because things have gone such a long way down this sort of track. But yes, I would expect there to be consequences," he said.

Read it all here. Ruth Gledhill cover the story here, and also offers this comment on her blog:

What is there not to like in the service of blessing billed as the Church of England's first gay 'marriage' between two clergy? All the links are on Thinking Anglicans. A commentator says there that he has been to many similar services over the past 30 years, and I also have understood it to be happening regularly. But Episcopal Cafe has the order of service. And it is the Prayer Book language used here that is particularly appealing and also, perhaps, provocative. If the liberal movement had from the start couched its reforms in the language of tradition rather than modernity, the ecclesiological landscape facing us now might indeed be very different. Everything, as they should have known from the start, is in the Word.

The Daily Echo has this reaction from the Rt. Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt , Bishop of Winchester:

Rt Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt was speaking after it was revealed that Reverend Peter Cowell and the Rev Dr David Lord exchanged vows at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.

He said: "Strictly speaking it is not a marriage, but he marriage is clearly modelled on the marriage service and the occasion is modelled on the marriage service. This clearly flouts Church guidelines and will exacerbate divisions within the Anglican Communion."

The Bishop then called on the Bichop of London to take action.

Rt Rev Scott-Joynt, one of the leading Anglican bishops, added: Can we stand for the clear teachng of the Church of England or are we powerless in the face of of these actions, which I regret enormously have taken place."

Read it all here.

Dudley is the freeholder of St Bartholomew's

Updated

We've raised the question of what consequences there might be for the Rev. Martin Dudley, the officiant at he calls the blessing of "a ceremony ... [with] knobs on" that followed the civil partnership of two men last month.

The Guardian's religion reporter Riazat Butt writes:

Dudley is the freeholder of St Bartholomew's, making it virtually impossible for him to be ousted. But he could face procedures which would involve someone proving there had been an irrevocable pastoral breakdown or that Dudley had acted in a manner unbecoming of a clergyman of the Church of England.

Read it all here.

Update

Evening Standard -

Rev Martin Dudley was unequivocal. "You can't sack me because you don't employ me. As the rector of St Bartholomew the Great, I own the church, I own the freehold, not in the sense that I can sell it, but in the sense that it gives me tenure."

Speaking to the Evening Standard last night as he stood by the Thames waiting to meet his friend, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Dr Dudley, 54, was not just content to hide behind the arcane, ancient medieval law - known as Parson's freehold - that prevents him being fired except in "extreme cases of wrongdoing".


Read it all. He is, as the saying goes, no stranger to controversy.

Bishop of London writes Dudley

Updated

Via Thinking Anglicans:

18th June 2008

The Reverend Dr Martin Dudley,
St Bartholomew the Great Parish Office,
6 Kinghorn Street,
London,
EC1A 7HW.

Dear Martin,

You have sought to justify your actions to the BBC and in various newspapers but have failed more than two weeks after the service to communicate with me.

I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your Bishop.

You describe the result as “familiar words reordered and reconfigured carrying new meanings.” I note that the order of service, which I have now received, includes the phrase “With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”.

At first sight this seems to break the House of Bishops Guidelines which as I explained in my letter of December 6th 2005 apply the traditional teaching of the Church of England to the new circumstances created by the enactment of Civil Partnerships.

The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.

Yours faithfully.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA

Thinking Anglican provides the PDF original and more.

Ruth Gledhill says,

Yes, it is the case that the Bishop of London has asked the Archdeacon of London to investigate. But I don't think Bart's Rector, Fr Martin Dudley, will be too worried. The Archdeacon was an honoured guest at his recent birthday party, and the two are great friends.
As the Guardian reported on Monday,
Nigel Seed, a church lawyer, said there was no prohibition on having a service after a civil partnership, provided it was not contrary to church doctrine.

"If you do not purport it to be a service of blessing there is nothing to stop couples from having prayers, hymns or a service of prayer and dedication," he said.

Seed is Chancellor and Vicar General of the Diocese of London.

In the same Guardian article Dudley is quoted: "Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."

As pointed out in an earlier post at The Lead, as the freeholder at St. Bart's, Dudley has tenure in his position. It may also be relevant to note that there are certain civil protections in UK from dismissal that apply even to the church. See this recent example.

Wednesday evening update - Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of mainstream media coverage of the Chartes letter.

Gay marriage isn't about culture wars or church politics

Giles Fraser on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day:

Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

How do these three concerns relate to the prospect of gay marriage? The third priority insists that marriage is designed to bring human beings into loving and supportive relationships. Surely no one can deny that homosexual men and women are in as much need of loving and supportive relationships as anybody else. And equally deserving of them too. This one seems pretty clear. The second priority relates to the encouragement of monogamy. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has rightly recognised that celibacy is a vocation to which many gay people are simply not called. Which is why, it strikes me, the church ought to be offering gay people a basis for monogamous relationships that are permanent, faithful and stable.

Read it all here.Or listen here.

Thought for the Day is a regular part of the religion programming at BBC Radio 4. Check it out here.

The Archbishops' "erroneous" letter

The Church Times says the Archbishop of Canterbury and York made a mess of their response to the gay wedding at a London church:

The House of Bishops’ 2005 guidelines on civil partnerships suggested that clergy had a certain amount of leeway: “Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.” It is unlikely that a service involving the scattering of rose petals ever crossed their minds. It is known that services of this sort are conducted from time to time, but they are, more often than not, discreet affairs, involving far fewer than the 300 guests who attended in Smithfield, and there are reports that similar liturgies have been used. But the Smithfield service was a public affair, and has been made much more so since it happened. It thus reinforces the message to the gay community that all is well as long as all is hidden. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, is fond of saying that he is not the only gay Anglican bishop, but he is the only honest one. Be that as it may, the present arrangement is pernicious when it encourages dishonesty.

More here.

Support for women bishops in Church of England

The Daily Mail reports that more than 4,000 Anglicans have given their support to calls for the introduction of women bishops without special legislation to protect opponents of the move. Supporters gathered today at Westminster Abbey for a press conference in advance of the General Synod this coming weekend in York.

Campaigners for the consecration of women bishops said 1,276 women clergy, 1,012 male clergy and 1,916 lay Church of England members have backed a move for women bishops to be introduced but without measures such as new provinces for those who object.

Ruth Gledhill said that "senior clergy from the Abbey, St Paul's and Southwark... as well as MPs and Baroness Howe of the Lords" were there.

Read more »

London GAFCON rally

Leaders of GAFCON took their manifesto to England yesterday at a gathering of 750 at All Souls in Central London. Thinking Anglicans, as usual, does a thorough roundup. Riazat Butt provides what is perhaps the most balanced report:

Read more »

England's awakening

One salutary effect of GAFCON is that it has awakened the British public to the fact that conservatives attempting to take over the Anglican Communion mean business. The British press has been simultaneously hyping and decrying the right wing's campaign, and support for an inclusive Communion has come from unlikely quarters. (The Mad Priest makes a similar point.)

Take The Financial Times, for instances, where Willen Buiter argues:

It is unfortunate that a vocal part of the most rapidly growing segment of the Anglican Communion, the African one, is deeply homophobic and full of bigotry towards and contempt for the homosexual life-style and for people engaging in homosexual acts. These new African bigots have to be confronted head-on about their prejudices and profoundly unchristian attitudes and statements. Again, the origins of this homophobia are regional and cultural in nature. It is not uncommon, for instance, for the same person who considers homosexuality to be the mark of the devil, to be tolerant of polygamy or even to practice it. We should never turf the bigots out of the church, but we should confront them with their unchristian nature of their loveless prejudice and intolerance at every opportunity.

Or the Times of London, never the Archbishop of Canterbury's closest ally:

There is a narrowness, self-righteousness and arrogance about some of the rebels that is deeply unappealing. Several want to have it both ways: to remain within the communion (largely because of the legal and property obstacles that arise from a walkout) while sniping at Canterbury's authority. The more immediate challenge this weekend, however, comes not from Foca [the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans] but from clergy unreconciled to women bishops. They want permanent, binding safeguards for traditionalists that Dr Williams and others are unwilling to concede for fear of enshrining discrimination. He must therefore address their defiance in York as vigorously as he has replied to the Gafcon rebels.

Julian Baggini, an athiest, found the first post-GAFCON meeting in England off putting. He wrote in the Guardian:

[A]t All Souls, I saw a side of Christianity that I don't like. They all seemed obsessed by salvation and glorifying Jesus. You would not have guessed that the only prayer their messiah gave was directed at God, not himself, and that he repeatedly told people not to worship him, but the father. You would not have guessed that he spent much of this time telling people to be good neighbours, irrespective of what other people believed or who they slept with. The very human moral teacher of Matthew, Mark and Luke was eclipsed by the more ethereal Christ of John.

For all their fretting about homosexuality, the evangelicals place little emphasis on Christ's moral and social teaching. The Jerusalem declaration, for example, which announced the founding of Foca, contained a list of 14 "tenets of orthodoxy". Apart from one which upheld the essential heterosexuality of human beings, only one focused on our moral responsibilities to each other.

Meanwhile, back at The Times, George Walden scolds the archbishop for living a double life on the issue of homosexuality:

The oblique way that he addresses the subject suggests that he finds it as difficult as many others to see how the Church can continue to discriminate against practising homosexuals in an age in which scientific knowledge tells us that sexuality is rarely a question of choice. Sacred texts can be disputed, but all that matters is what the Bible would have said had it been known that homosexuality is largely genetic. How Christian can it be to deny men and women a sexuality that is, in Christian terms, God-given?

Suddenly a chorus of voices echoing what groups such as Integrity, whose statement is below the fold, have been saying for years.

Read more »

Church of England 2008 Synod gets underway

The Church of England begins its yearly General Synod today. First up on today's afternoon and evening agenda are a discussion of Orthodox-Anglican relations and then the first bits of work on the divisive question of women's ordination to the episcopate in the C of E.

You can find general information about Synod here.

The days agenda and all briefing papers are found here.

Thinking Anglican's has a collection of links to press pieces discussing Synod as well.

Enough is enough

Giles Frasier says in The Independent on Sunday that Archbishop Rowan Williams has been too compliant in the face of the Church's conservatives and homophobes. The time has come to confront the extremists who would fight the battles of 17th century in the 21st.

The parish church was to be a place where, under God, the English would find an oddly workable unity.

Two things have undermined this vision: the British Empire and the internet. In the days of the Empire, missionaries from the English church made faith our most successful export. Global Christianity mushroomed in the 20th century, with Anglicanism leading the way. There are now 77 million Anglicans. But what did not get exported was the very idea of Anglicanism as a peace treaty. Transplanted into different soil, Anglicanism grew hotter and more ideological, re-exposing deep theological fissures between believers that the C of E had agreed to set aside for the greater good. With the growth in communications technology, these differences could no longer be hidden.

Liberals were horrified to discover that some Anglicans were little more than fundamentalists in vestments; conservatives were horrified to discover that some Anglicans had gone native with secular humanism. Gay sex started it all. And the more the headlines rolled in, the more the cracks widened.

In fact, the fight over homosexuality exposed a darker side to the English reticence to confront difference head-on. We all knew there were loads of gay vicars; we all knew there were many gay bishops too – but it was a form of knowledge communicated in nods, winks and church code. But the spirit of 'don't ask, don't tell' kept many of them stuck in the church closet. It took an American bishop first to be open about having a partner of the same sex. Gene Robinson's crime was his honesty. Likewise, the idea that the gay 'marriage' that recently took place in St Bartholomew's church was a first is simply not the case. There have been hundreds of such weddings. It's just that they have been – and what a very English word this is – discreet.

But all that is over. The conservatives have decided that they can exploit the deep homophobia of many African Christians in order to stage a coup for the soul of the church. Suddenly, we are once again fighting the unresolved battles of the Reformation, with narrow-minded puritans seeking to impose their joyless and claustrophobic world-view on the rest of the church. The newly formed Federation of Confessing Anglicans (Foca) is seeking bridgeheads in wealthy evangelical parishes and the English ecclesiological peace treaty lies in tatters. All eyes now turn to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Is there anything he can do about these Focas?

Read Giles Frasier: Enough is enough. The extremists must be confronted

Synod debate on women bishops today

Updated

The General Synod of the Church of England, meeting in York, is going to debate and perhaps decide today to move forward with allowing women to serve in the episcopate.

Thinking Anglicans has the outline of the day plus the motions with amendments to be considered here. The debate will begin this afternoon and move into this evening, which will mean by mid-afternoon on the east coast of the US, we should know the outcome.

The BBC has this brief summary of the issues here:

The Church of England's ruling body, the General Synod, will vote later on the conditions under which women could be consecrated as bishops.

The York meeting will decide whether to accommodate opponents to women bishops and if they could opt to remain under the ministry of male bishops instead.

But women in the Church have said such a move would institutionalise division. Some 1,300 clergy have threatened to leave the Church if safeguards are not agreed to reassure traditionalists.

They made the threat in a letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but critics say many of the signatories are retired rather than serving clergy.

The amendments appear to focus on three possible scenarios: passing the legislation with no accommodation for traditionalists, passing it with the only accommodation being a code of conduct, and allowing women bishops but with one "Super" non-geographical male Bishop who would care for those who cannot accept a woman in apostolic authority.

Conservative bishops are said to have been in "secret" conversation with the Vatican about the 'liberal' drift in the Church of England. The Church of England is mum on the subject. With the close relationship between Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI, it is hard to know what to make of these rumors.

Members of parliament have made it known that they would like the Church of England to make a positive move. Westminster Whispers, a blog that talks about the political goings-on in England, says that Robert Key, Conservative MP for Salisbury, is present at General Synod and pushing hard for the inclusion of women into the episcopate. According to the blog, that he would seek a Parliamentary veto should a compromise (such as a "super" bishop for traditionalists) be approved.

The Independent on Sunday reports:

Amid fears that the Church might fail to reach a resolution on this occasion in order to avoid a confrontation, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, said that it was crucial that delegates came to a unanimous decision quickly.

"We are aware of those who argue that now is not the right time, that there are too many other difficult issues around, that the balance of arithmetic within the Church may be different in a few years' time," said the the bishop. "But the fact is, of course, that any legislative process is going to take several years to complete even if we take the first steps now."

He added: "I think the one thing that we would all be sad about would be if this synod on Monday simply were to kick the whole thing into touch."

At the same time, the Daily Mail online reports that

Three senior bishops – the Bishops of Chester, Blackburn and Europe – have written a separate private letter to Dr Williams arguing that ‘clearly the ordination of women as bishops would divide the Church even more fundamentally than the ordination of women as priests’.

Another summary of the issues surrounding todays debate and possible vote is provided by the Guardian here.

EpiScope has a good summary of the news coverage so far here.

Updated July 7, 2008 2:30 pm (EDT):
Thinking Anglicans is following the debate and the votes on each amendment here.

4:50 pm (EDT):
Ruth Gledhill has been live blogging the debate.

5 pm (EDT)

Final form of the proposal from Thinking Anglicans:

As a result of the two successful amendments the final form of the substantive motion became.

That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.

Notice that the motion doesn't authorize the ordination of women to the episcopate immediately, but directs the legislative drafting group to work according to the guidelines contained in this motion.

CofE will permit women as bishops

Updated Tuesday morning

Ruth Gledhill of the Times writes:

The Church of England decided tonight to ordain women bishops with minimal concessions to protect opponents, despite the threat of a mass exodus of traditionalist clergy.

The bishops voted in favour of bringing forward legislation to ordain women bishops by 28 to 12. The clergy voted in favour by 124 to 44 and the Laity by 111 to 68.

A proposal for “super bishops” for objectors to women bishops, in the same way that “flying bishops” care for church-goers against women priests, was narrowly defeated at the York meeting of the General Synod.

The synod rejected the plan even though it had the backing of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, also told members he would be unhappy to see a “systematic marginalisation” of Anglo-Catholics, who he described as a “necessary abrasion”.

Christina Rees, of the pro-women lobby Women and the Church, welcomed the move to consecrate women with a voluntary code of practice for handling objections as the “lesser of two evils”. She said women would accept and work with it.

Traditionalists must now decide whether to accept that women will become bishops with equal status to men in the established church, to leave and seek refuge in the Roman Catholic church or stay and attempt to fight it at the final hurdle.

Riazat Butt of The Guardian played it this way:

The Church of England was thrown into turmoil tonight over the issue of women bishops as it appeared to reject proposals that would have accommodated clergy strongly opposed to the historic change.

In a debate lasting more than four hours, the General Synod voted against the introduction of separate structures and "superbishops" because they amounted to institutionalised discrimination.

Martin Beckford of The Telegraph says:

Hundreds of traditionalists, including several bishops, may leave the church after an epic four-hour debate ended with proposals to create new "men only" dioceses or "super bishops" narrowly thrown out by members of the General Synod in York.

It came despite the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior figures in the church, calling for safeguards to stop an exodus of Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals.


Ruth Gledhill, kept a liveblog on the debate.

Now voting on final motion as amended twice.

Bishops: 28 for 12 against 1 abs

Clergy: 124 for 44 agaionst 4 abs

Laity: 111 for 68 against 2 abs

Motion carried

An earlier vote to adjourn without voting failed.

Thinking Anglicans provides the resolution, which after two amendments reads:

That this Synod:

(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.

See earlier coverage on The Lead here.

UPDATE - Thinking Anglicans has a thorough list of mainstream media links.

Support for the Archbishop

Delegates attending the annual conference of USPG: Anglicans in World Mission have written to Archbishop Rowan Williams assuring him of their full support as he grapples with threats of a split in the Anglican Communion.

‘The USPG Annual Conference, including members of our Council and partners from over 15 countries, has been meeting at Swanwick. We send to you, our President, our warm greetings and the assurance of our prayers as the bishops and their spouses begin to gather ready for the Lambeth Conference.

‘We have heard at first hand how our fellow-Anglicans are responding to human suffering in Myanmar and Zimbabwe, in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. We have celebrated the way that USPG’s supporters in Britain and Ireland are helping to fund theological education and health care all around the world.

‘But we have also been saddened by some recent statements, including those from GAFCON last week, which can only deepen the divisions in our Communion, and particularly those which have attacked your own leadership.

‘We know that among our partners around the world, and among our supporters here in Britain and Ireland, there is a wide variety of views, held with integrity, on the issues which currently threaten the unity of our Communion. But we also believe that these partners and supporters have an overwhelming commitment to stay travelling together, they are praying for the Lambeth Conference to be a time of deep listening to God and to each other, and they thank God for the careful and often sacrificial leadership which you are offering.

‘This letter, greeted with acclaim at our final plenary, comes with our love and prayers as you prepare to welcome the bishops and their spouses to Canterbury. May the conference be a time of growth and healing; may it be a sign of the reconciliation and hope which we know in Jesus Christ, and which our world so desperately needs.’

Roman Catholic reaction to women as bishops

Reactions to the actions of the General Synod of the Church of England and the consecration of women as bishops continue although if all proceeds as planned, no woman will be consecrated a bishop until at least 2014. The Vatican Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity issued a statement Tuesday.

The Council is headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper. The statement reads:
“We have regretfully learned of the Church of England vote to pave the way for the introduction of legislation which will lead to the ordaining of women to the Episcopacy.

Read more »

Press opinion and comment on women bishops

As usual, Thinking Anglicans is on top of things.

Read more »

The mad Christians in the attic

Stephen Bates, writing in The New Statesman says:

Pity the poor old Church of England. Desperate in its search for relevance in the face of shrinking congregations and wider public indifference, the Established Church could not have chosen two issues more likely to make it appear institutionally decrepit among those it wishes to proselytise than its perceived discrimination against women and gay people.

Like Mr Rochester's first wife, the misogyny and homophobia of its factions keep leaping out of the attic to scare off decent folk. No use conservative evangelicals and high church Anglo-Catholics insisting the Church's interminable internal rows are all about obedience to scriptural authority and the protection of tender consciences. What the public sees is arcane debates, conducted with a ferocity more in keeping with the 1980s Labour Party than an institution founded on hope and charity.

Although the Church's General Synod in York eventually voted in favour of consecrating female bishops and developing a code of practice to protect those who cannot bear the idea, it did so in defiance of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and a phalanx of bishops who wanted stronger safeguards to protect opponents of the move. There were tears from some of the men, and the Bishop of Winchester - a figure of limited congruence with modern life - denounced the vote as mean-spirited and short-sighted.

Meanwhile, the whole female bishop thing is working out pretty well over here, as Bishop Cathy Roskam told The Wall Street Journal. See their blog on this, as well.

English bishops reach out to Anglo-Catholics

Bishops in the Church of England have published a letter in response to concerns raised by a number of Anglo-Catholics there who strongly object to the recent Synod decision to move forward with the ordination of woman priests to the Episcopate.

Fourteen bishops have written responding the concerns raised by a large number of English clergy who feel that adequate provision for their consciences have not been made. The bishops, traditionalist anglo-catholics themselves, write that it is not a foregone conclusion that an exodus of clergy from the Church of England is the only option. They urge the Synod to revisit the question and clarify the scope of the provisions that will be made.

An article in Church Times reports on the letter and the points being made by its authors:

Lambeth had shown that the Anglican Church had substantially changed in its perception of itself and the ecumenical dimension, said the Bishop of Fulham and chairman of Forward in Faith, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst. “That has serious implications for lots of people, including us,” he said on Tuesday.

“As a whole constituency — not just Forward in Faith — we have always made it quite clear that juris­diction is not our top line: it’s our bottom line. There is a kind of naïve stupidity about — that it is a negotiating ploy; but it is not. Nothing else will do. That view is shared by all 14 bishops.”

There had been a real sense of shock about the lack of charity at the General Synod, Bishop Broadhurst said. “I don’t think I have ever known an atmosphere like there was in York — a wilful disregard for fellow Christians.” As to whether the situation could be redeemed: “If the bishops show they are willing to deal with it themselves and take it back, it can be redeemed; but I’m not over-optimistic.”

Read the full article in the Church Times here.

Is an avowed atheist in line to be Prime Minister?

A. C. Grayling writes:

When Labour cabinet members were asked about their religious allegiances last December, following Tony Blair's official conversion to Roman Catholicism, it turned out that more than half of them are not believers. The least equivocal about their atheism were the health secretary, Alan Johnson, and foreign secretary David Miliband.
...
Atheist leaders will not be tempted to think they are the messenger of any good news from above, or the agent of any higher purpose on earth. Or at very least, they will not think this literally.

Best of all, if David Miliband becomes prime minister, the prospect of disestablishment of the Church of England will have come closer. This is a matter of importance, for two chief reasons. The first is that the CofE's privileged position gives other religious groups too much incentive to try sharp-elbowing their way into getting similar privileges, such as the ear of ministers, tax exemptions, public funding for their own sect's faith schools, and the big prize of seats in the legislature.

Secondly, the CofE has far too big a footprint in the public domain, out of all proportion to the actual numbers it represents: just 2% of the population go weekly to its churches. Yet it controls the primary school system - 80% of it - and a substantial proportion of the secondary school system, with dozens more academy schools soon due to fall under its control.
...
Despite appearances, the world is not seeing a resurgence of religion, only a big turning-up of the volume of religious voices. This is itself a response to increasing secularism among people tired of the disruptions, obstructions and conflicts religion so often causes. Public acknowledgement of atheism by a senior politician who might soon lead his country is just one indicator of the fact that the tide is actually running in the opposite direction: and that is a welcome and hopeful sign.

Would it be healthy for the Communion if the Church of England became less reliant on the state for its survival? Would it be healthy for the Church of England if it operated from the margin of society rather from the center of power?

Let there be light, on occasion

The Times:

The Church of England is asking members to cut back on illuminating churches, eight years after embracing a multimillion-pound scheme to install floodlights at 400 places of worship.

A guide endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, states that vicars should try to curb their use of floodlights in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint.

The guide, Don't Stop at the Lights, suggests that nightly lighting is an extravagance and that illumination should be reserved for special occasions such as sponsored evenings in memory of a loved one or to celebrate an anniversary.

The advice represents a sudden drop in enthusiasm for exterior lighting, which peaked in 2000 when the Millennium Commission awarded £2.3million of lottery money to the Church Floodlighting Trust.

Check the Church of England press release for further information on "Don't Stop at the Lights".

A proponent's view of the Church Lighting Trust is here. Proponents of dark skies call it night blight. At the millennium the scheme was called "a lasting legacy from your Lottery funding."

Metal theft cost parishes and create preservation challenge

In England gangs of thieves are making off with the roofs of Churches which are often made of lead because scrap metal brings in a lot of money. Many parishes would like to replace them with cheaper, less valuable material but are prevented by rules governing historic churches in Britain.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph:

Thousands of churches have been targeted by gangs over the past year, with more than £1 million worth of metal stolen every month.

The thieves strip lead from the roofs, which they can sell to scrap dealers, cashing in on high metal prices.

Many churches have been targeted repeatedly and now want to stop replacing the stolen lead and start using cheaper alternatives, like stainless steel, felt or tiles, which would be less tempting to thieves.

However, many have been stopped from doing so by English Heritage which has insisted they continue to use the more traditional - and more lucrative - lead.

Some churches have been left with gaping holes in their roofs while planning disputes drag on over what building materials can be used to repair them.

The Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Croydon, said: "Anglican churches are facing the greatest threat of attack in their history.

English Heritage have to give greater attention to the real issues faced by parishes and not just see this simply as a case of preserving museums.

Read the rest here.

Besides historically high metals prices, another contributing factor is the economic slowdown in the UK.

English archbishops on Marx and the markets

Rowan Williams has written a searching moral examination of the free market financial system which has been badly caricatured in initial news reports. It contains this sentence: "Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else." How anyone gets from this mild criticism to headlines proclaiming that the archbishop has praised Marx, is difficult to fathom. You can read it for yourself in the Spectator, whose own headline writers have done Williams no favors.

A key passage:

To grant that without a basis of some common prosperity and stability, no speculative market can long survive is not to argue for rigid Soviet-style centralised direction. Insecure or failed states may provide a brief and golden opportunity for profiteering, but cannot sustain reliable institutions.

Without a background of social stability everyone will eventually suffer, including even the most resourceful, bold and ingenious of speculators. The question is not how to choose between total control and total deregulation, but how to identify the points and practices where social risk becomes unacceptably high. The banning of short-selling is an example of just such a judgment. Governments should not lose their nerve as they look to identify a few more targets.

Behind all this, though, is the deeper moral issue. We find ourselves talking about capital or the market almost as if they were individuals, with purposes and strategies, making choices, deliberating reasonably about how to achieve aims. We lose sight of the fact that they are things that we make. They are sets of practices, habits, agreements which have arisen through a mixture of choice and chance. Once we get used to speaking about any of them as if they had a life independent of actual human practices and relations, we fall into any number of destructive errors. We expect an abstraction called ‘the market’ to produce the common good or to regulate its potential excesses by a sort of natural innate prudence, like a physical organism or ecosystem. We appeal to ‘business’ to acquire public responsibility and moral vision. And so we lose sight of the fact that the market is not like a huge individual consciousness, that business is a practice carried on by persons who have to make decisions about priorities — not a machine governed by inexorable laws.

Meanwhile, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is blasting "short sellers," whom he refers to as bank robbers. Sentamu will preach tonight at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

The archbishops' criticisms of the financial system have generated considerable press coverage in England, and Simon Sarmiento has a round up at Thinking Anglicans. Reuters is on the Sentamu statement, which some UK stockbrokers don't care for.

The Guardian has one comment on each bishop's statement.

One observation on these issues in the Anglican context: Neither archbishop has much of an audience in the United States. Most of those likely to agree with their economic critique, their interest in the Millennium Development Goals, their concerns about global warming and their opposition to a univalent American foreign policy, are alienated from them by their unwillingness to speak out against the flamboyant homophobia of other Anglican leaders such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Henry Orombi of Uganda and Mouneer Anis of Egypt. Those who cheer the archbishops' tacit embrace of bigotry disagree with them on most of the political issues. The conservatives get the better end of this deal. The archbishops opposition to the Bush administration makes nothing happen, while their opposition to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church has devastating effects.

Without commenting on the arguments they are advancing here--it isn't clear that either of them understands short-selling--one is still left to wonder how to respond when the archbishops say something one agrees with?

"Three cheers for the abettors of bigotry!" ?

"God bless your irrelevant hearts!" ?

Archbishops' criticism of financial system continues to reverberate

The Financial Times carries this tidbit:

"Market freedom has become an absolute, a kind of fundamentalist religion in itself," Dr John Sentamu said, the Archbishop of York, adding: "You know the joke about how many economists it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is: 'None. The market will sort it out."

But not everyone in England considers the criticisms of western financial systems by the Archbishops of and York and Canterbury a laughing matter, especially since the Church of England has benefitted from short selling, a practice that Sentamu lambasted in a speech last week.

Again, The Financial Times has the story:

The Church of England faced charges of hypocrisy yesterday over its leaders' attack on short selling and debt trading after hedge funds pointed out that it uses some of the same practices when investing its own assets.

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, said it was right to ban short selling, while John Sentamu, archbishop of York, called traders who cashed in on falling prices "bank robbers and asset strippers".

Hedge funds pointed to the willingness of the church commissioners to lend foreign stock from their £5.5bn ($10.2bn) of investments - an essential support for short selling - and derided the pair for not understanding shorting. "They are trying to shoot the messenger and . . . deflecting attention away from the dramatic incompetence of bank executives," said Hugh Hendry, of hedge fund Eclectica Asset Management. "Short selling is the pursuit of truth."

The Washington Post says the archbishops' criticisms are part of a larger debate about greed fueled by the fall of some "flamboyant financiers."

Perhaps, but one still wishes that they were better informed.

Bishop Alan Wilson and Bishop Pierre Whalon do an excellent job in demonstrating that Archbishop Williams' comment about Marx was misconstrued (seemingly deliberately) by the media, but Giles Fraser's column in Church Times points out the weakness of Archbishop Sentamu's argument about short selling--without naming any names.

British clergy to unionize?

There is a legal case in the courts of Britain that, depending on the decision, could have the effect of allowing clergy in Britain to unionize. Up until now, the custom has been to say that clergy are employed directly by God and therefore exempt from existing employment law. Depending on the way the court decides, its decision could, by implication, allow clergy to claim otherwise.

The Church Times Blog has an excellent overview:

"Unite is claiming that the case of Reverend Mark Sharpe, Rector of Teme Valley South in Worcestershire, will have significant implications for the employment rights of ministers. From their website:

Should Revd. Sharpe’s case be upheld after any appeal, it will mean that ministers across the UK will be subject to legislation covering: health & safety, the national minimum wage, paid holidays, ‘whistle-blowing’, anti-discrimination, paid holidays, family-friendly flexible working policies, the working time directive, and unlawful deduction of wages.

Rachael Maskell, Unite’s National Officer, Community and Non Profit Sector said: “We are poised for the biggest raft of employment benefits for ministers in the Church of England since it came into being under Henry VIII’s Reformation in the 1530s. It will also have implications for other faith groups.”

The union is claiming that that the Church of England has conceded for the first time that its ministers are employed by the Church rather than by God.

However, the Church is denying that the case will have such implications. From Charity Finance website Church denies union claims of employment rights revolution:

The Church, however, says that the tribunal case has no impact on the status of any clergy outside the case itself. Agreeing to consider Revd. Sharpe a ‘worker’ was a requirement to allow the case to move forward, said Sam Setchell, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Worcester."

Read the full article here. (There are links on there to all the primary material.)

Thinking Anglicans has coverage here.

Financial crisis drives church members to seek help online

Anglican Communion News Service reports:

Web users looking for support during the current financial situation have boosted traffic to a Church of England website section focusing on debt advice by over 70 per cent, and increased visitor numbers to the Church’s online prayer page by more than a quarter.

The Matter of Life and Debt website section - containing a new ‘debt spiral’ feature so visitors can work out if they are one of the many families who will be seriously affected by the credit crunch, and useful advice for those worried about debt - has seen a 71 per cent increase in traffic in recent weeks.

Ringing changes in a time of change

The Rt. Rev. Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, joined the congregation of St Laurence Church in Winslow, south of London, for a celebration and blessing of the church's newly-restored eight bells.

Winslow rector the Rev Belinda Searle-Barnes said: "This special benefice service offers us a marvellous opportunity to celebrate the wonderful bells of St Laurence.

"They are now restored and able to give of their full potential to call people to worship at this beautiful church and to ring out in celebration for festivals and weddings."


Bishop Alan, as he is known from his blog, reflects on the why change ringing* is a good thing in times of turmoil:
Sunday morning with brilliant sunshine amidst all the financial doom and gloom, at Winslow for the rededication of their ring of 8 bells — a considerable collaborative effort by bellringers and friends. They’ve been ringing at St Laurence for at least 400 years, but things rather declined in the nineties. During the run-up to the Millennium, Margaret Lowery raised a new band of ringers, and the frame has now been made safe and everything tuned up properly so that they’re a joy to ring as well as to hear. Manhandling the tenor bell up the tower felt like stuffing a small family car, or a hippo, up in the attic!

Change ringing (“ringing changes”) is a wonderful thing, in itself, to do in times of turmoil. You have to get things in perspective. There was life before Canary Wharf. Our society is heavily into panic and whining, but the fashion will pass. Winslow’s bells rang out the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the restoration of the Monarchy after the Civil War, Waterloo, Queen Victoria’s Death, the defeat of Hitler...


Read more and see photos here

*Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called "changes".

Reform threatens to walk

Thinking Anglicans provides a roundup of the just concluding Reform Conference. Included is this link to an article by Ruth Gledhill of The Times who smells schism; Us? We're skeptical. An excerpt from Gledhill:

Without agreement from the Synod of the kind that set up “flying bishops” for traditionalists who opposed women bishops, to seek alternative oversight from a bishop outside the diocese would be tantamount to schism in all but name.

Two bishops in the frame to provide this oversight are the Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali and the Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn.

However, it is also possible that Reform could consecrate its own new bishops, in effect setting up a “rival” Church of England diocese.

Of the 25 congregations understood to be interested, several are already outside the formal structures of the established church, having failed to win recognition from their local diocese. A new structure would also bring these congregations into the fold.

It would be run under the auspices of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the new body set up by the summer’s Global Anglican Future meeting of conservative Anglican bishops, clergy and laity from around the world.

Even without a discount for possible hyperbole this doesn't sound like much.

Meanwhile, from Sydney, Peter Jensen continues to assert "Persistent attempts to portray GAFCON as a breakaway movement or an attempt to split the Anglican Communion are perverse, almost malign. ... [The Anglican Communion] is a highly significant entity, to be cherished and maintained, not torn apart. The aim of GAFCON is to renew and invigorate the Communion and to help bring order and peace out of the mayhem created by the American division."

Addendum: Thinking Anglicans makes the address by Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, available here. A phrase jumps out: "the reason we’re interested in Episcopal oversight at all is that we believe in being part of an Episcopal church for good theological and pragmatic reasons. We are not Congregationalists in that we believe it biblical to be connexional. It is right therefore that it should not simply be the local congregation that validates its own senior ministry."

Vicar of Dibley eases path for women clergy

First woman to become a Church of England Archdeacon thanks Dawn French in Vicar of Dibley for paving the way for acceptance of women priests.

As director of communications Diocese of Norwich, Reverend Jan McFarlane is the public voice and face of the Anglican church in the city.

She is also set to become the diocese's first ever female Archdeacon, and one of just a handful in the country, when she takes up the position next March. Reporter Kim Briscoe found out more about how the bubbly vicar found her calling - and the gratitude she owes to Dawn French.

By the time [McFarlane] had finished her training the vote had gone through and women could become priests. Jan was ordained at Lichfield Cathedral in 1993 and started work as a curate in Stafford for the Lichfield Diocese.

She said: “The ordination of women was very, very new and people's reactions were varied. You would walk down the street in your clerical collar and people would literally stop to stare. It was quite a tough time. I felt I was in this representative role for women and there was a strong sense of pressure to do better than the men in order to be accepted.”

Since then the clergy has come a long way and Jan acknowledges the boost Dawn French's Vicar of Dibley portrayal has given to female priests, but jokes her experience of the ministry is even more bizarre than the programme!

Jan, who shares the same sense of humour as the comic character, said: “Before then vicars were the fun figures - dappy, off-the-wall characters. The Vicar of Dibley presented this character who was fun and lovely and who had faith in a wacky way and who was 'the sane one'.

“I'd love to meet Dawn French and give her my thanks - she did such a good job."

Read it all here.

The rest of the English 'gay wedding' story

Back this summer The Rev. Dr. Martin Dudley became somewhat of a celebrity after it was reported that he had officiated at a formal liturgy in the Diocese of London blessing the partnership of two men. In the resulting furor an investigation was promised. Those findings have now been released and a letter of regret has been written.

According to Ruth Gledhill:

"[T]he Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, the Rev Dr Martin Dudley, is to escape any form of discipline or reprimand for the Prayer Book-style 'wedding' service he conducted for two gay priests, the Rev Peter Cowell and the Rev David Lord. Mr Dudley has reached an agreement with the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres that the matter shall now be laid to rest after the errant cleric sent a 'letter of regret' in which he pledges not to do it again and admits he was wrong. It would be pushing it too far to call it an apology, and Stonewall, which has him as one of its Hero of the Year nominees for its awards dinner next month, doesn't see it as a climbdown either."

Read the full article here. Ruth has the full text of the letter in the body of her article.

Thinking Anglicans has information as well plus some links to background.

Bishop of Lewes: "God ultimately has allowed this crisis for good"

The Telegraph:

The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, has written in a church newsletter that materialism has a "stranglehold over our lives" and that some good may therefore emerge from the crisis.

In the November 2008 newsletter the bishop said: "I believe that God ultimately has allowed this crisis for good.

Read more »

No apology given

There are some further developments coming to light about the story of a same-sex liturgy celebrated in London that we've been following since this summer. Today the vicar in question insists that he never offered an apology for his actions in leading the liturgy.

According to an article by Martin Beckford in the Telegraph:

"In a letter published in this week's Church Times he disputes the claim of the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Assistant Bishop of London, that there was 'a series of frank discussions' about the service, and insists that he never issued a 'statement of apology'.

His latest public comments are likely to further enrage those who believe he should have been dealt with much more strictly. They will also confirm suspicions that he is rather enjoying the storm he has brewed and is unwilling to let it die down."

Read the full article here.

Some background material and previous coverage can be found and is linked from here.

Church of England can't sign Anglican Covenant

Peter Owen of Thinking Anglicans calls our attention to what may be the most overlooked aspect of the current controversy in the Anlgican Communion, namely that Rowan Williams believes that the solution to our problems lies in the development of an Anglican covenant which the Church of England CANNOT LEGALLY SIGN. (excuse the capital letters, but really...)

Note this response from the Secretary General of the Church of England to a written question from a Synod member:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.

A pattern is beginning to emerge here. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must cease blessing same-sex relationships, but the Church of England does not have to because it does so quietly. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada must relinquish their autonomy and sign on to a covenant that will almost certainly be used to marginalize them, but the Church of England doesn't have to because it is an established church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury continues to demand from the North American churches what he does not ask from his own people. And the peculiar thing is that nobody seems to find this objectionable.

Al Gore gets Church of England business

Dow Jones reports that Generation Investment Management, a green fund headed by Al Gore, has been allocated £50m by the Church of England Commissioners. Originally to be financed from the sale of equity holdings the Commissioners opted to use cash and treasury bills, presumably due to market conditions.

Carol service aimed at Israeli policy

The Times:

Coming hard on the heels of the first trip to Auschwitz by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams — who was accompanied by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks — the fall-out from the event is already damaging interfaith relations and now threatens to spill over into a diplomatic row.

At the event, organised by anti-Israel campaigners, including one liberal Jewish group, and with carols rewritten by an unnamed Jewish parody writer, the carol Once in Royal David's City was altered to say "Once in royal David’s city stood a big apartheid wall. . ."

Read more »

Canterbury Cathedral crumbling

Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Communion has a suffered so much neglect over the years that without significant repairs, it's in danger of being forced to close large sections of the Cathedral for safety reasons.

An article on the situation reports that an effort is now underway to finish raising the nearly 50 million pounds (roughly 75 million dollars) that will be needed to repair the present damage.

From Ekklesia comes a quote from by "Save Canterbury Cathedral Appeal" p.r. manager Shelley Nye:

"As from now, we're widening the appeal to include big business throughout the United Kingdom, tourist boards and private companies and we will soon be making an appeal to English Heritage for funds allocated to it by the National Lottery."

The Cathedral Appeal website, www.savecanterburycathedral.com, has a great deal more information about what needs to be done and the appeal itself.

Bishop faces rebellion over refusal to ordain women

A Bishop in the Church of England is facing a rebellion because of his refusal both to ordain women and appoint a suffragan bishop who will.

The Telegraph reports:

On one side of the row is the Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, who has a black belt in judo and a staunch opponent of the ordination of women.

In the opposing corner is a growing group of clergy and worshippers in his diocese, who are dismayed by the bishop's intransigence.

Read more »

Williams: a disestablished church has a "certain integrity"

Update: The interview is here (in print and audio). More links added below.
________________

Rowan Williams, is interviewed in the Christmas Edition of the New Statesman. The Times reports on some of the Archbishop's remarks. An extract:

"I spent ten years working in a disestablished Church and I can see that it's by no means the end of the world if the establishment disappears. The strength of it is that the last vestiges of state sanction disappeared, so when you took a vote at the Welsh Synod, it didn't have to be nodded through by parliament afterwards. There is a certain integrity to that."
...
But Dr Williams said he did not think it should be on the agenda at the present time.

He said: "At the same time, my unease about going for straight disestablishment is to do with the fact that it's a very shaky time for the public presence of faith in society. I think the motives that would now drive disestablishment from the state side would be mostly to do with . . . trying to push religion into the private sphere, and that's the point where I think I'd be bloody-minded and say, 'Well, not on that basis.'"

It has been noted that as an established church, the Church of England could note sign on to an Anglican Covenant.

The Guardian also has a story.

Ruth Gledhill has more at her blog -- Williams was also asked about Sharia.

Thursday morning: Thinking Anglicans has a complete roundup, including several making the point that Williams "used to be more forthrightly anti-establishment." Another significant point is that no government is likely to take on disestablishment simply because it would be a diversion from more important issues. Again, that raises the question of how the Church of England could accede to an Anglican Covenant.

CofE proposes compromise on women bishops

The Synod of the Church of England clearly voted to move forward with the ordination of women to the episcopate using a so-called "Code of Practice" to care for the clergy and congregations opposed to women in orders and specifically turning aside parallel oversight schemes. The draft legislation to enable women to become bishops includes "complementary" male bishops and the possibility of "judicial review" for parishes unhappy that they might not be able to avoid the presence of a woman bishop.

The Legislative Drafting Group released it's report this week saying:

“We have published our further report at the earliest opportunity to give everyone the chance to study it before debate. We finished our discussions only just before Christmas,” said the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester.

“The General Synod mandated us to draft a Measure including special arrangements, within existing structures, for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops and to do that in a national code of practice. We believe we have achieved that by providing for male complementary bishops, as we suggested in our earlier report, and now hand our work to the Synod to discuss the drafts in detail.”

According to the Independent, the Drafting Group is proposing a mechanism by which parishes or clergy could "opt-out," as the paper calls it, from the ministry of a woman bishop.

Under the church's proposals, parishes could bypass women bishops and women priests by taking their leadership from specially consecrated male "complementary" bishops.

Parents could elect to have their children confirmed and baptised by male clergy while congregations could seek to have sacraments and other divine service removed from the responsibility of a female bishop.

The ungainly get-out clause, drawn up in response to the Synod's historic vote in July in favour of consecrating women bishops, is set to provoke dee-per divisions within the church

.

Read more »

UK theologians engage government's role in economic recovery

BBC:

On Sunday five bishops questioned the morality of policies and whether people should be urged to spend more. One said Labour was "beguiled by money".

But the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales disagreed and said he was unhappy with the "blame game".

Read more »

Vicar of Putney installed honorary canon by gathering of Ghanaian & Nigerian priests

Giles Frazier, the Vicar of Putney and an outspoken advocate of the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the Anglicanism, has been named an honorary Canon in a Ghanian diocese.

Canon Frazier was installed by a group of Nigerian and Ghanian priests at the cathedral of the diocese of Sefwi-Wiawso in Ghana recently having been named to that position by Bishop Abraham Kobina Ackah.

As Jonathan Wynne-Jones writes:

By making the appointment, Bishop Abraham has sent out a message to his colleagues and held out a hand of friendship from the African church to the more liberal Church of England.

There are more pressing issues for Africa than those that have got Archbishop Akinola so wound up.


Fraser reports on his experiences on this trip to Ghana in the Church Times.

Take note: The CoE still can't sign the Anglican Covenant

UPDATED 9AM, Thursday

The General Synod of the Church of England meets from February 9-13. Thinking Anglicans points to this press release and these words caught our attention:

Anglican Covenant

The Churches of the Anglican Communion were asked in March 2008 if they were able, in principle, to commit to the Covenant process and to say if there were any elements which in their view would need extensive change in order to make viable the process of adoption by their Synods. The General Synod will consider a take note motion, moved by the Bishop of Rochester on behalf of the House of Bishops, on a report from the House, to which is attached a draft Church of England response to these questions. The draft response welcomes the direction of travel of the Covenant while flagging up a number of points which still require attention.

Being mostly ignorant of the meaning of "take note motion" I inquired and Peter Owen graciously provided this explanation:
The wording of these is always "That the Synod do take note of this Report". [Which report is made clear by the heading above the motion in the printed agenda and the official record of business done.] Such a motion cannot be amended. The Synod's standing orders state that "If the motion is carried, it shall not be deemed to commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter contained in the report."

The purpose of a take note motion is to allow a general debate on the contents of a report, and to separate this from any decisions on what action, if any, to take. If any action is required on the recommendations of a report then appropriate motions (which can be amended) are moved, debated and voted on afterwards.

A day has passed and Thinking Anglicans has a post linking to those papers for the synod meeting that have now been released online. This includes the "take note motion" GS 1716 Anglican Covenant. We've perused the attached document and if we're not mistaken it doesn't address a fundamental issue: the Church of England cannot sign the Anglican Covenant. It was Peter Owen who drew our attention to this back in November when we wrote:
Rowan Williams believes that the solution to our problems lies in the development of an Anglican covenant which the Church of England CANNOT LEGALLY SIGN. (excuse the capital letters, but really...)

Note this response from the Secretary General of the Church of England to a written question from a Synod member:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.

Since "the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction" we're puzzled why the General Synod will be discussing a report in which the Church of England expresses its support for an Anglican Covenant.

Thursday, Feb 22 update

Simon Sarmiento has posted on this puzzle at Thinking Anglicans. In a comment below he writes, "The original comment was made over a year ago. The question surely is, does the current draft still contain anything which amounts to such a delegation, or ability to "give direction" to the CofE. It seems clear that the HoB of the CofE doesn't think so."

Sarmiento's post contains a link to GS Misc 910 The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion by Colin Podmore referred to in GS 1716.

Charlotte Pressler comments on Podmore below. She writes of a Gordian knot: "It would seem to follow that the Queen's Prerogative will not be infringed upon if, as Supreme Governor, she gives assent to a Covenant that has no legally binding authority over the Church of England. I suspect this is how the Church of England proposes to cut the Gordian Knot of Covenant and Prerogative." My emphasis.

Updated, again. Read Tobias Haller's analysis. He concludes that "the second draft of the Covenant (St Andrew's) has been attenuated to such an extent that in the eyes of the committee this difficulty no longer presents itself." (My emphasis.) He also finds other points of interest.

This day in Anglican history

BarbaraHarris2.jpg
[Photo credit: The Rev. Ann Fontaine]

In September 1988, Barbara Harris was elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. On February 11, 1989, she was consecrated a bishop, the first woman to be ordained to the episcopate in the worldwide Anglican Communion. (Source; also)

February 11, 2009, the Church of England General Synod debates debating legislation to make it legal -- remember this is the established church -- to ordain women to the episcopate. To follow developments monitor Thinking Anglicans. TA already has three items: here, here, and here.

Read more »

General Synod discusses recession

The General Synod of the Church of England discussed the financial crisis and recession this afternoon.

They voted to accept the report that may be found here. Written by Andreas Whittam Smith. Whittam Smth is the First Church Estates Commissioner, essentially in charge of watching over the financial holdings of the Church of England. Here is an excerpt of his explanation of where the global financial crisis came from:

The idea got about that, paradoxically, risk was nothing to worry about. It could be split up, passed on, sold off. Rather than being placed at the centre of financial transactions, where it ought to be, risk was banished to the sidelines. It was a detail that could easily be handled. At the same time, banks became careless about the standing of the counterparties to whom they were handing off risk. The USA’s biggest insurance company, AIG, had to be bailed out by American taxpayers after it had defaulted on $14 billion worth of credit default swaps it had made to investment banks, insurance companies and scores of financial entities.

Consider then where we had got to by 2003. The excess savings of vigorous Asian economies, oil producers and other developing countries that had flowed into Western banks had pushed interest rates to very low levels. Globalisation had removed bargaining power from workers in the West with the result that inflation was only a percentage point or two per annum. In real terms interest rates were more or less zero. For banks, in other words, money was free. Furthermore now that loans could be securitised and removed from banks’ books so that they no longer needed the backing of their capital, lending activity had begun to appear costless. In addition, lending had acquired the extra virtue of appearing riskless because credit insurance would ensure that others would bear the cost of defaults. The upshot was clear. When money is free, and lending is costless and riskless, the rational lender will keep on lending until there is no one left to lend to.

To reach this Eldorado, the means were at hand. Automated credit scoring speeded up the processing of applications for loans. Trimming back on documentation brought more borrowers into the fold. A proliferation of products offering credit on easy terms was devised. Moreover it didn’t seem to matter if such hastily written business wasn’t always of a high quality. After all the loans were to be packaged up and sold on. In other words, the banks originating the loans would have no stake in the borrower’s continued solvency. At the same time, pay levels in the financial services industry were topped up with bonus schemes that gave very high rewards to those managers who could ‘shift product’. New borrowing was piled on old borrowing, risk on risk.

The Archbishop of York introduced the debate. Reuters reports that Sentamu, suggested everybody was to blame.

“We have all worshipped at the temple of money,” he said. “We have been guilty of idolatry: the worship of God falsely conceived - which is deadlier than either heresy or sin, for it is the prolific source of each. It is this idolatrous love of money, pursuing profit without regard for ethic, risk or consequence, which has led us from orientation to dis-orientation.”

Building on Walter Bruggermann's notion that there psalms of orientation, dis-orientation and re-orientation, Archbishop Sentamu suggested that the church serves best by articulating a vision or re-orientation:

Of course this is not just economics. We need a deeper vision. A political vision alone won't do it. It is not about what governments can do for us but what we can all do.

It is here that the Church of England and all religious communities will make a special contribution. We start with a great advantage - a moral framework and a big vision. We must act prophetically, proclaiming the big vision, living it out in practice and decrying any injustices which desecrate it.

The Christlike vision we hold to will have a threefold base: respect for the person, care for one another, and selfless service. Speaking prophetically is not just about condemning failures, it is about helping everyone to accept common goals which uplift the heart. Moving together in the same direction and thereby enriching and supporting each other as fully as we can. Pilgrims together on the Way.

These common goals and this shared vision must not end at our national borders. Love for my neighbour is not limited to the person next door.

We must ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are not abandoned in the current crisis.

England, you think you've got problems? It's time to get real.

We live in a world where:

·

a child dies every three seconds due to extreme poverty, almost 10 million children a year.

· One person dies from HIV/Aids every 11 seconds.

· Approximately 1 in 7 children in the world – 270 million children – have no access to healthcare.

· Every single day unsafe water coupled with a lack of basic sanitation kills 5,000 children.

· Poor Governance, in countries such as Zimbabwe, has led to malnutrition, a crumbling health system and the outbreak of avoidable diseases, like cholera, claiming thousands of lives in Zimbabwe.

Read Thinking Anglicans coverage here.

Church of England called to convert non-Christians in England.

The Church of England Synod voted on Wednesday to urge its members to reach out to their non-Christian neighbors in an effort to share the gospel of salvation offered uniquely in Christ Jesus. The vote represents a break from the previous stance of focusing on what was common and shared between people of different faiths in the community.

From the article on the Times website:

"The Church’s General Synod, meeting in London, overwhelmingly backed a motion to force its bishops to report on their ‘understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multifaith society’ and offer guidance in sharing ‘the gospel of salvation’ with people of other faiths and none.

[...]The Rev Nezlin Sterling, who represents the black-led churches and is a minister in the New Testament Assembly, said that the marginalisation of Christianity was proceeding at a rapid rate, with further examples reported every day.

She said that the churches were so anxious to be politically correct that they were in danger of forgetting their mission. ‘We have positioned ourselves like the disciples did immediately after the death of Christ, behind closed doors, paralysed with fear of the world.’

Evangelisation should be a priority, she said. ‘Every person in my mind is a potential convert.’"

Read the full article here.

God answers our prayers for unity

Neither proponents nor opponents of women in the episcopate will go away, says Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, so we had better agree to disagree. Or at least learn how to coexist. Canon Rosalind Brown suggests that the Bishop is the focus of unity for the church when she or he models reconciliation.

Avril Ormsby, reporting for Reuters, says that the ABC spoke about how the sides of issue will have to live together within the Church of England as women bishops become a reality.

The archbishop said traditionalists and liberals shared a belief in the scripture, whatever the diversity of interpretation, and should "recognise that the other person or community or tradition is not simply going to go away"

"They are not just going to be defeated and silenced," he added. "Some of course may in one sense 'go away' to another Christian communion; but even then they will still be there as fellow-Christians, fellow missioners and fellow disciples, and the debate will not be over just because one local jurisdiction has made a decision.

"But many do not want to go away in that sense at all. They want to be part of the same family still. And this means that some dreams of purity and clarity are not going to be realised."

The archbishop offered hope of accommodation by saying both groups had "to some extent turned their backs on the fantasy of a Church that is 'pure' in their own terms, in favour of a Church that is honest about its diversity -- even when that diversity seems at first embarrassing and unwelcome".

The Rev. Canon Rosalind Brown, Residentiary Canon at Durham Cathedral, offered a vision of what this might look like in her July 2008 sermon "Angels in Confined Spaces."

I was among women in the Church of England invited to a conference with women bishops from around the world just after the Synod vote earlier this month. It was a strange experience to worship together knowing, in the light of the vote, that the first female bishop in the Church of England was almost certainly among us.

There was a steady yet hopeful mood, rather than jubilation, as we focused on "Transfiguring Episcopé", what the episcopate might be in the future as God transforms the church. The atmosphere was totally different to that in the media in the days after the vote - still looking for stories of division, the media focussed almost exclusively on what could go wrong: schism, years of wrangling, feelings of anger and anguish, etc. etc. At the conference, the emphasis was so very different: yes, we recognised there could be a demanding road ahead particularly for our brothers and sisters in the church for whom this is an unwelcome decision, but there was hope of a way of release for everyone, not just those who look forward to women in the episcopate.

It was as I imagine it was when the angel shone light in Peter's cell, the ground had shifted and hope was tangible. And the reason for this transformation lay in part with the stories of good practice which the female bishops told us, the ways that they have found to work with parishes and individuals who cannot accept women in the episcopate but nevertheless have come to respect their bishop and the careful provision she has made for them.

There are stories of reconciliation and mutual respect that need to be heard in this country before we succumb to the usual despair that the vote inevitably means disaster and departures. So we heard the story of one Forward in Faith parish for which the bishop has provided a male bishop acceptable to the parish to fulfil some of her episcopal ministry among them but which, when there was a major pastoral crisis in the parish, turned to her for episcopal ministry rather than to him. Why? Because the gospel of reconciliation has been worked at and lived out by both bishop and parish and they trust one another.

A bishop is a focus of unity for the church; we tend to assume that means we all like our bishop and agree with him or her and if we don't then he or she isn't a focus of unity, but what the experience of female bishops working with these parishes tells us is that to be a focus of unity for the church is to model reconciliation so that peoples who might normally be divided, even estranged, can recognise their unity through and with him or her.

There were so many similar stories from around the world that we were left wondering how the Church of England could have set up working parties to produce various reports on women in the episcopate, including the Manchester report which was debated at Synod, without consulting a single female bishop about her ministry. If we listen to their experience we can have sure hope that God answers prayer for unity. If we say that the consecration of women to the episcopate means inevitable split, we have not allowed for angels in confined spaces.

A church full of clowns

If you are coulrophobic, you may want to pass on the following story, otherwise read on and learn about the the Clowns International Annual Service that took place at Holy Trinity Church in Hackney, in Greater London, England.

Given the widely touted decline of Christianity in Britain and the desperation of many of its churches to get bums on pews, any church that has people huffing and puffing in indignation about queue-jumpers is doing well.

The secret to this success? Clowns, a whole troop of them. The service that I was fighting so desperately to get into was the Clowns International Annual Service. It has been held on the first Sunday in February every year since 1946 to honour Joseph Grimaldi, the father of modern clowning, and to celebrate and encourage those generous souls who juggle and giggle, tumble and trip, wobble on unicycles and generally offer themselves up for our entertainment.

The service was led by the Reverend Roly Bain, an incongruous blend of cleric and clown. His dog collar was pretty standard for an Anglican priest but the long checkered robes and rouged cheeks with crosses in the middle distinguished him from the average vicar.

Read the rest here.

C of E considers sale of church to SSPX

BBC:

The Society of St Pius X has expressed an interest in purchasing St George's Church in Gorton, Manchester.

One of its bishops, Richard Williamson, provoked anger after saying he did not believe Nazi gas chambers existed. He later apologised.

Although the group distanced itself from his comments, local politicians have objected to the church sale.

The Church Commissioners which manages the Church of England's historic assets is considering the sale and has asked for feedback by the end of the month.

A report will then be submitted to the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who will in turn make his recommendations.

Williamson has not retracted his expressed views on the holocaust, women's rights, or Mother Teresa.

Church of England: Bishop Nazir-Ali to retire

The outspoken conservative Evangelical bishop of Rochester is stepping down 10 years short of his required retirement date. The expressed reason is bridge-building with the Muslim community with which he has been at odds.

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Bishop in a box

Is it news that a bishop of the Church of England prays? For a whole hour? Maybe it's not news, but it may be art. The BBC reports:

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On the road to Canterbury with NPR

NPR's Rob Gifford is doing a series, The New Canterbury Tales, tracing the forty miles from London to Canterbury. Part 3 is titled "Importance Of Church Slips Rapidly Among British." Some excerpts:

Britain has become one of the most secular countries in Europe. The English church has always seemed to swing between the two extremes: from the piousness of Puritanism to the dissolute courts of the Restoration; from the high tide of Victorian evangelicalism to the deep and broad secularism of the 20th century and beyond.

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Dean Slee challenges Nazir-Ali

From The Telegraph:

The Very Rev Colin Slee, the liberal Dean of Southwark has publicly attacked the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, and said that he was one of three bishops whose position was now "open to some debate".

The Dean's broadside, delivered in the introduction to the annual report for Southwark Cathedral, will infuriate evangelical supporters of the Bishop, 59, and further widen the gulf between the traditional and liberal wings of the church.

Church of England reacts as woman named laureate

The headline in The New York Times reads: "After 341 Years, Britain Picks a Female Poet Laureate"

In other news, the Archbishop of Canterbury has authorized a network of "flying laureates" to minister to those who don't believe that God intended women to write poetry, but who want to continue to read it.

CofE database of clergy from 1540 to 1835

A database of information on Church of England clergy from 1540 to 1835 has been made available for study by historians, genealogists and trivia seekers.

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The marriage of Eva Brunne

The Diocese of Stockholm in the Church of Sweden has just elected Eva Brunne, a lesbian in a registered domestic partnership, as its bishop. The Church of England, like the Anglican Communion Churches of Ireland, Scotland and Wales is in full communion with the Church of Sweden through the Porvoo Agreement. The question now is how Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will respond, having gone to such great lengths to keep partnered gays and lesbians from becoming bishops in the Anglican Communion.

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Church of England fights proposed "equality" bill

Over at Comment is Free, Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans examines the Church of England's opposition to the "equality" bill currently before Parliament:

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Church and state debated in England

Two items.

1. Theo Hobson in the Guardian on disestablishment: It is worth noting that Rowan Williams has failed to start the debate; he has allowed the reactionary position to become stronger – a piece of major political cowardice.

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Survey says Church of England "out of touch" on gay issues

From The Times of London:

A revolution in attitudes towards gay men and lesbians is indicated in a poll which shows that a majority of the public want homosexuals to share identical rights to everyone else.

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Church of England criticized for investments

Ekklesia says the Church of England has been criticized three times in four days for its investments practices.

The first report deals with Royal Dutch Shell in which the Church has £103.7 million invested:

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News from Church of England synod

While General Convention is in session on this side of the Atlantic, the General Synod of the Church of England is in session on the other side of the pond. We draw your attention to three items with direct application to General Convention..

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CofE takes swine flu precautions

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York have "written to Bishops in the Church of England recommending the suspension of the sharing of the chalice at communion."

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C of E offers same day service

Giving a new meaning to Married with Children, the Church of England has introduced a family-friendly ceremony where you and your co-habitating partner can marry, and your progeny can be baptized. The fee the church charges is virtually the same as if the ceremonies were conducted on separate occasions. A spokesman for the Church said the ceremony was environmentally and socially responsible given the substantial post-ceremony savings in hiring a venue and a caterer. (No, this is not a spoof.)

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Lack of stewardship tackled during Church of England Synod

The Church Times wins this Friday's award for "Best Headline of the Week" with a report on the stewardship debate at the recently concluded Church of England Synod. The article headline? "Stewardship: Let's talk about wallets, not willies."

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Blackburn Cathedral offers clean bread

The Times:

Worshippers at a Church of England cathedral are being offered a two-track Communion service with a separate supply of “untainted” Communion bread for those who object to its being consecrated by a woman priest.

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Thanking God for the C of E

Christian Patterson on why she loves the Church of England:

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Jagger speaks to CoE Ethical Investment Advisory Group

Guardian:

Pressure was mounting on the Church of England tonight to use its power as a shareholder to stop mining company Vedanta Resources from opening a bauxite mine in a sacred part of India after it vowed to go ahead despite pleas from indigenous people.
...
Human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said: "I appeal to the shareholders to hold Vedanta accountable to make sure it adheres to social, corporate and ethical responsibilities."

A spokesperson for the church, which has a £2.5m stake in Vedanta, said: "The church investors use their influence as shareholders to improve corporate behaviour. Working to a robust ethical investment policy, issues of concern are raised in a constructive and ongoing engagement, which experience has often shown to be the most successful way of bringing about change."

Read it here.

Anglican church offers two track communion

We covered the story last week. Now Catholic News Agency has more:

The congregation can choose whether to receive communion bread blessed by Rev. [Sue] Penfold or bread blessed by a male priest at the main cathedral service on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

“This situation is not ideal, but we are trying to be inclusive,” Canon Hindley said, adding that Rev. Penfold had been appointed to Blackburn Cathedral to reflect the “board views” of the Church of England.

The communion practice was announced to worshipers when it was introduced last year but it is reportedly implemented in a “very discreet manner.”

The practice was attacked by Sally Barnes of the Anglican feminist group Women and the Church. She said it was “unacceptable and disgraceful” to turn communion into “a buffet.” She claimed the practice labeled women as “tainted” and that many people in the area have complained about it.

The traditional-leaning Anglican group Forward in Faith, which opposes women bishops, said the practice was unusual. According to This Is Lancashire, group spokesman Stephen Parkinson called it “bonkers” and said he did not understand why the women priests put up with it.

You can not make this stuff up.

For more, see our story from last week.

Will good manners kill the C of E?

Andrew Brown thinks that passing an Anglican Covenant would ensure that that the Church of England will both become disestablished and split along ideological lines, but that most members of the CofE synod would not vote for it. MadPriest has asked around and finds that at the moment there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives and liberals in the Church of England.

Brown writes:

Has Rowan Williams just set the Church of England on the road to disestablishment? Or does he envision it as standing outside the central body of Anglicanism that he is trying now to erect? I have just read carefully throughhis response to the American Church's recognition of equal gay rights, and there are two things that are really striking about it. The first is familiar from his earlier struggles with the matter: a certain airy disdain for the facts of the struggle in hand and the simple mutual hatred which has driven it for the last 20 years....

...English Anglicans have enough trouble taking seriously the opinions of their own bishops. The covenant would require them to obey foreign bishops as well. That's just not going to happen. The only churches to sign up to such a covenant will be those who are entirely certain they will never be outvoted in it. So it's quite possible that the Church of England itself might stand outside such an arrangement if it came to a synod vote. But what is still more likely is that it would split on the matter. The synod, after all, exercises its authority over the church on behalf of parliament. That's what establishment means. And I cannot imagine any parliament in 10 or 15 years' time agreeing to hand over powers to some wider Anglican body so that it can preserve the tradition of Christian homophobia. What would sooner happen would be disestablishment.

The Rev. Jonathan Hagger, aka MadPriest, at first assumed Brown was right--that the Church of England Synod would never pass on a theologically restrictive Covenant that shares authority with foreign Prelates-- but after asking around he has changed his mind.

Hagger finds that, as far as he can tell, there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives. He writes:

I contacted some of the organisations within the Church of England that ought to be campaigning against the covenant. I discovered that there is no cohesive plan to mobilise Synod members to vote against it. There isn't even any real discussion going on in these organisations concerning what will happen if the covenant is adopted by the Church of England.

Basically, my church is sleepwalking into disaster. We are going to die because we are so damn polite and we don't like offending people.

Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be any understanding among Synod members of the importance of the Church of England in the debate over the covenant. Basically, if the English Synod was to vote against the covenant then it would be dead in the water in the rest of the world. You simply cannot have an Anglican covenant if the archbishop of Canterbury is not a fully signed up member of it because of the role of that office as an instrument of unity.

It seems to me that it is of the utmost importance that the progressives, liberals and radicals of the Church of England, along with anyone who is protective of our church's national identity and its establishment role of being a church for English society and the English culture, must get off their arses pretty damn quick and do something to stop the covenant now. If they do not, then not one of these people will have a place in the Church of England in a few years' time. If they vote for the covenant they will be voting for their own censorship. They will be voting for an end to freedom of thought and the right to speak their thoughts.

Read Brown here and MadPriest here.

Oh, my! Someone seems to have woken up the Church of England

Ruth Gledhill:

The liberal fightback against Anglican conservatives and the Archbishop of Canterbury has begun....

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Episcopal Church supported from the pulpit of Southwark Cathedral

There are voices in the Church of England telling the faithful it is right to stand with The Episcopal Church.

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One plus one equals six hundred sixty six

Based on one blog entry by one American priest, Jonathan Wynne-Jones says that Americans are "planning" to "plant" Episcopal Churches in England, especially if an Anglican Covenant that divides the Communion into two "tracks" is enacted.

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Responding to our changing world, or not

The Church Times prints two letters it received concerning the Church of England's new liturgies combining marriage with baptism of the couple's children.

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Inclusive Church to try to count gay and lesbian clergy in C of E

As part of a growing response in the Church of England to the recent essay by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the actions of General Convention, an English group committed to full inclusion is planning to try to determine the number of GLBT clergy in that country.

According to the Guardian:

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Durham Bull, 2

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude continues his critique of Anglican bully boy N. T Wright, the Bishop of Durham:

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Tipping point?

Colin Coward of The Changing Attitude is angry and he says a tipping point has been reached. The language of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his letter after General Convention and Bishop N.T. Wright's words have (as we have reported earlier) stirred up anger in the The Church of England.

Coward writes:

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Camera club to document decline of Church of England

The monthly assignment of the Guardian Camera club is to "document the Church of England as the decline of congregations has been in the news recently."

The photographs aren't anything like what I expected. It's more like capturing the art and design ethos of the Church of England church buildings. Recommended: take at them here.

Thievery and church roofs

The Church of England has been experiencing a rash of property crimes against some of its most expensive assets - its oldest buildings. Thieves have been nicking off with the lead from the roofs of parish churches, abbeys and cathedrals across the country.

So, to limit the ability the thieves have to get money for the lead their stealing from scrap dealers, the roofs are being painted with a special paint containing special micro particles. Each roof gets a paint with a unique chemical signature.

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Robinson going to Greenbelt

Greenbelt is an annual outdoor Christian arts and music festival held in the UK. They invite many speakers and have many workshops. One the speakers this year is Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The usual unhappy voices can be heard in response.

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Gene Robinson given standing ovation at Greenbelt

Apparently Bishop Robinson is a bit of hit with the folks attending the annual Greenbelt Festival, a festival of "arts, justice and faith."

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Fostering anti-Islamic attitudes

Andrew Brown of the Guardian wonders what Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali will get up to now that he has retired as Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England, and asks whether a global campaign to spread anti-Islamic attitudes is part of the agenda of the Anglican right:

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Hymns, beer at Greenbelt

This year's Greenbelt Festival kicked up more attention than usual when Gene Robinson attended. But there were also a number of other attractions at the Christian music event, including hymn-singing and organic beer at the Jesus Arms tent.

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Bishop of Southwark to retire

The Right Reverend Tom Butler, Bishop of Soutwark will retire in March when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

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'A better future?' Or just more bickering?

Savitri Hensman, a UK-based writer who works in the "voluntary sector in community care and equalities," has penned "A bettter future for the Anglican Communion?" Hosted by Ekklesia, it's a well-researched, Bible-flecked reflection piece representing the views of one member of the Church of England with respect to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ABC's passionate engagement with matters pertaining to the The Episcopal Church.

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Synod to return to the question of a conscience clause

The Church of England has been asked to revisit the question of formal protection for those people within that Anglican Province who could not accept the ministry of woman ordained as bishops.

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Bishop Selby rejects the Covenant idea

Bishop Peter Selby, the former bishop of Worcester in England has written of his deep concerns regarding the proposed Anglican Covenant. He is afraid that its adoption would signal what others have suggested is a primarily structural solution to theological questions.

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Inclusive Church, WATCH respond as C of E backs off female bishops

From Inclusive Church:

Inclusive Church is deeply disturbed by the recent announcement of the Revision Committee. It has moved away from the expressed will of General Synod in July 2008 - that there should be legislation to consecrate women as bishops on the same terms as men with an additional code of practice containing arrangements for those who do not accept the authority of bishops who are women.

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C of E dabbles in the market

Two items from the Wall Street Journal on the Church of England's play in the Manhattan apartment market, and its defense of hedge funds.

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The Bishop of Salisbury on bishops by statute

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, on the women bishops brouhaha in the Church of England:

My concerns are on several levels. First, these proposals appear to institutionalise mistrust in legislation: the opponents of women’s ordination do not trust the bishops to make proper provision. Is that really what we have come to?

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Will women defect from the C of E?

With the question of the ministry of female bishops seeming to have lost some traction recently in the Church of England, can some defections to other provinces be in the offing?

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Vatican offers home to
traditional Anglicans

It may be a while before anybody can speak with any real knowledge about the impact of the development described in the AP story below, which contain a major error in its first paragraph.

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CofE and doctrine of "taint"

Fran Porter, freelance social and theological researcher, writer and teacher, explores the current debate on women as bishops and the doctrine of "taint," which is the refusal of some male priests (and some parishoners) who will not take communion from a female celebrant, but also the refusal of some clergy to take communion from their male diocesan bishop because he ordains women. From Ekklesia:

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Ex-flying bishop expects "generous provision" from ABC

Edwin Barnes, former Bishop of Richborough:

The latest move from the Roman Catholic Church to extend an American experiment comes not a moment too soon. ... The offer to extend the Apostolic Constitution to England and elsewhere is very welcome. In America a similar constitution allows Episcopalian priests, some married men with families, to become Catholic priests. They have been given a prayer book, the Book of Divine Worship, that takes a great deal from the Book of Common Prayer but makes it entirely Catholic. Clearly Rome now sees the need to extend this provision to England.

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An answer to the "Why?" question

The Big Question:
Why is the Catholic church offering a home to congregations of Anglicans?
By Paul Vallely

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You've got mail

In the swirling mix of reactions to the statement from the Vatican, there have been all kinds of responses from all quarters. Of course, the Cafe has done its part to stir the pot as well, hopefully in helpful ways. In the midst of it all, humor, and especially satire, can be an extremely helpful palate cleanser. Satirist Gregory Beyer "Delivers the Email You Can't Miss" courtesy of NPR.com.

Enjoy!

You've Got Mail: Greetings From Vatican City! by Stephen Beyer at NPR.org

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Dishonesty amongst closeted conservative Anglican catholics

Colin Coward finds his tolerance running low for hypocrisy in the Church of England:

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Affirming Catholicism rebukes CoE report on Women Bishops

Affirming Catholicism has written to the General Synod Revision Committee on Women:

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ABC issues slap in face

Despite or because the Church of England is part of the Porvoo Communion, four Anglican and eight Nordic and Baltic churches, Rowan Williams has declined the invitation to attend the ordination of the openly gay woman Eva Brunne to be the next Bishop of Stockholm. The Church of Sweden is not a part of the Anglican Communion, several provinces of the latter are in full communion with it, by virtue of the Porvoo Agreement.

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Armistice Day 2009

A sermon given by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day 2009, following the deaths of the last remaining UK veterans of World War One. An extract from the sermon:

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Parliament debates women bishops

Could sex discrimination laws be applied to religious organizations? This is a rather sticky wicket in the United States with our separation of church and state. However, in England, Parliament is taking up the question as it applies to the Church of England. It is helpful to remember that the Church of England is the officially established Christian Church in England with the queen holding the title of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

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CoE women bishops to have full authority

UPDATE: See below

Perhaps the Vatican intervention into Anglican affairs in the Church of England has changed the direction on women bishops. Thinking Anglicans reports:

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C of E clergy numbers could soon be in sharp decline

Paid clergy could become an endangered species in the Church of England, the Times of London reports.

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Inclusive Church critiques ABC's covenant

Thinking Anglicans blog has posted two documents from the UK's Inclusive Church which offer comment on the proposed Anglican Covenant and are in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter from last August.

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See you in twurch

The web site Twurch of England is a Twitter aggregator that updates the world with the latest from C of E deacons, priests, and bishops. Published by Peter Ould and the Church Mouse, it's a way of dipping into the ongoing thought processes of a group of the ordained within a particular region.

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BBC interviews Mary Glasspool

LA's suffragan bishop-elect Mary Glasspool tells Roger Bolton of BBC Radio 4's "Sunday" program:

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Father Christmas visit barred

It turns out the UK has a policy of putting the children of asylum seekers into detention centers because of the perception that the children are at high risk of "mental health issues". Canon Jim Rosenthal was prevented from visiting them over the weekend as were some other clergy. There were concerns that the visit was a possible security threat.

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Christianity in Britain down 25% in last 25 years

A study to be issued in January says religiosity is in sharp decline in Britain with most of the decline, in level and rate, coming in the established religion, the Church of England.

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Church of England membership numbers stabilize?

New survey results are showing two interesting trends in English religious life. Fewer people are willing to identify as being part of a specific church but about the same number of people are identifying themselves as Christian or Anglican as have been for some time now.

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English bishop encourages young people to priesthood

The British Bishop of Litchfield is working to convince young people to consider the priesthood in the Church of England using video, web presence and other means...

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CoE pension fund near insolvency

The Financial Times UK comments on the near insolvency of the CoE church pension fund. Notes the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York criticism of the equity market when the Church of England itself has been playing the market with risky investments:

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CoE to vote on increasing gay partner benefits for clergy

Next month's General Synod of the Church of England will probably have another round of controversial voting when a motion to increase the benefits of same-sex couples to that of traditionally married clergy is considered. At present the Church of England bars clergy from living in active gay relationships but does recognize civil partnerships on the condition that the partners are not sexually active.

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CofE Drafting committee asks for slack

Churchmouse shares a letter from Bishop Broadbent, a member of the committee charged with bringing legislation on Women in the Episcopate to the General Synod. The committee has had a lot of criticism for not producing anything for the February Synod:

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Bp of Ebbsfleet not taking bookings
- CoE women in holding pattern

As reported yesterday, the group tasked with writing legislation for admitting women into the episcopate in the Church of England will not meet the target of bringing legislation before the General Synod meeting in February. Those opposed to women in the episcopate do not want those women bishops to have the power to delegate alternative oversight. Proponents of women in the episcopate say that would create a second class of bishops.

Unmixed metaphors are, um, flying in this story from the BBC:

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Back door recognition

The Church Times reports on the campaign by supporters of ACNA for back-door recognition of the breakaway group by the Church of England.

While the sponsor of the private members motions says that the motion has nothing to do with interfering with the internal life of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, she and the motion's supporters disapprove of the idea that when ACNA clergy left their former churches they were treated as if they left for a new denomination. They are also surprised that Anglican churches might object to the new denomination appropriating their property.

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Discrimination by the church still okay in the UK

From the BBC:

The government has suffered a House of Lords defeat over a move churches said would prevent them denying jobs to gay people and transsexuals.

Ministers insisted their move was only to clarify the Equality Bill and that the status quo would stay, but churches said it would create confusion.

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Don't look now Rowan, but your people love it in LA

In The Times, Lucy Broadbent writes that the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles did for her what the Church of England never could:

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Eight CoE bishops support discrimination

Andrew Brown comments on how 8 bishops of the Church of England voted to discriminate against gay employees and defeated the non-discrimination legislation

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Is it ethical to walk away from a mortgage?

Is it ethical to walk away from an underwater mortgage? The Church of England and its partners in a massive New York City real estate deal gone sour just did. By doing so the church cut its loss to $78 million or 1 percent of it portfolio.

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Bishop's amendment guts original ACNA legislation

Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans has a scoop on the ACNA resolution.

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Adviser to queen met with Catholic archbishop over Vatican flap

In the past few days it's come to light that Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel, a chief officer in the Royal Household, met with Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols after Pope Benedict XVI's offer to bring traditionalist Anglicans into the Catholic fold was made public.

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The Pope's plans for the UK and Anglicans

Pope Benedict has been in the news lately telling the UK they have too much equality, in advance of his visit there later this year. He has also been speaking about his offer to disaffected Anglicans. He met yesterday in Rome with Catholic bishops from England and Wales.

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The Times: The Church and underwater mortgages

The Times picks a line of inquiry we posted on last week:

When the Church of England walked away from a £40 million investment [with Tishman Speyer] in a Manhattan apartment complex last week, it simply wrote off the entire amount, promising that “lessons would be learned”.

But many of the tenants of the 11,000 apartments are still dealing with the fall-out. Left in limbo as a new buyer is sought for the buildings, they have serious concerns about who will maintain the complex while they wait.

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Tory leader says gays should have equal rights

The leaders of England's Conservative party, David Cameron, a man who would be Prime Minister and leader of the opposition party, says that he believes that the Church of England should drop its objections to equal rights for gays and lesbians.

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BBC FAQ on General Synod

In some ways the nuances of the Church of England's General Synod is probably as hard for Episcopalians to catch as our General Convention is for the CoE types. But there are some issues coming up in the next General Synod that could have implications for the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England so it's worth trying to follow it all this year.

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Archbishop of York: Ordinariates don't make for 'proper Catholics'

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, tells BBC "Sunday Sequence" host William Crawley that while the Vatican's offer to Anglicans would make them subject to Ordinariates, they still wouldn't be thoroughgoing Catholics.

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C of E committee to recommend women bishops on par with men

Ruth Gledhill is reporting in The Times that the Church of England plans to move ahead with women as bishops with equal authority to male bishops:

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ABC Williams speaks to General Synod

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to the Church of England General Synod today. He tried to set out a way to think about issues facing the church regarding appointment of women as bishops, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender clergy who are married or have civil unions, how much the state can determine the life of religions, and of end of life decisions.

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Synod passes Bishop's amendment

UPDATED: see below

The Church of England General Synod has voted to recognize that members of ACNA wish to be remain in the Anglican family. The vote displaced the language of the original motion that would have "express[ed] the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America”.

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Breaking: C of E gives pension benefits to civil partners

UPDATED: 6:30 PM

Bravo Church of England!

General Synod - pensions for surviving civil partners

Read the complete story at Thinking Anglicans

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A last word on the ACNA vote

ACNA's partisans are attempting to portray the Church of England's decision not to recognize them as a smashing victory and proving primarily that they are cheap dates. Malcolm French nails it: "while the resolution nicely acknowledges that the founders of ACNA want to be part of the Anglican Communion, it is actually pretty explicit that they are not."

Cof E Anglo-Catholic cloak and dagger deeds

Andrew Brown has discovered some cloak and dagger deeds by the Anglo-Catholics seeking to leave the Church of England for Rome:

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Sooner or later, they will have to learn to play nice

Former Anglicans who migrate to the Roman Catholic Church will have to learn how to build bridges with other Roman Catholics, lest they ghettoize themselves.

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Sentamu: the electorate has a privilege and a responsibility

But don't take away our appointed seats in the House of Lords.

In another demonstration that consistency is a hobgoblin of the small-minded and the self aware, the Archbishop of York is urging UK voters to turn out and vote, writing today that,

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Removed, perhaps, during the laying on of hands?

Adrian Worsfold (aka Pluralist) is wondering why liberal English bishops have no spine:

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Bishops absent from House of Lords vote

Dave Walker displays his incisive cartoon skills in this explanation of why only two of the twenty five bishops in the House of Lords voted on the amendment to allow civil partnership services in churches.

Here's how the bishops voted:

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English evangelical bishop calls for tolerance

A leading voice in the evangelical wing of the Church of England, Bishop James Jones, speaking to his diocesan synod in Liverpool today says the battle of sexuality in the Church needs to end.

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Bishop Jones has struck a nerve

Bishop James Jones' address to the synod of the Diocese of Liverpool continues to reverberate through the Anglican blogosphere. Peter Owen has an excellent round-up.

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Some CoE staff stage strike

The Telegraph has it:

The industrial action was called by the Public & Commercial Services Union, which also represents civil servants, amid claims that it is not “Christian behaviour” to freeze workers’ pay.

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Faith groups welcome the Equality Bill (UK)

From England's "Ekklesia" blog, comes word that Quakers and other religious groups in Britain have welcomed the passage of the Equality Bill:


Faith groups hail new law allowing civil partnerships on religious premises
From Ekklesia (UK)

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Dog admitted to CofE Guild of Vergers

From The Guardian

Carole Sharpe lost her sight at the age of 58. But with the help of her dog, she's been able to carry on doing the things she loves.

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Ash in the air, and the CofE in The New Yorker

Among that travelers stranded by the volcanic eruption in Iceland are the 20+ members of the St. Alban's Cathedral Girls Choir from England. They are stuck in Miami Beach with a few chaperones, as the BBC reports here.

In other CofE news, The New Yorker has taken note of the squabble over female bishops.

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The future of the Church of England?

Jane Kramer's article in The New Yorker on the battle in the Church of England over whether to allow women to be bishops is now available online in full:

A Canterbury Tale
The battle within the Church of England to allow women to be bishops.
by Jane Kramer in the New Yorker

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UPDATED: Westminster left out of cunning scheme

UPDATED: See addendum at the bottom of this post as to substance of the meeting, and impending report on women bishops.

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Imagine a country in which gay bashing gets you no votes

Andrew Sullivan brings news that the Tory party in England is willing to consider "full marriage rights" for gays and lesbians.

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Testing the waters ... or signing up recruits?

The Church Times reports that the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev. Keith Newton, one of the so-called Provincial Episcopal Visitors has been flying about recruiting clergy to sign on to the Ordinariate proposed by the Roman Catholic Church for Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women.

Newton says he is merely testing the waters.

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Four more years

It will be four more years before we see women ordained to the Episcopate in the Church of England, according to a report published today by Ruth Gledhill. The legislation that will be presented to the next General Synod will be released tomorrow.

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Full text of women bishops' legislation posted

Yesterday we linked to Ruth Gledhill's report on the imminent release of the draft legislation that will allow the Church of England to open their episcopate to their women priests. Today the full report has been posted.

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UK Greenbelt Festival boycott backfires?

We don't have anything like it in the States, but in England the Greenbelt festival is a music and arts festival for Christians that takes place in the middle of August. Many Christian groups, musicians, and speakers are invited representing a broad spectrum of Christianity in the UK. Recently, some evangelicals have been unhappy with their choice of speakers and have begun to boycott the festival. Strangely, ticket sales go up.

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CoE bishops statement on women in the episcopate

The Church of England House of Bishops has released a statement on Women in the Episcopate following their meeting May 17-18:

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Hermit does phone solicitation

One of a small number of hermits, or solitaries, in the Church of England may be forced out of her home, unless a last-minute appeal can raise enough money to keep her there.

The Church Times reports:

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Records of religious dissenters published online

The records of the “Non Conformist Registers, ”British religious dissenters, has been posted online for the first time, including Blake, Defoe and Mill.

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Female bishops in England: Moving forward through compromise

WATCH, the leading women's organization in the Church of England has issued the following statement, which we bring to you via Thinking Anglicans:

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"Disappointment": Maggi Dawn reports on reactions to "Mitregate"

Maggi Dawn is a Cambridge based theologian, scholar, College fellow and author. She's the author of a widely read blog in the U.K. She's posted a synopsis of the events of this past week following the news of the experience of the Presiding Bishop during her visit to Southwark Cathedral.

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Choose your own bishop: Williams, Sentamu tell anti-female forces

Updated: Thinking Anglicans rounds up the media reports.

Thinking Anglicans has the story about a joint amendment proposed this morning to legislation permitting women to become bishops in the Church of England. The Church of England's General Synod meets July 9-13.The archbishops released a statement that is excerpted below.

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Co-jurisdiction: Pluralist speaks, Damian smokes, Andrew laughs

Reactions are rolling in on the last minute intervention by the ABC and the ABY into the well-laid plans of the Church of England General Synod to approve women bishops. The two archbishops call their plan co-jurisdiction. There's broad agreement that it's arm twisting, it's hypocritical, it's naive, and it's absurd.

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ABC and ABY proposal on women bishops: not flying

UPDATED: 1:48 p.m.EDT
Three Legged Stool reports Ruth Gledhill's article in The Times in which she says that their proposal to placate those opposed to women bishops has gone down in flames.

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House of Commons members speak on women bishops

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry, was asked about women bishops yesterday in the House of Commons.

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Curate takes on English archbishops in open letter

The Rev. Lindsay Southern, a female curate in the Church of England, has taken on the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in an open letter critical of their most recent intervention in the debate over female bishops in their Church. Thinking Anglicans has the text, but here are some highlights:

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The Archbishop's "Hail Mary"

In American football, a desperate long forward pass when the clock is running out is called a "Hail Mary." The Church Times doesn't use that language, of course, but in a lead editorial they call the Archbishop's proposal to have traditionalist parishes have their own bishops while still under the jurisdiction of women bishops a last minute plan "to save the day."

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English bishops want quick action on Anglican Covenant

Thinking Anglicans has the story.

The Church of England's House of Bishops is attempting to move the Anglican Covenant to ratification by February 2012, which is about as quickly as their system permits. The House of Bishops "Summary of Decisions," released in advance of the Church's General Synod which convenes next month, contains the following:

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Minding the gap

The Archbishop's amendment to the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, will preserve the distance between female bishops and those who object to them by creating parallel jurisdictions that were explicitly voted down by General Synod in 2008 and dropped by the revision committee last year.

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Jeffrey John shortlisted for bishop of Southwark?

Updated

According to The Sunday Telegraph Jeffrey John has been nominated for bishop of Southwark. Details from Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent:

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Not entirely baseless speculation about the Jeffrey John situation

Updated again, at bottom, with Andrew Brown column.

I don’t know whether the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, dean of St. Albans, is about to be elected Bishop of Southwark by the Crown Nominations Commission. And I don’t know how Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Sunday Telegraph learned that John had made the shortlist for this position, or that neither Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, had objected. Further, I don’t know why the archbishops held their tongues. In fact, I know very little with reportorial certainty about what will transpire when the committee meets today and tomorrow.

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Female bishops: no more delays, please

Emma John of the Observer visited with four women who might one day be bishops in the Church of England to find out what they made of the row over this issue:

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Church Times questions wisdom of bishops' decision on Covenant

Last week the Church of England House of Bishops issued a "Summary of Decisions" in which in was revealed it wants quick and easy approval of the Anglican Covenant by the General Synod. (See our story, English bishops want quick action on Anglican Covenant.) Friday's Church Times lead editorial had this to say of the HoB proposal:

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The Guardian endorses Jeffrey John for bishop of Southwark

An editorial in The Guardian endorses Jeffrey John for bishop of Southwark. It's pithy enough we hope they don't mind that we post it in full:

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Following the CoE debate on women bishops

Later this week the Church of England General Synod will begin debate women bishops. Teacher, and General Synod member, Justin Brett gives an extensive lesson on how the debate is structured, and where the major turning points are. It's too good to excerpt. If you want to understand the debate as it unfolds, read Brett's lesson now.

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Jeffrey John won't be next bishop of Southwark?

Having built up the story that Jeffrey John was likely to be the next bishop of Southwark, Jonathan Wynne-Jones of The Telegraph is now saying he won't be:

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CoE traditionalist full of fudge, wants the buildings

Ed Tomlinson, a priest in the Church of England who is considering Rome's offer writes about the upcoming debate on women bishops:

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Absurd and incredible

This week the Church of England has done something very publicly that no other official institution in England could legally do: it rejected a highly qualified person for a crown appointed office solely on the basis of his sexuality. As General Synod begins, The Guardian asks how long the Church of England can spend so much energy debating "the supposed inferiority of women, gay men and lesbians" without become hopelessly disconnected from the best values of the culture it is supposed to shepherd.

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Conflict swirls around the Archbishop of Canterbury at Synod

Between the controversy over plans to ordain women as bishops in the Church of England, the coming decisions on the Anglican Covenant and the decision to not appoint Dean Jeffrey John as bishop of Southwark, it's been a hard month for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now there are reports that members of his House of Bishops are ready to oppose his leadership.

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Archbishops' amendment fails

The amendment put forward by the ABC and ABY to soften the provision for women bishops so as to appeal to opponents of women bishops has been debated and failed to pass in the clergy order.

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Interest groups react to vote on archbishops' female-bishops scheme

Following yesterday's defeat at the CoE's Synod of the archbishops' scheme to provide for softened episcopal oversight by women (the story from yesterday is here, and it's engendering quite a discussion), a number of associated groups are throwing forth commentary on what's being termed an impasse.

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Women bishops measure passes intact

The BBC's summary begins:

The Church of England's ruling synod has decided that women bishops should be created. The synod has given minimal concessions to traditionalist Anglicans who opposed the move.

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As the dust settles on CoE Synod...

Thinking Anglicans has a roundup of the latest news and commentary on the vote for women to serve as bishops in the Church of England. The process still has years to conclude whether or not women will ever be bishops in the CoE.

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Men wearing frocks, bishops wearing bras

Ruth Wishart wonders how, given the problems of the world, a church council can spend two days with its panties in a twist over opening its highest posts to women:

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A #mitregate update

Thinking Anglicans reports on the latest news on the "issue of vesture" AKA #mitregate:

At the recent General Synod in York, two Questions were asked about this. The full text of the Q and A is given below the fold. The questions were for written reply only, and in any event the block of questions in which they came was not reached before the end of the session, so there were no supplementary answers.

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Preservation of all male priesthood implies we are in control, not God

Canon Ginnie Kennerley has some thoughts about the desire to preserve the purely male priesthood:

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CoE vicar to parishioners: Swear more

File under "Really?"

A Church of England vicar has advised those in the pew to take up shocking and salty language as a way to keep current and relevant.

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Church of England iPhone app

The Church of England, or more specifically the Diocese of Guilford, has released an iPhone app (application) that allows iPhone owners to easily get information about their CoE diocese delivered on demand and find a church when they're traveling. There's even a neat daily scripture verse.

The news release reports:

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The slow, whining death of British Christianity

Johann Hari, a columnist for GQ and the Independent thinks British Christianity is fading away:

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Time's up for historic Wells Cathedral clock-winders

The iconic Wells Cathedral clock in Somerset, in the southwest of England, was installed in the 1380s, two centuries prior to the invention of the second hand by Jost Burgi for Tycho Brahe. For generation upon generation the old clock was hand-wound, and the metal figure of Jack Blandifers toned the hour.

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Controversy reported in Greenbelt speaker choice

There was apparently a row in the speaker-planning process around Greenbelt, the Christian arts and music fest running from August 27th-30th, Premier Christian Media reports.

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Pope not 'fishing' on UK visitation

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols says that despite recent overtures to Anglicans through the instrument of an ordinariate, Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to the UK isn't for tossing out lures.

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Anglican clergywoman to shake hands with Pope

Oh, to be a fly on the wall and see this interchange!

CORRECTION (Not the first time a pope shook the hand of an Anglican clergywoman, see our post HERE)

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English church attendance stabilizing

The Church of England, like most of the Church in the Western world has seen Sunday worship attendance numbers drop over the past few decades. But there's some news this week that the CoE attendance rates have stabilized and may even be increasing.

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Benedict XVI and Rowan Williams as 'poachers turned gamekeepers'

In advance of an impending papal visit to the UK, international Catholic pub The Tablet offers a helpful compare-and-contrast essay that thinks through Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI.

Tidbits:

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In Williams interview, what makes the news?

In the blogosphere's dissection of recent remarks made by Rowan Williams that gay bishops are okay as long as they're celibate, Church Mouse thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury made a classic media-relations gaffe.

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Righteous indignation - a Sunday sermon

Changing Attitude's Colin Coward has a point about the CoE, and (perhaps too high) praise for the Episcopal Church, when he proposes a new campaign to end secrecy, subterfuge, and abuse in the church of his England over the matter of sexuality and the episcopacy.

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Women's ordination in England both boon and block

Earlier this week came the announcement that the Church of Denmark had finally, after more than a decade, agreed to sign the Porvoo agreement which has had the effect of creating a full communion relationship between the Church of England and the Scandinavian Lutheran Churches. According to the Christianity Today, the hold up was the Church of England's reluctance to ordain women to all orders of Christian ministry.

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Let the wrangling begin: new bishop's chair to open in CoE

Ever since the heavy doses of disappointment and anger over process in last summer's Jeffrey John debacle, our keyboard fingers get itchy every time an announcement is made about an opening for a bishop's spot in the CoE. So forgive this small indulgence.

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Ranks of C of E boy trebles thinning

The Church Times reports,

Whereas, in the past, boys continued singing treble until they were 15 or 16, now musical directors and choir masters often find that boys’ voices are changing at 12 or 13.

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Bishop of Fulham drafts his own walking papers

Church of England politics and endless fascination go together like beans and bacon - or should we say bangers and mash? In this case, the attention falls to The Rt. Rev. John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, who on Friday informed a session of Forward in Faith International (of which he is chairman) that he expects to join an ordinariate when one is formed, and thereby effectively defect to the umbrella of Roman Catholicism.

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Departing clerics may make room for ordinary Christians

Viv Groskop is not surprised that the priest whose rigidity drove her out of the Church of England is now one of the first to flee to Rome.

She writes on the Comment is Free: belief blog in the Guardian:

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Necessary criteria to be bishop:
capacity to be focus of unity

Thinking Anglicans draws attention to this Q&A of Church Commissioners in the House of Commons on Tuesday:

Appointment of Bishops

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United against the Anglican Covenant

Two English church groups have united against passage of the Anglican Covenant during next month's General Synod. Meanwhile, Bishop Alan asks if anyone, anywhere can say anything nice about the document--and if they can't why should it pass?

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Bishop of Lewes defends his "January 1939" equation

BBC,

The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, says the row over the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England has meant that traditionalists are in a similar situation to that of Britain in January 1939 when the country was on the brink of war with Germany. Bishop Wallace explains his comments.

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C of E holds TEC position on property ownership

It's called "burying the lede."

The other day The Telegraph interviewed the general secretary of the Church of England General Synod. Paragraphs three, four and five:

... today the Church’s most senior official, William Fittall, raised the prospect of a historic compromise.

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Covenant debate warms in CoE

Perhaps as an object of concern, the Anglican Covenant is now slowly moving to the front burner. Lesley Fellows, who serves as Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition and the group's Convenor in the Church of England, engaged in a brief but lively debate about the proposed Covenant with the Bishop of St. Asaph, Gregory Cameron, on BBC Radio Four's "Sunday" program.

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Five C of E bishops decide they are Roman Catholics

One suspects that the decision of five bishops from the Church of England to become Roman Catholics is less significant than the media will have us believe, if only because these men's theological views--if not their intentions--were already well known. On the other hand, one is not English, so one can't be sure. Anybody care to weigh in on the following, which comes to us via the Associated Press?

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Pulpit filled with "weary Willies"

Not from the Onion:

Sunk in their deep armchairs, 36 Anglican clergymen were told here today about the "weary Willies" of the pulpit by the Rev. D. W. Cleverley Ford, director of the Church of England's first college of preaching, which opened here today at Scargill House, the Anglican conference centre.

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1992: C of E opens way for women priests

November 11, 1992

Church of England votes for women priests. Women fighting for the right to be Anglican priests are celebrating a narrow victory. After a five-and-a-half hour debate the General Synod - the Church of England's parliament - passed the controversial legislation by a margin of only two votes.

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Laity drive Finnish Lutherans to recognize same-sex marriages

A month or so ago a leader of the Christian Democratic Party in Finland created a controversy by speaking out against the possibility of the Finnish Lutheran Church allowing for gay marriages to be blessed. The result was a wave a resignations of church memberships - at its peak reaching "hundreds an hour".

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50 Church of England clergy to join Ordinariate

From Friday's Telegraph:

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Illuminating York

And for your edifice illumination from York Minster

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Ordinariate details revealed

Roman Catholic Bishops in England announced today the details of how the so-called "Apostolic Ordinariate" will be set up to receive clergy and groups of laity who leave the Church of England.

The basic process is this:

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Covenant central

This is the first of at least two posts regarding the Anglican Covenant today. The Church of England's General Synod takes up that misguided and dangerous document tomorrow. Here is some of what people are saying:

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Bishop who flamed the Royal Family suspended

In the past week Bishop Pete Broadbent, Willesden, has made offensive statements about the royal family and the engagement of the Prince and his fiance. According to Church Times: "The [opening of General Synod by the Queen] ... was somewhat overshadowed by a statement from the Bishop of London regarding the Bishop of Willesden:"

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Dean Colin Slee

A hero of progressives everywhere, unafraid to speak the truth as he saw it and a pastoral presence in the Church, the Very Revd. Colin Slee, Dean of the Southwark Cathedral, UK, has died.

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Bishop of Lincoln: Covenant process okay, if it never ends

Bishop John Saxbee of Lincoln said some very sensible things during the debate on the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England's General Synod, and thanks to the Rev. Lesley Fellows, we can share them with you:

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Jeffrey John on Colin Slee: 'always surprisingly un-scared'

Jeffrey John preached the funeral of Colin Slee yesterday. Here is the text of that sermon.

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Will he invoke the Holy Spicket?

Word came yesterday that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will in fact preside at the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011.

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British bishop bemoans US paralysis on climate change

Updated:: Climate justice is focus of four-day Episcopal/Anglican gathering in Dominican Republic.

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Ordinariate: You can't have your cake and eat it too

Damian Thompson, The Telegraph, reports that the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, has told those leaving the Church of England for the Anglican Ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church that they must leave the buildings behind. Thinking Anglicans has Bishop Chartres comments:

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C of E dioceses face consolidation

Changing demographics and a decline in religious adherence has led a Church of England commission to recommend consolidation of two or more dioceses. Final action requires the approval of General Synod and Parliament.

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News and views on the royal wedding

If you've not heard, there's to be a royal wedding this spring to rival that of Charles and Diana. Here's just a sampling of the news and views.

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Where are the Christian Christmas cards?

Should stores be expected to stock Christmas cards with an overtly Christian theme? Some in the UK think so. But it was Adam Smith who pointed out the fallacy of this thinking. Stores are denying shoppers something they want: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest” wrote Smith.

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Blogging Bishop Baines appointed to Bradford

The Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, Area Bishop of Croydon, has been appointed the next Bishop of Bradford. Baines keeps the blog Northern Lights, where he says:

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More church-located businesses on the horizon?

From a recent Church of England communication:

A five-way partnership has today published guidance for churches interested in hosting community shops on their premises - The Guidelines and Best Practice for the Provision of Community Shops in Churches and Chapels.

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CoE Bishops attack equality legislation, again

Thinking Anglicans reports that former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Bishop Michel Scott-Joynt are in the news attacking UK equality legislation, The Human Rights Act.

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Some archbishops' Christmas sermons

Here, on the Second Sunday of Christmas, are excerpts from three Christmas sermons.

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In Church of England's reference of Anglican Covenant, questions abound

Following on voting from General Synod in November, the Church of England this past week referred the proposed Anglican Covenant to its Diocesan Synods.

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Ordinations of former bishops yet one more distraction

An unsigned editorial running in The Guardian's Observer says the Anglican bishops who were ordained yesterday as Catholic priests simply demonstrate a "Catholic church fixated on stealing a march on Anglicanism.... as if the Reformation was a recent score to be settled."

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Of margins and the proposed Covenant

Peter Owen at Thinking Anglicans has this small bit of good news amidst a larger report about the next General Synod of the Church of England, which meets next month:

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The Ordinariate and the spiritual desert

Jonathan Wynne-Jones' Telegraph article today has received the headline "Pope's offer was an 'insensitive takeover bid', say senior Anglicans." Even as we know that often the headline writer, copy-editor, and author of a story can be separated by cubicles or even continents, we offer the caution that the case may have been slightly overstated.

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Grave expressions in Britain

We in the US have become accustomed to the roadside displays maintained by family and friends of highway accidents. And we're are that in our cemeteries not everyone agrees on what is a tasteful grave.

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Transforming views of gender change

The Star (UK) tells the story of the Church of England's first transgender priest:

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Rowan Williams takes a stand on church's role in same-gender weddings

The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to recent advances by the British government to incorporate church buildings and liturgies into the weddings of same-gender couples. The move throws into sharp relief a number of restless questions.

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What exactly is Rowan Williams saying about the new civil partnership bill?

We are still trying to unravel the Sunday Telegraph article about Rowan Williams' seeming opposition to a proposed British law that would lift the ban on blessing same-sex civil partnerships in religious ceremonies.

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Antidisestablishmentarianism?

Further items exploring the ground of Jim Naughton's article wondering about Rowan Williams, civil partnerships, same sex marriage and the Church of England are linked from Thinking Anglicans:

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Club night at Liverpool Cathedral

The Liverpool, UK, Echo reports on club night at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral:

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Playing ecclesiastical dominos with the Anglican Covenant

How do you get people to do things, vote for things, that they don't want? Hmm. Many answers come to mind. In terms of the Anglican Covenant, it seems that the powers that be have been playing "Ecclesiastical Dominos" in order to get the Anglican Covenant passed:

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The Savior of the Zurbarans

An unlikely hero has decided to intervene at the last moment to save an important collection of religious paintings that were planned to be sold to cover church debts. The paintings, painted in the 17th century hang in the castle that has been the home of the Bishop of Durham for more than 800 years.

The savior, Jonathan Ruffer, is a relatively unknown Fund manager with a load of cash on hand.

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C of E says, have your wedding your way

USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman notes that the Church of England has ramped up its marketing to attract more couples to choose a church for their wedding venue.

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Archbishop of Canterbury's stunt double has acting debut

File under shameless corporate promotion parading as humor. Still ... it is kinda funny.

T-Mobile has concocted a spoof of the royal wedding that trades on the current trope of the seemingly impromptu wedding-processional dance-off.

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The Ordinariate: not that big a deal

Riazat Butt of the Guardian has managed a feat that so far has proved difficult for some of her colleagues on the religion beat at London's major daily newspapers, eschewing sensationalism about the Ordinariate that the Vatican has created to receive disaffected Anglicans.

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Ninja Nuns?

The Daily Mail follows up on the final question of THE wedding - who were those women with the gray habits and black tennis shoes or as the British call them "trainers":

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Flying bishops who swam restocked

10 Downing Street and Lambeth Palace have announced the appointment of new "episcopal visitors." The previous bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough resigned to join the Catholic Church. The positions created for members of the Church of England who refuse to accept the episcopal leadership of a woman.

More on the new flying bishops

Riazat Butt reports in more detail about the ABC's appointment of two new flying bishops to replace the two who fled to Rome.

Groups working towards the ordination of female bishops were disappointed:

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Ben the verger would like his life back, please

Although Ben the verger has suffered reprimand by Westminster Abbey for his cartwheeling down the red carpet after he thought the cameras had been switched off, there doesn't appear to be any long-term foul at hand, his relationship with the Abbey is on good footing, and now he just wants the whole thing to be done with.

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Backing up Archbishop of Canterbury, York vicar invites controversy anew

Father Tim Jones of the parish of St. Lawrence and St. Hilda in York (Church of England) is back in the press - this time for supporting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' recent remarks about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

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Slee memo details fierce dissension over preferment of gay clergy to bishoprics

A memo by the late Colin Slee reveals fighting at the highest levels of the Church of England over the question of whether gay clergy might become bishops, The Guardian's Andrew Brown reports.

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Abuse spotlight turns to Church of England

At the same time that a memo exposing the process of selection of bishops has turned the Church of England on its ear, two formal reports of the church's bishop's failings in dealing with child abuse by priests has been issued.

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UPDATED: Reactions to ABC, ABY bullying

[Updated again, with more reactions (scroll to end)]

Update 1:11PM ET: The Colin Slee memo is available.

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About those redactions

If you have been reading the Colin Slee memo on archbishops behaving badly and wondered what was redacted from the original document, we can now say that what is missing is the cover letter by Slee's daughter (a good call, we think), and the second of two appendices. The reason for this redaction, we assume, is because it contains an email exchange between Slee and Chris Smith of Lambeth Palace, who has not given anyone permission to publish the exchange.

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The Slee memo: more reaction, more reporting.

Response to the Colin Slee story continue to flow in.

Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow keeps the blog What's in Kelvin's Head. He writes:

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Slee memo, less redacted

We now have an only slightly redacted version of the Slee memo. What it omits is Slee's daughter cover letter, and the last portion of the second appendix, that last portion being an email to Slee from Chris Smith, Chief of Staff, Lambeth Palace (who has not given the Guardian permission to publish).

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The slow-motion train wreck continues

The reactions to the Slee memorandum continues to roll in.

The Church Times sets out the criteria for excluding a gay man from the episcopate based on the advice of the legal council hired by the Church of England:

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Church Mouse summarizes

An English blogger known online as the "Church Mouse", who appears to be very well connected within the Church of England, has posted a good, dispassionate summary of the story that broke early this week regarding the Slee memo. The memo by the late Colin Slee details the secret conflict that flared a year ago when Jeffrey John, the out celibate gay dean of St. Albans was being considered for the bishopric of Southwark.

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Williams calls for super-injunctions on privacy

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was quoted in British press yesterday speaking in support of the need for information to be restrained in the case of high-profile people attempting to keep their public personas intact.

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Accounting for clergy infidelity

A YouGov/Sunday Times survey of 2,700+ adults living in Great Britain reveals a compelling thought pattern.

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A good word about the institutional church

I have had some differences with Bishop Nick Baines of the Diocese of Bradford in the Church of England, and I think some too-easy culture criticism distracts from his central point in this item form his blog, nonetheless it is heartening to see someone making the case for church with a fully functioning institutional spine:

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How the Church of England chooses its bishops

The Guardian's question of the week is How should gay bishops be chosen? Lesley Fellows is first up. She writes:

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Another week, another sex abuse case in the CoE

A week ago we ran an item, Abuse spotlight turns to the CoE.

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CofE and women bishops: not "if" but "when" and "how"

Thinking Anglicans has posted links to a series of articles from the Church Times, which have now peeked out from behind the paywall, called "Women Bishops: A Church Times Guide."

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Enshrining gay exclusion in CoE

The Bishops of Church of England "are seeking to enshrine gay exclusion" says the Revd. Dr. Giles Fraser writing in the Church Times and Colin Coward notes in The Guardian that there are currently at least 13 gay bishops in the CoE.

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Adventures with Bishop Yellow Belly

Bishop Yellow Belly runs into Miss Young Person. Testiness ensues.

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Archbishop of York discharged from hospital

Press release

Archbishop Discharged from Hospital

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The ABC attacks "Big Society"

The news sites in Britain and the church blogs are lighting up with the news of the Archbishop of Canterbury's newest essay in which he attacks the c