Saturday, 20 January 2007

Article (Madeleine Bunting): British families spend more money on gambling than on fruit and veg

On January 30 the government announces the decision on where it will plonk Britain's first super casino - the front-runners are the Millennium Dome and Blackpool. At the same time it will announce a further 17 licences for casinos - on top of Britain's existing 117 casinos.

Yet the case against the madness that is modern gambling keeps piling up the evidence of the disastrous impact on individuals and communities. Today, an analysis of British household expenditure reveals that the average British family spends more on gambling than on fresh fruit and vegetables in a week. As online gambling has boomed, the total annual spend is now put at £800 per person in the UK on average. So much for nanny state, and its perceived personification in Tessa Jowell - the former health minister who urged us to eat up our greens is the very politician who has presided over this phenomenon. [...]

The problem about gambling is that no one puts up a serious opposition to it anymore - the worthy but marginal Salvation Army and Methodists apart - because everyone is gambling. It's endemic in our culture - if you've got money, you gamble with shares and property, if you haven't, you gamble with lottery tickets, online and poker. And those who might have formed an opposition to the mass delusion and trickery which takes money from those who can often ill afford it - have been seduced by the lottery largesse which subsidises their theatre tickets, museums and art galleries. (Ed: and church restorations.) Read more

Rise in adopted children living with gay couples

One in every 20 children adopted from care goes to live with a gay couple, official figures revealed yesterday.

The number of adoptions by same sex couples is rising by more than 50 per cent a year in many parts of the country, encouraged by social workers.

In some towns where councils are most sympathetic to the gay rights cause, the likelihood of a child in care being adopted by a same sex couple is as high as one in five.

The figures - obtained from local authorities under freedom of information rules - show that gay adoption has become common in the four years since Tony Blair's reforms first made it possible for homosexual couples legally to adopt a child. Read more

Article ( Howard Jacobson): 'Big Brother' encourages us to embrace a condition far more worrying than racism

[...] We are too soft on stupidity. I am not talking about general knowledge or vocabulary failure. Jade doesn't recognise wedlock - the word, that is, not the state. This is not a sin in itself; words can pass you by. I can never get a purchase on ontological and have to look it up whenever I encounter it. Nor do I mean not having heard of famous people or places. The footballer's fluff thinks Winston Churchill was the first black President of America, having seen a black statue of him near where she lies her empty head. And Jade suspects Rio de Janeiro might be a person. So what? For all I know to the contrary Rio Ferdinand is a region of Ecuador.

They add up, though - the words you can't pronounce, the events you haven't heard of, the ideas with which you are not and do not wish to be acquainted. At some point the accumulation of missing information and curiosity amounts to your not being in the world at all. And it is this condition - a condition that can with far more justice be described as alienation than the ennui of the intellectual - that Big Brother and its host of satellite celebrity magazines have for years been encouraging us to embrace.

There is a vindictiveness in dumbing down. It aims to dethrone not only intelligence but the means by which we rate one thing above another. Dumbing down is an assault upon the very concept of value. Thus Jade, though she wouldn't know what I am talking about, is the child of that nihilism which gave us postmodernism and the Turner prize. A celebrity for being nobody, a belcher and a farter with her own perfume, she is an ironic reference to the unmeaningness of meaning.

Racism? We have far more to worry about than that. Read the full article.

New book explores Jamaican contribution to African mission

[...] In chapter one, Dr. Wariboko explained the reasons offered for European interest in the evangelisation of Africa, and in particular West Africa. He said that "At the end of the slave trade, Europeans were intent on correcting the wrong afflicted on African conscience, African mind and the African body."

The recruitment and placement of Jamaican missionaries, he said, was the product of collaboration among the Church Missionary Society, Church of England in Jamaica, and the Niger Mission which was based in Nigeria. The Church Missionary Society, he said, recruited missionaries at a time when the 'Back to Africa Movement' was strong.

The historical evidence, he said, shows that the Church Missionary Society did not show the recruits their contract of employment until they got to Africa. In Nigeria, they were told that having arrived there, they could not return to Jamaica, not even for vacation.

Contract document
The recruits were told that they had to make Africa their home. The contract document, Dr. Wariboko said, was negotiated by the then Anglican Bishop of Jamaica, Enos Nuttall, after whom the Nuttall Hospital in St. Andrew is named.

"The trick was that if they made Africa, their home, then the Church Missionary Society would pay them like an African, which was much lower than their Caucasian missionary counterparts. The pay for one European missionary could pay for 20 African missionaries, excluding health benefits, transportation. However, the Jamaican missionaries, insisted on being treated like their white European counterparts," Dr. Wariboko said.

The UWI academic concluded that the missionary programme was intrinsically built on race sentiments. Read more

New EU Parliament Chair Drops Push for God in EU Constitution

The new president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering has said that, despite his personal convictions, he will no longer push for reference to God in any revised EU constitution.

Mr Poettering, a German Christian-Democrat, was voted in to chair the bloc’s legislature in the first round of Tuesday’s election by a majority of 450 votes out of 715 MEPs voting.

On his election, Mr Poettering reassured MEPs that he would act as a “fair and objective” president of the whole assembly, reports EUobserver. Meanwhile, most group leaders said they believe Mr Poettering will manage to act as a neutral president of all members.

Mr Poettering has already announced that one of his key priorities as president will be to boost a “dialogue between cultures”, particularly between Europe’s Christian and Muslim communities.

He also stressed that he wants the parliament to take an active part in a March declaration to mark the 50th birthday of the EU, which would highlight not only the commitment to the bloc's reforms but also its values.

He made it clear, however, that he would no longer press for a reference to God and Christian values in a revised version of the EU constitution, telling journalists, “as a president, I can’t do it”. Read more

Barna Research questions identity of American evangelicals

[...] George Barna, who has pioneered a number of the measurement standards used for examining people’s spiritual lives, called for the media to be more careful and thoughtful in their reporting of faith matters.

"The Bible does not refer to any person as an ‘evangelical,’" the researcher noted. "This is a construct created within the religious community many years ago to differentiate a group that possesses a distinctive theological perspective. Over time, people have become sloppy in the measurement process, as evidenced by the fact that one out of every four self-identified evangelicals has not even accepted Christ as their savior. Responsible analysts, researchers and journalists should be encouraged to re-examine the term and the measures they are using. Political commentators, reporters, educators and researchers continually make important claims about the spiritual life, lifestyle patterns, voting preferences and issue stands of evangelicals even though it is clear that the criteria they use for identifying evangelicals are misleading, at best."

Barna suggested that those who describe themselves as evangelicals more closely resemble a segment that his company has labeled the "born again Christian" population - a group that displays an above-average interest and involvement in religious activity, but whose religious fervor and commitment is nowhere near that of true evangelicals. He stated that past research among the 9-point evangelicals showed that their voting patterns are radically different from those of born again and self-defined evangelicals; that they are much more conservative on a vast array of social and political issues, ranging from abortion and homosexual unions to the importance of family; that their use of media and their lifestyles are significantly different from those of the born again public; and that evangelicals donate significantly more money to non-profit organizations. [...] Read more

American Episcopalians questiond by Muslims in Egypt

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt welcomed this week a group of senior clergy from The Episcopal Church in America who visited Egypt to understand better this part of the Anglican Communion. They had a series of meetings in Cairo with Bishop Mouneer Anis, Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (the world’s hub for Sunni Muslims), the Grand Mufti, and a number of other senior Muslim theologians. During their meetings they were asked about their positions in regard to same sex marriage and practicing homosexuality. Dr. Ali Gomma, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, one of the country’s top Muslim cleric, stated that practicing homosexuality is viewed by all of the world’s great religions as sinful and not as a human right. Dr. Gomma added that efforts organized by small minorities in the West to add homosexuality to the list of universally recognized human rights threaten the important role that religious leaders must play in guarding and propagating respect for human rights generally around the world. He also stated that a tiny minority of people cannot be allowed to impose their own personal views on the vast majority of the world’s people who reject homosexual relations and same sex marriage. Read more

Virigina minister writes to congregation

Yesterday we sent an announcement about this week’s upcoming activities celebrating and exploring our many Outreach ministries - it’s called Week for the World. It’s exciting to contemplate the scores of ministries in which we’re involved. However, yesterday’s announcement by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, that he considers us “to have abandoned our church,” reminds us of the other crucially important mission in which we are engaged, and that is our mission to maintain our witness as an historic church that is in the Anglican tradition, true to scripture and true to our Reformation heritage. We have the great privilege to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and sacrificially serve him to extend the mighty reign of God. While the announcement by Bishop Lee was not unexpected, the letter he wrote and the claims he makes are extremely disappointing to me, especially after the efforts of the last year to build consensus around a negotiated settlement plan for churches departing the Diocese. It is only as I reflect on our fundamental disagreements about the meaning of truth, authority, the nature of the church itself, and Christian orthodoxy, that I can make sense of his position. I hope you will read his letter below, and form your own opinions. In addition, I would like to clarify just a few questions raised by this announcement. Read more

Lawyers' Christian Fellowship responds to criticisms

[...] As Christians we are compelled to speak Gospel Truth into a society crying out for help. We are all sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus. When the Government is about to introduce laws that will compel some Christians to be complicit in sinful behaviour then as Christians the most loving thing to do is to speak out. However, many in society are intolerant of a message that whilst God loves every individual, it is contrary to His will to indulge in sex outside marriage, including gay sex. Those who are prepared to speak this message will be labelled homophobic, bigoted and extreme.

As well as the general issue of whether or not Christians should be standing up against the impact of the SORs, there have been specific challenges from politicians and others suggesting that claims made by LCF and others about the Regulations are exaggerated and inaccurate. At every stage of our analysis of the law, a team of lawyers within LCF has analysed the Regulations and Government statements and have sought reassurances that our concerns would be met. At no stage have we ever received such assurances. We will shortly be producing a legal briefing which will address all these specific criticisms and substantiate why an accurate legal analysis of the Regulations highlights the reality of the concerns we (and other Christian organisations) have been expressing.


Finally, it has been noted that some quotations in the Christian Press have made unjustified criticisms of the freedom rally that was held outside Parliament on the 9th January.

In the Church Times the leader of Faithworks, the Revd Malcolm Duncan, described the demonstrators’ approach as “virulent and aggressive” and said: “Vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic”. His view was supported by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement who said “A small group of fundamentalist Christians have led a wicked campaign of disinformation about these regulations, making claims that anyone who bothered to read them could see were false.”

We would disagree strongly with these comments. Read more

Retired TEC bishop supports rejection of Panel of Reference ruling

The Episcopal Church has embraced a mandatory women’s ordination policy for more than 30 years and recommendations by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference that the Church clarify the permissive nature of its canon are “antithetical to our polity and therefore not appropriate,” according to Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies.

In a Jan. 12 letter sent to Archbishop Rowan Williams and the members of the panel, Mrs. Anderson asked the panel to issue a correction to its December 2006 report which concluded that “no diocese or parish should be compelled to accept the ministry of word or sacrament from an ordained woman.” She also requested that in the future the panel ensure “adequate representation from the province directly affected by the recommendations.” Read more

TEC Presiding Bishop backs legal action against Virginia congregations

The Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Diocese of Virginia, regrets the recent votes by members of some congregations in Virginia to leave this Church. We wish to be clear, however, that while individuals have the right and privilege to depart or return at any time, congregations do not. Congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies (diocesan synods, councils, or conventions). Congregations cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. In addition, by canon law, property of all sorts held by parishes is held and must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church through diocesan bishops and governing bodies. As a Church, we cannot abrogate our interest in such property, as it is a fiduciary and moral duty to preserve such property for generations to come and the ministries to be served both now and in the future. Read more

Evangelical Christian Union Calls for Clarification of ‘Reinstatement’

The Evangelical Christian Union at Exeter University has responded to a press release issued 18 January by the student guild over the impending legal battle set to take place for the ECU's reinstatement.

Ben Martin, the small groups secretary of the ECU in Exeter, whose name had been used to commence the legal proceedings against the student guild, stated: “The Evangelical Christian Union at Exeter University is of the view that the service of legal proceedings was entirely appropriate. The ECU believes that if legal process had not been commenced the ECU would still be suspended and Christian students denied the full rights and privileges that all other students enjoy on campus.”

In addition, referring to an “informal telephone conversation” made between the guild of students president Ms Percy and the ECU, Martin said, “The ECU accepts that a vague informal telephone conversation was made by Ms Percy on 4th January; however the intent was unclear and was not in writing. The ECU do not accept that this was a lifting of the suspension.” Read more For the Exeter Students' Guild's version of events see here.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Virginia goes after property of seceding churches

Today, January 18, 2007, the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia took a step forward in preserving the mission and ministry of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church for current and future generations of Episcopalians and adopted a resolution concerning the property of 11 Episcopal Churches where a majority of members – including the vestry and clergy – have left The Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.

Specifically, the Executive Board declared the property of those churches – real and personal – to be abandoned in accordance with the Canons of the Diocese. Read more

BA drops ban on wearing crosses

British Airways is changing its uniform policy to allow all religious symbols, including crosses, to be worn openly.

BA announced a review last year after a row erupted when Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida challenged a ban on her visibly wearing a cross necklace.

The airline now says it will allow religious symbols such as lapel pins and "some flexibility for individuals to wear a symbol of faith on a chain". Read more

Talks: Let the Word work

How can we renew the Church? According to the 16th century reformer, Martin Luther, we should let the Word of God do the work of God. But what is God's Word, and how should it be understood and applied?

Three talks by Revd John Richardson titled 'Let the Word Work' are now available to download. Each talk is also accompanied by a 'Question and Answer' session.

Hear the first talk here (opens in new window or tab).

Download all the talks here.

Head of Faithworks supports SORs

Malcolm Duncan is the head of Faithworks, a Christian organisation which works to boost the role that individual Christians and the local church play within the community.

He surprised many Christians last week speaking in active support of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, debated in the House of Lords last Tuesday as thousands of Christians rallied in opposition outside.

Mr Duncan said that many Christians had misunderstood the use of the word ‘service’ to include such ceremonies as blessings of same-sex unions. Against widespread opposition among Christians, he welcomed the regulations as “an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways”.

He addressed the fears of many Christians that churches may be forced under the regulations to hire out their rooms to pro-gay groups.

“A commitment to diversity through doing this does not mean losing your faith identity: it actually presents an opportunity to develop a dialogue and put the Gospel into action through demonstrating love and service,” he said.

Mr Duncan went on to accuse Christians of double standards and said they were in danger of sounding homophobic for basing their opposition to the regulations on homosexual relationships while saying nothing about heterosexual relationships outside of marriage. He concluded by saying that the regulations were an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. Read more

Archbishops to Embark on 'Walk of Witness'

The Archbishop of Canterbury and York will embark on a “walk of witness” in March, to express repentance for the Church of England’s complicity in the slave trade.

Carrying a giant cross through London, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to lead thousands in a march, while moments of quiet reflection will be held as African drummers beat a sombre lament.

The event, which takes place on March 24, coincides with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. It is the latest stage in the Church’s commemorations since February last year, when the General Synod voted to apologise for its involvement in slavery.

The vote at Synod was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who has linked slavery with modern-day discrimination and racism.

Churches across Britain are being encouraged to bus up to 8,000 parishioners to London for the “act of public witness”, according to draft plans.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who grew up in Uganda and has described how his forebears were among those enslaved, hope the event will signal the “beginning of a healing process”. Read more

Episcopal Church rejects Panel of Reference ruling on Fort Worth

[...] I respectfully request that the panel acknowledge that lack of full understanding of the polity of The Episcopal Church may have resulted in recommendations by the panel that would be antithetical to our polity and therefore not appropriate.

I further request that future bodies charged to make recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury on any topics that have to do directly with a particular province of the Anglican Communion, have adequate representation from the province directly affected by the recommendations of the panel. I would also ask for clarification of the process by which submissions to the panel of reference are investigated and researched.

While understanding the difficult work and honorable intent of the panel, I pray that the Archbishop of Canterbury will understand that the recommendations made by the panel are incongruent with Episcopal Church polity and therefore inappropriate for implementation. Read more The Panel of Reference report can be read here.

Episcopal Church left historic Christianity, conservatives say

Two leaders of The Falls Church, one of the largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia that voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, said they left the denomination because the American Episcopal Church “no longer believes in the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers.”

“The core issue in why we left is not women’s leadership,” John Yates and Os Guinness wrote, referring to the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop of the national body. “... It is not a ‘leftward’ drift in the church. It is not even primarily ethical -- though the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop was the flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone.”

Yates, rector of The Falls Church, and Guinness, an evangelical apologist and member of the congregation, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post Jan. 8 titled “Why We Left the Episcopal Church” because they believed it was time to set the record straight.

Nine Virginia parishes voted in December to break from the Episcopal Church; two more joined them Jan. 14. The Falls Church and Truro Church in Fairfax have a combined attendance of 3,000 people, and both were part of the historic Truro Parish founded in 1732 that President George Washington served as a warden.

“The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow,” the pair wrote, noting that some leaders within the Episcopal Church “expressly deny the central articles of the faith.” Read more

Church seeks ambassador for sport

Christians in Britain sometimes complain that the established Church of England can be frosty to those who never go to services unless attending baptisms, weddings and funerals. But one bishop aims to rectify that situation, when it comes to sporting activities. "A church building for most people is like going to Mars," says the Rt. Rev. Tony Porter, the 54-year old bishop of Sherwood, a key mover behind the church's plan to appoint its first ever ambassador for sport in 2007. "We have to go where people are," he told Ecumenical News International.

Before arriving in Nottingham -- the city made famous by the novelist D.H. Lawrence and legendary outlaw Robin Hood -- Porter worked in Manchester where he was chaplain to the Premier League soccer team, Manchester City.

Known also for his public broadcasting, Porter long played a leading role in an organization called Christians in Sport. Among other things, he said, it helps players learn to be Christians on, as well as off, the field.

"I've met many of the leading lights in British football and so many of them want to learn more about God and Christ but don't know how to go about it," he said. "We Christians must be more welcoming, more active on the ground." Read more

Article (Virtue online): Is it Anglican well-being or willful amnesia?

Henry VIII may, for his own sinful ends, have separated the Church of England from the Papacy, but late-medieval Roman Catholicism required longer, indeed required the blood of the Protestant martyrs, to be reformed.

When biblical doctrine is forgotten as being essential to true unity, the alleged diversity celebrated by today's revisionists quickly exposes itself as tyranny against biblical Christians. Richard John Neuhaus has identified this sleight of hand in his dictum: "When orthodoxy becomes optional, it soon becomes proscribed."

Dozens of Episcopal Church dioceses today, in which biblically faithful Christians are marginalized, manifest this tragic irony. Dozens of Episcopal bishops in such dioceses have willfully forgotten that the original Episcopal consecration vows administered until the late 20th century included explicit assent to the following questions:

Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same: so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?

The forgetfulness, indeed total disappearance, of such commitment since the new Episcopal Prayer Book was adopted in 1979 has caused many Episcopalians to seek the cover of overseas Anglican bishops in order to remain faithfully rooted in the Catholic order and Protestant freedom of the Anglican Reformation. Read more

Methodists get ready to grasp the finance nettle

JOHN ELLIS has the unenviable job of implementing the decision, made by the Methodist Conference last year, to reduce his Church’s central budget by 30 per cent by 2008.

Together with his small group, he has to put a strategy in place for approval at the 2007 Conference in July.

The task is a big one. The Connexional Team — the Church’s central structure — comprises about 200 people, 140 of whom work the equivalent of full-time. The majority work at Methodist Church House in London; others in training colleges, the Central Finance Board, Westminster Central Hall, and the Methodist Publishing House.

Funding for the central staff team comes predominantly from the assessment paid by the churches, their equivalent of the annual parish share. The Methodist Church in Britain has just under 300,000 members. It is wealthy in capital terms, but not in terms of cash flow, and, unlike the C of E, it does not have a historical investment base: this generation pays for what this generation is doing, says Mr Ellis.

Historically, money is held in the circuits, the equivalent of dioceses. This means that in recent years, reserves have been drawn on to fund large shortfalls in areas such as the pension fund for lay employees.

No immediate financial crisis triggered the review. The Church — or at least, those in touch with the centre — had come to the view several years ago that its present size was unsustainable, and had therefore to take seriously the cutting back of costs. Read more

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Churches face shortage of young vicars

CHURCHES in Bolton face a shortage of young clergy, the town's Bishop has warned.

The Rt Rev David Gillet says that nationally the Church of England has found it increasingly difficult to attract people to train to become vicars in recent years.

Although 22 people began training to enter the ministry in the Manchester and Salford Diocese last year compared to 13 in 1999, Bishop Gillet says many are aged over 40.

Bishop Gillet said a year-long wait for a new vicar was not unusual and that it was nevertheless important for the clergy to have time to prepare for a new chapter.

He said: "Nationally there are fewer clergy so sometimes rationalisation has to take place. Whereas 10 years ago, a parish might have had a full-time vicar, that may not be possible in the future.

"Part of the issue is that we're having more retirements than there are young candidates being ordained.
Advertisement continued...

"Thirty years ago the Church did go through a period when it said it was better for ministers to have life experience before ordination but that trend took hold too exclusively."

Bishop Gillet said the Church had "a very real missionary task" before it and needed to do more to emphasise the value of life as a clergyman and give practical help to local communities. Read more

Little support for blessing gay ‘marriages’

CHURCH of England ministers have stopped short of supporting the pledge by the Vicar of Bolton, Canon Michael Williams, to bless gay "marriages".

Canon Williams said there was a place for gay people in the Church, after protests from some Christian groups against new laws banning discrimination against homosexuals. He said many of his colleagues shared his views.

But while some ministers talked about extending God's love to couples in same-sex relationships, no-one said they were prepared to bless such a civil partnership.

The Rev Michael Taylor, team leader at St Paul, St Matthew and St Thomas' Church, Halliwell, said: "Heterosexual marriage is God's intention for all of us and should be the norm. Read more

Anglican Churches Request Alternative Diocese in America

More than 17 Anglican churches across the South requested the Church of Kenya to form a diocese in America.

After three-and-a-half years of oversight from the Anglican Church of Kenya, St. Peter's Anglican Church in Memphis, Tenn., along with other congregations, put in the request to Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, who visited the church over the weekend.

There were 17 churches represented at the weekend meeting, according to the Rev. Stephen Carpenter, founding priest of St. Peter's. An additional congregation in Boston, Mass., not present at the meeting, also backed the request.

The 18 U.S. churches, presently affiliated with the Church of Kenya, join a growing number of congregations that are establishing a conservative alternative to the Episcopal Church. Read more

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Nigeria: Lambeth 2008 must not be a Jamboree

[...] We are part and parcel of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Lambeth Conference is called once in every ten years for all Anglicans Bishops therefore it is our conference. What we are saying in Church of Nigeria and in many other provinces in Africa is that for us to gather all over the world as many as 800 Bishops, and to build that consensus and to agree on certain things, and for some to say “well it doesn’t matter; we can continue things in our own way”. Then think of the financial implication, think of the risks involved. For 120 Bishops from Nigeria to travel to England, consider the financial implication. It will not cost any diocese in the country lest than N1million – for the delegates and other expenses-. We are talking about N120million and we are going to spend three weeks there. And then on return, there is nothing to show for it, that is what we are arguing against. So, we are part and parcel of Lambeth Conference, but we are challenging the authorities that before we come, we have to be sure that we are not coming for a Jamboree. We are coming for serious business and we have plenty of time before Lambeth to decide whether we are coming for a mere jamboree or a serious conference. Read more

Passion for Jesus will change the world if we listen and learn, Bishop of Chelmsford tells Synod

(Ed: should this really be titled, "Our task is not church growth?" Still, when nobody comes to my church any more, at least I know the bishop won't be cross!)

[...] "Our task is not to drag people to church and judge our success by numbers turning up on Sunday morning. Our task is to take the Gospel out among the people. When we are faithful to the Gospel, God will create the community of faith. The church belongs to God, not us. We do not create it, God does. God does this through the faithful witness and living of people who are passionate about Jesus. “

With peoples and cultures on the move, violent attacks on innocent citizens and faith in God being questioned in new ways, Bishop John pointed to the need for faithful witness and mission. The church’s strategies for schools and youth, for the environment and for prisons, among other issues, are all held together in this one coherent Christian strategy for the church.

“We live with the danger not just of the media making fun of us – which they can sometimes do – but of us telling a story out of touch with the movement of life in our world today”, he warned. “Is the welcoming face of Jesus coming through our conversation? Does this work speak of a love that might transform the communities in which our congregations and churches live and minister?” Read more

Chelmsford church opens new hall

Publicity release:

Open House – come and see what’s been built for you!

This Sunday, the 21st January sees the opening of the new hall at The Church of the Good Shepherd, in Collier Row lane, Romford. For the members of the church and the surrounding community it’s been a long time coming but worth the wait. The old building had certainly seen better days and needed nothing short of being knocked down and that’s exactly what has happened. The old hall is no more and in its place is a beautiful, open, modern building.

‘It’s great to have a fantastic facility for all kinds of community and family activities and for all ages too, from little children, to young adults, right through to the Nanny’s and Grandad’s! The old building, with it’s high hedges and dingy fa├žade was very off-putting, but the new building, even to look at is an invitation to anyone passing to come inside - with it’s glass fronted entrance and pleasing architecture it immediately says welcome, which is exactly what a church ought to be saying’ commented Michaela Hyde, a mother of two and church member.

But it’s not just the exterior that’s got the community excited - wait until you see what’s inside… To discover exactly that and find out how and why this building has been built with you in mind, come along on Sunday from 2.00-4.00pm and join the celebration. There will be exhibition material, PowerPoint presentations, people to talk to, food to eat, drinks to drink, and probably more besides. And remember, everyone’s invited, so just show up. If you do want any further information, please pop into the church office or phone on 01708 745626.

The Church of the Good Shepherd
Collier row Lane

The three degrees of faith that will help decide access to Church schools

The Church of England has drawn up a “three-tier” category of Christian in an attempt to simplify admissions to oversubscribed faith schools. The Church says that it is attempting to avoid policies that look like “covert social selection”.

The new system has been condemned and is likely to be rejected by some of the leading and most oversubscribed schools.

Under the new three-tier approach, children will no longer be awarded a place based on church attendance. Instead, they will be classed as “known to the church”, “attached to the church” or “at the heart of the church”. Read more

Virginia churches' dispute with Episcopal diocese come to a boil

A potential courthouse showdown looms this week between 15 Northern Virginia churches, including two that predate the Revolutionary War, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

At stake are beliefs neither side will compromise, millions of dollars in properties and legal precedents that may reverberate nationwide.

In the past six weeks, the 15 conservative churches voted to withdraw from the diocese. The diocese is part of the liberal-leaning, 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, which is more theologically conservative.

A 30-day "standstill" agreement, intended to keep both sides from suing to retain the properties, expires Wednesday. Diocese of Virginia Bishop Peter Lee said last week that it would not be renewed.

"It's fair to assume the diocese will move to retain the properties at all the separated churches on a case-by-case basis" because they are held in trust for all Episcopalians present and future, diocesan spokesman Patrick Getlein said. Read more

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

(How) Nigeria appoints 20 new bishops to "make disciples of all peoples"

[...] They began with an hour of energetic intercessory prayer for the nation and the church that was punctuated by spiritual choruses and loud shouts of praise. This was followed by a traditional service of Holy Communion and then the work began. Earlier in the meeting large maps of the various regions had been carefully examined and twenty new strategic areas for mission reviewed. A committee had worked with neighboring dioceses and regional leaders to choose a location for the new work and also gather the necessary resources for housing, transportation and financial support – 3 million Naira per annum for the first three years (approximately 12,000 pound sterling). Each area was then briefly described and the particular dynamics discussed – for example some of the areas are situations where there is virtually no Christian presence, others are places where new universities have been established, and still others where an influx of refugees present a unique challenge. Nominations were then made.

All of those nominated were clergy who had a demonstrated aptitude for dynamic evangelism and church planting. In some cases as many as four candidates were proposed and then the ballots distributed. As a team of election monitors including Bishop Martyn Minns, one of the newest missionary bishops, carefully counted the ballots there was a time for prayer and vigorous hymn singing before the results were announced. This pattern was followed for the next five and a half hours until 3:30am! By which time all twenty new bishops had been chosen [...] Read more

Monday, 15 January 2007

Episcopal Church bishop savages Rowan Williams, swipes Tom Wright

[...] This situation of alienation was regrettably worsened by his remarkable distancing of himself from a church that has followed his own carefully thought-through teachings on sexuality, teaching that he only last year suddenly dismissed as a sin of his academic youth. The appointment to the Windsor drafters of North American representatives wonderfully devout but historically disinclined to advocate vigorously for the position of their church was not his sole responsibility, but the buck sure stops there. Like many of you, I have submitted to all, not some, of the demands of the Windsor report as a reluctant gesture of good will to the Communion and sacrifice of principle for the sake of those who may be weaker brethren. Cannot that be reciprocated? And so on and so on. By Rowan's subsequent actions and inactions the situation has for me now reached a proportion manageable only by the combination of prayer and surrender to the belief that God will work this out through the usual means - crucifixion and resurrection. But before we get ready for life alone, we deserve to hear from him, in the room with us, an explanation of his distance and intentions. We are all busy, and we show up where we believe it is important to go. Let's hope we become important. [An oddly parallel situation on the other side: just recently the Bishop of Durham has roundly attacked evangelical bishops in the UK for acting on doctrinal points of view he has abundantly fueled for years. If we dare to teach, we must accept the possibility that we will be heard and believed by those for whom the life of the church is more concrete and less speculative than academics ever imagine.]

The situation of the shunning of North American bishops would be painful under any circumstances. The pain is more intense here because it comes from the withdrawal of a human who was friend, teacher, and colleague to many in this church - with no notice that either his opinions or commitments were in flux. The archbishop has appeared to my knowledge only once in the US since 2003, and that was the briefest of visits to raise money for a function of the Communion. He cancelled a date for a joint meeting with Canadian and US bishops with no real excuse, and has made no effort to reschedule what could have been a fellowship-redeeming encounter. Our relationship to the one who is expected to be first in a world-wide college of bishops is distant, confused, and multiply-triangulated. We are ceaselessly told by those who would destroy our church that the ABC endorses this or that crudely divisive action or position. Questions to Lambeth on these occasions are sometimes met with silence and sometimes with stunning equivocation. Read more

Peter Jensen: Developing leadership through change

[...]I have said that we need a leadership like that of Moses. What does that mean? First, unswerving commitment to the word of God; second, willingness to lead through change. But what if our churches are poorly resourced, or passive, or satisfied, or frightened or ill-equipped? What if a church cannot face this challenge for fear of sacrifice and change? That is where godly leadership and trained mission partners come in. It is also where the resources of our whole network in the Diocese need to be available to the local church. We cannot simply leave the minister to do it all.

Take one obvious way in which the network serves the churches. By God’s grace our Diocese already rests on a powerful and powerfully sustained theological base, a deep commitment to God’s word amongst clergy and people. Without it we could not even contemplate the Mission on which we have embarked. Sometimes we fail and lapse from it; we are not always worthy of this mercy of God; we can never take it for granted; it is under constant assault. But we do have it and it is worth knowing where it has come from so that we can appreciate it and guard it. By what means has God provided such leadership for us already? The chief answer is Moore College. The Principal and Faculty model that clear submission to biblical authority which must also be a mark of our churches if we are to prosper at all in such a secular climate.

48. Moore is one of the very earliest tertiary institutions in Australia, ranking in age with such great Universities as Sydney and Melbourne. Its immense contribution to our well-being and its contribution to the evangelical cause elsewhere. is beyond cavil. I say this so that we may glorify God for his mercy and be all the more determined to guard its life as virtually the first duty of the Synod.

49. What has it given us first and foremost? Biblical Theology. The last four decades have seen a sustained secular assault on Christian truth. The College has responded by teaching the Bible in a way which makes sense. It is the secret to the life of our churches. By it, we remain committed to Biblical authority even in a society which constantly denies it in word and deed. Read more

Atheists: the bigots' friends

(Ed: worth reading this one to see how many friends Fraser doesn't win for himself amongst the atheist who read his column!)

Many Christians don't believe homosexuality is a sin. Far from it. We think it's a gift of God - a means by which many show love and commitment and compassion. This is not an eccentric view within the church. It's also the view of the Archbishop of Canterbury, though, admittedly, he is insufficiently bold in expressing it. Indeed, a great many Christians are deeply committed to the sexual-orientation legislation. They would have no truck with those who want to ban homosexuals from Christian boarding houses or classrooms. But bigots who dress up in the clothing of faith are being encouraged by media atheists in the view that orthodox biblical Christianity is intrinsically anti-gay. That's rubbish. And the only people who benefit from this line of argument are the religious gay-bashers. Read more

Vicar who would do 'gay blessings' to retire

THE vicar of Bolton Canon Michael Williams has revealed he is to retire later this year.

Canon Williams, who has been in charge at Bolton Parish Church for the last eight years, will turn 65 this year, and says the time has come to step down. Read more

Church weddings back in style

Traditional church weddings are making a comeback, according to new research, but the reasons have little to do with religion. Instead, the setting of the church is what motivates couples.

The survey indicates that couples might be turning their backs on the trend towards exotic weddings in far-flung locations. But the majority of those now favouring the traditional church wedding express little interest in the Church’s marriage preparation classes. Instead it is the “location, location, location” mantra of the property market that is the attraction, with picturesque churches in classic beauty spots most sought-after as marriage venues. Read more

How Australia confronts militant Islam

[...]After the shock of 7/7 Mr Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group and said that no radicals would be invited to join. When Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali (the Mufti of Australia) ventured into Holocaust denial, Andrew Robb (the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism) let it be known that he would not be reappointed to the group. Last February Peter Costello (Mr Howard’s deputy) publicly declared that, if the radical Muslim cleric Abdul Nasser Ben Brika really wanted to live under Sharia law, he might choose voluntary deportation to Iran. The next month the Prime Minister told Reuters TV that Australia could not ignore “that there is a small section of the Islamic population which identifies with some of the more extremist views associated with support of terrorism”. In New South Wales the former Labor Premier, Bob Carr, and his successor, Morris Iemma, have made similar candid statements where necessary. Read more