Thursday, 25 January 2007

Article (The Scotsman): Church of England still valid as state religion?

The row over gay adoption has thrown into sharp focus the Church of England's unique role as the country's state religion as Britain grapples with the pressures of a multi-cultural society.

The Church is already battling internal divisions over gay priests and women bishops, struggling to impose any authority in an increasingly secular society and facing a steady drop in congregations.

Even Prince Charles, who one day will be Supreme Governor of the Church of England, wonders whether he should be Defender of Faith rather than Defender of The Faith to mirror the racial and religious make-up of 21st century Britain.

The Church of England became the established church of the land after the 16th Century Reformation when Henry VIII broke ties with the Pope in Rome so he could divorce his first wife.

Now, in a high stakes clash between church and state, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has sprung to the defence of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholics want to be excused from new anti-discrimination laws which they say could force their adoption agencies to place children with gay couples.

Williams, spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans, argued: "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning."

So who then does he owe allegiance to? (Ed: or "To whom does he then owe allegiance?", thus at a stroke avoiding ending the sentence with a preposition and using the correct pronoun.) Read more

Article (Andrew Brown): Sentamu "breathtakingly dishonest", Williams "has no friends"

[...] Dr Sentamu's performance on the Today show yesterday morning was a breathtaking display of intellectual dishonesty. The most notable lie, I suppose, was his assertion that: "We are not wanting rights to discriminate." This is true only to the extent that the Church of England's own Children's Society does not in fact discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, and will already now place children for adoption with gay couples. So Dr Sentamu is only struggling for the right of the Roman Catholic church to discriminate on his behalf.

Of course, all churches would want to discriminate, and to define what is or is not in fact discrimination. It is in their nature to regard themselves as higher moral authorities than governments can be. But there's no reason for the rest of us to go along with it. That matter was settled, in England, a long time ago. Parliament, not the Pope decides what is moral in this country; parliament, not the church, appoints the archbishops and decides what freedoms the church has to discriminate within. [...]

But in what sense can Dr Williams succeed? He is a man now for whom his allies despair, and whom his enemies may very well despise. He knows well, and has for years supported a gay couple - one of them a priest - who are raising a very difficult foster child. No one who knows him in person doubts his commitment to the wretched and outcast; no one who knows him through the media would ever suspect it. If you read his letter carefully, it might well be understood as a rebuke to the Roman Catholic church as much as to the government, and as an appeal for calm. But no one will read it like that. It is a piece of political theatre, in which he plays a part written by his enemies. In a fortnight's time, he will travel to Dar es Salaam, for a meeting of the heads of Anglican churches, many of whom would regard his friends as filthy, demonic perverts. Yet he has made it the central principle of his time in office not to upset such men. It is impossible not to pity him but difficult not to be shocked at his cowardice. "He has no friends," a gay friend of his said to me this week, "but we love him." Read more

Article: Tom Wright on 'Honest to God'

Ed: One of the most important events to take place in post-war England was the 1963 publication of Honest to God by John A T Robinson, then the Bishop of Woolwich. This surely sits alongside Darwin's Origin of Species as one of those 'books that changed everything but most people never really read'. Contrary to what the publishers, SCM, expected, Honest to God became a runaway best seller, helped by being serialized in a daily paper.

In 2005, Tom Wright had an article published critiquing Robinson's work, 'Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God Forty Years On', and Fulcrum have now reproduced it on their website here.

The enormous significance of Robinson's work makes this article worth reading, though it is quite dense. If I have a criticism of his own critique, I think Wright makes rather too much of how Robinson's work could have been improved theologically and overlooks the way that Honest to God actually impacted society in the 1960s, not through its content, but through what it seemed to be saying to many people at the start of that critical decade, namely that "A bishop of the Church of England doesn't believe what we don't believe either."

Nevertheless, Wright's is a good article, and I commend it.

Article: the testimony of a lesbian Anglican priest

Revd Clare Herbert, Rector of St Anne's Soho, London, speaking at the Changing Attitude 'Caught in the Crossfire' London conference

[...] I do have a strong sense of call to be a priest and the clear reassurance that other people acknowledge that call wholeheartedly in what they see in me. One of the best things about the job is that it naturally attracts a lot of feedback because it requires of its nature both public performance and intimate involvement in the lives of other people. So my own inner sense of myself is reinforced by what others say of me. It is then extremely strange , in the midst of that fulfilling busyness to read reports that state I ought not to be performing as a priest at all. There is some sort of miss-match which does not add up. To add to the miss-match, part of my call is to understand love and I do not feel remotely called to a celibate expression of love in my own life – indeed I think that route would be highly dangerous for me – I need the earthing of real loving to come alive as a human being and hope that some of that liveliness of being loved is poured out towards others in my ministry.

A strong sense of call and the love of a partner are resources I use to gain energy for ministry. But I also use the resource of psychoanalytic thinking.

Psychoanalysis has helped me understand that it is perfectly acceptable to want to be fully loved in a earthed way and far less sensible for one such as me to imagine a life of single service dedicated to others. It has helped me too to see how it is important for me to individuate from the Church , to not vest the authority for the way I live my life in the mind of anyone else but my mind , which of course must be formed in dialogue with the views of others and my sense of myself in God and God in me but will not be given over to those others for shape and direction completely. The responsibility for that shape and direction ultimately lies with me. Read more

Holy See Hoping That Anglicans Avoid Split

The Holy See, hoping that the Anglican Communion can avoid an internal schism, signaled its own desire to be able to continue on the path toward Christian unity.

So said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a meeting Tuesday with journalists in the Vatican press office.

Some archbishops of the Anglican Communion refuse to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. member of the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church sparked a crisis in the Anglican Communion in 2003 when it chose Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as bishop, the first ordained prelate to declare himself a practicing homosexual.

On Tuesday, a journalist asked if the Vatican follows closely the Episcopalians in the United States who are protesting against these decisions of their church.

Cardinal Kasper responded that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity maintains relations with the Anglican Communion as a whole, not with its various member churches. The Episcopal Church is not a direct partner of the pontifical council; its partner of reference is the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference. Read more

Article (Stephen Bates): The loving gay family and the archbishop next door

If anyone knows what it is like to be a gay adopter of a child, it's the Rev Martin Reynolds. He's gay, in a long-term partnership ... and an ordained clergyman of the Anglican church in Wales. And for the last 15 years, he has been fostering a boy with severe behavioural difficulties.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, knows all about him too: he used to live next door when he was Archbishop of Wales. The boy played with his children. He knows that gay couples can provide a loving home for disadvantaged and at-risk children. Yet on Tuesday he wrote to the government demanding that religious adoption agencies should not have their consciences challenged by being required to consider gay couples as adopters. Read more

Article (Telegraph): Too Christian to adopt

[...] Long before the current row over whether church-based adoption agencies should be allowed to set their own rules about accepting homosexual couples on to their books, my husband and I felt the cold breath of discrimination. It wasn't because of our sexual orientation – no, nothing as routine as that. Instead, we were found wanting because we were Christians and because we hold strong views about the importance of children having both a father and a mother. [...]

At the end of the home assessment, the report concluded that we had too idealistic a view of family life and marriage and that this might prejudice a homosexual child: a gay child would see the way we live and feel that we wouldn't be able to support him or her in their lifestyle. Why is it there isn't the same concern about placing a heterosexual child with a homosexual couple who might not be able to support a heterosexual child?

Our home assessment report was put before the adoption panel and we were asked to explain our views. We did so, saying that they were based on our Christian faith. We later received a letter saying that we had been turned down as adoptive parents, that we were not suitable for any of the children they had to place and that we would have to reconsider our views on homosexuality. Read more

Article (Scots Herald): Scots independence could be what England needs

[...] In a terribly run-down estate near Rochdale, just off the M62, I encountered a compassionate and humane vicar who was in despair. His parish was beset by drug-taking, prostitution and vandalism, by squalor and misery. The unemployment rate among the young was more than 70%. He contrasted this with his previous parish in Dorset, one of the wealthiest in England. Nothing in his upbringing, his training or his culture had prepared him for what he had found in this bereft corner of Lancashire.

He believed that his national church, the Church of England, had "ratted" on his estate. He said that his church should have had at least seven or eight people serving in his parish, not just him. He despaired of his country. He could find no binding, cohesive force. England was divided and broken.

His anger was eloquent and profound and I was perhaps naive to seek in a benign and nascent English nationalism a possible answer to his hopelessness. The disparities and divisions he had experienced bedevil many countries, not just England. Yet I sensed that he was longing for some national force to help his people, and to build a bridge between the two different Englands he had experienced. Britishness would have been of no use to him, but a benign encompassing Englishness might. Read more

Article (Stephen Bates): Two churches, one view and a question of conscience

The Church of England's move to join Catholic opposition to the government on the gay adoption row has as much to do with internal church politics as religious conviction.

In the view of Catholicism, gay people are "objectively disordered". The Church of England's view is that homosexuality is no longer a sin, but should not be indulged in, especially by the clergy. But the impetus behind the row is more political.

In the Catholics' case, the push for a hard line on the adoption issue has largely come from Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, who is responsible for child policy issues in the church. The archbishop wants to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the church in England and Wales, who is due to resign on reaching the age of 75 this summer. Archbishop Nichols is also fresh from spearheading the church's campaign before Christmas which forced ministers to back down on their scheme to limit admissions on religious grounds to church schools. Read more

Telegraph leader: Sexual disorientation

The Sexual Orientation Regulations are a bad piece of law-making, cobbled together, through EU pressure, under the Equality Act 2006. They throw up many anomalies in an attempt to force providers of all services to make them available on demand to those of any sexual orientation. A Muslim printer could be charged for declining to publish a handout for a gay pride march. Yet a private club – a lesbian-only bar, say – could still specify a particular sexual orientation as a condition for membership.

Huge numbers of objections met the draft proposals, but only now, over adoption, has resistance grown so strong that the Prime Minister is said to be seeking a way through "that respects the sensitivities of both sides". The "side" opposing the regulations includes the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who wrote to Tony Blair stating that Catholic adoption agencies, which provide a third of voluntary placements, would have to close if requirements outlawed teachings "about the foundations of family life" – teachings "shared not only by other Christian Churches, but also other faiths". The Archbishops of Canterbury and York then raised their voices against "the rights of conscience" being crushed by regulations. These are due to come into force first in Northern Ireland, used as a guinea-pig through the high-handedness of Peter Hain, the Secretary of State controlling the province. Read more

Presiding Bishop Schori Eager to Build Relationships in Tanzania

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she has not taken personally statements by some Global South primates that they will “refuse to sit with her” during the meeting of Anglican leaders next month in Tanzania, but she expressed concern that such comments were “disrespectful” of her office.

“I wonder how they would feel if someone said things like that about them,” she said.

Lately the Anglican Communion has exhibited multiple personalities, according to Bishop Jefferts Schori. “In some places it seems anxious and distracted and in others it appears to be engaged and focused. Parish-to-parish contacts and diocese-to-diocese relationships remain strong, she said.

“I’m a person who lives in hope. I expect that I’ll meet some new friends [in Tanzania] and have some challenging encounters. That keeps life interesting.

“I am looking forward to beginning to get to know the other primates and understand their positions. I would like to find areas where we can work together. For example, Nigeria is a significant source of oil for the U.S. and the resource has become subject to exploitation in a way that has hurt the people living in the area where the oil reserves are located. Perhaps we could work together on that.” Read more

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Article (Nick Cohen): Don't you know your left from your right?

(Ed: Usually I find Nick Cohen intensely irritating. That is why I find these two articles fascinating and commend them for reading. Personally, I'm going to buy the book!)

Part 1
[...] Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right? [...]

It is not novel to say that socialism is dead. My argument is that its failure has brought a dark liberation to people who consider themselves to be on the liberal left. It has freed them to go along with any movement however far to the right it may be, as long as it is against the status quo in general and, specifically, America. I hate to repeat the overused quote that 'when a man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything', but there is no escaping it. Because it is very hard to imagine a radical leftwing alternative, or even mildly radical alternative, intellectuals in particular are ready to excuse the movements of the far right as long as they are anti-Western. Read more

Part 2
[...] The anti-war movement disgraced itself not because it was against the war in Iraq, but because it could not oppose the counter-revolution once the war was over. A principled left that still had life in it and a liberalism that meant what it said might have remained ferociously critical of the American and British governments while offering support to Iraqis who wanted the freedoms they enjoyed.

It is a generalisation to say that everyone refused to commit themselves. The best of the old left in the trade unions and parliamentary Labour party supported an anti-fascist struggle, regardless of whether they were for or against the war, and American Democrats went to fi ght in Iraq and returned to fi ght the Republicans. But again, no one who looked at the liberal left from the outside could pretend that such principled stands were commonplace. The British Liberal Democrats, the continental social democratic parties, the African National Congress and virtually every leftish newspaper and journal on the planet were unable to accept that the struggle of Arabs and Kurds had anything to do with them. Mainstream Muslim organisations were as indifferent to the murder of Muslims by other Muslims in Iraq as in Darfur. For the majority of world opinion, Blair's hopes of 'giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty' counted for nothing. Read more

Article (Magnus Linklater): Kelly must face her tragic end - to resign on principle

[...] If her obligations to the Church outweigh her responsibilities to the Cabinet, then she may feel that she had no alternative but to keep the faith and resign. You cannot be both minister and one-woman opposition at the same time.

But what kind of message would her resignation send out? Catholic teaching on homosexuality remains intolerant, backward, illiberal and morally questionable. By insisting that it is a condition that is “intrinsically disordered” because it does not allow for the procreation of children, the Church places homosexuality outside the ambit of acceptable society. Even that wisest and most compassionate of Catholics, the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who explained that the term “ disordered” should not be taken literally, and who insisted that homosexuality itself was understood and accepted by the Church, was forced to concede that the homosexual act itself was “morally wrong”. Only if homosexual couples lived chaste lives, unimpaired by sex, could they be included by the Church.

That is as remote from reality as the Catholic position on abortion and contraception, both of which require a form of moral blindness to sustain them — no compassion for victims of rape, no understanding of the threat of HIV. Read more

Ruth Gledhill Blog: a justification for gay adoption?

[...] I'll end with the moving story of Martin Reynolds, 53, the gay Anglican clergyman from Wales who is spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement. He and his partner foster a boy under a long-term arrangement. When he rang a Catholic adoption agency to offer himself and his male partner as prospective parents, they "didn’t get past the receptionist". The couple, from Newport, have been together for 27 years and became civil partners last year. Their 19-year-old son has severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems. Without Fr Martin and his partner, the boy would almost certainly have remained in an institution all his life. They became respite carers for him when he was just four, and became long-term foster carers when he was 14 - undergoing a vetting process almost identical to adoption. He said social workers had asked them if they could become long-term foster carers to the boy after a national trawl of potential adopters or long-term fosterers had failed. Martin's partner, Chris Iles, 47, a shopkeeper, is a practising Catholic and they have raised their son as a Catholic, taking him to mass regularly.

Fr Martin described the decision to take the child into their home for long-term fostering as the "best decision we ever made in our lives." He said: "It is extremely hard to find long-term fosterers or adoptive parents for children with special needs, and all the Catholics are doing is closing down possibilities and reducing the options that could mean those children were placed in the most appropriate care." The couple have now offered themselves as prospective adoptive parents or long-term fosterers to a number of agencies, highlighting their experience with severe learning difficulties.

The phone call to, and subsequent rejection by, the Catholic agency was made as part of this effort, he said, and left him with a sense of desperate sadness. Fr Martin said he believed the stance being taken by the Catholic Church in England and Wales was being driven by a hard-line Vatican approach. Read more

Bishop of Barking anticipates thousands for Global Day of Prayer

Christians from all over the world will gather together in London for the Global Day of Prayer 2007 in May. Thousands of Christians of all denominations are due to gather in East London to pray for the capital and its future.

"London is a world class city, it contains people from every nation of the world, many people around the world look at London as an iconic city," the Bishop of Barking, the Rt Rev David Hawkins, has said. "I couldn't imagine a better place to host the 2007 Global Day of Prayer.”

He went on to share that the Global Day of Prayer has reached over 400 million Christians worldwide, from 198 countries since its conception five years ago. Read more

Lesbians, gays, everyone else and the promise of transformation

Here we are again at the community round table discussing the issue of whether or not to recognize homosexuals as fully human, as whole and legitimate children of a divine Creator. So powerful is this issue, it threatens to split the worldwide Anglican Communion in half. So powerful is this issue, it continues to divide families, and at the same time, not surprisingly, transform families into more richly compassionate, deeply loving and understanding human beings.

It is my experience of this transformation within my own family that has deepened my belief in the radical creativity and love of the Divine. It is this experience of transformation that has affirmed my belief in the existence of gays and lesbians, of bisexuals and transgender human beings as perhaps the most telling evidence of the creative and complex nature of the Divine.

Lesbians and transgender folk and bisexuals and gay men are here to challenge what is simple, what is perceived as black and white. We are here to challenge human structures when they become rigid and lose sight of the multiple and diverse nature of everything that breathes and crawls upon this planet. We are not here to fit into the status quo but to shake it loose from its comfortable stagnancy. Read more

Latest attendance figures show further falls for CofE

New figures released by the Church of England for 2005 show a mixed picture for trends in church attendance with smaller Sunday congregations, but more children and young people taking part in parish worship.

The report showed that regular Sunday attendance fell by two per cent, while weekly and monthly attendance fell by one per cent or less. The latest figures follow two years in which the numbers have increased or held steady.

Hopeful news emerged from the figures, however, as Christmas Eve/Christmas Day attendance increased by six per cent, with the number of children and young people attending at least monthly increased by one per cent and more than half the parishes reported running or planning a ‘fresh expression of church’.

More children and young people are experiencing parish worship. The latest annual statistics show 441,000 under-16s attending services at some time in the month. The number has increased each year since accurate weekly records were first systematically collated in 2001, adding up to a six percent increase on the 416,000 counted that year, the Church of England has explained. Read more

Oak Hill (USA) parish leaves Episcopal Church

The Church of the Epiphany in Oak Hill has left the Episcopal Church, according to its rector. The church has joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which is part of the Church of Nigeria, led by controversial Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, who has openly called for outlawing same-sex relationships in his own country.

Many conservatives were outraged in 2003 when the Episcopal Church, which is the American branch of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, installed an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Just last year, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a supporter of New Hampshire Bishop Eugene Robinson, was named to head the Episcopal Church nationally. This action further angered conservatives.

Recently, two of Fairfax County's oldest Episcopal churches, the Falls Church and Truro Church, have made headlines by leading a secession of 11 parishes from the Episcopal Church. Read more

Massachusetts Anglican parish evicted

Parishioners of All Saints church have been ordered by Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw to vacate the church property on North Main Street by Jan. 31 because of their decision to separate from the national Episcopal Church and to align with orthodox Anglicans.

The Rev. Lance Giuffrida, rector of All Saints, said parishioners will abide by the order and hold their last service at the church at 9 a.m. Sunday, then meet to decide where they will worship in the future.

"This is our last Sunday," said Giuffrida, who plans to later turn over the keys and all the parish property and assets to Shaw as head of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

The order, he said, was not a surprise, and the parish was already preparing to leave. Read more

Article (John Richardson): Gravy for the gander? Anglicans, Rome and gay adoption

As will be well-known to readers of this blog, the Roman Catholic Church in England is taking a stand on the principle that its adoption agencies ought not to be required by the Sexual Orientation Regulations to place children with gay individuals or couples. Three cheers, in my view, for Rome.

This morning, however, came the news that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to the Prime Minister, apparently in support of this stand, warning him that, "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning."

Three cheers for Canterbury and York, you might feel. But not so fast. Despite the BBC's headline, Churches unite over adoption row, this is by no means a united front on the principle of gay adoption.

It is often forgotten that the Church of England has its own adoption agency, now known as "The Children's Society", but in reality "The Church of England Children's Society" (see the link here), which dropped its own ban on gay adoption in 1999.

At the time, a spokesman recognized there would be "mixed views among volunteers and staff", as well as some danger of a loss of support. However, it was clearly assumed that delicate consciences in the Society and in the wider Church simply had to adjust. Whether any other bishops objected at the time is hard to recall, but apparently not the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jim Thompson, who chaired the board of Trustees which took the decision. It also seems that neither the Archbishop of Canterbury nor York have had problems with the adoption policy of their own agency since then.

One might presume, then, that sauce for the Anglican goose ought to be sauce for the Roman gander, and that the message of the Archbishops to their Roman colleagues would be "Get used to it, we already did."

So what are Messrs Williams and Sentamu really doing? Are they supporting the Roman Catholic Church's stand, as many seem to assume? Or are they in fact making a subtle distinction between matters of conscience and a point of principle? In other words, are they really saying to Tony Blair, "You shouldn't force people to go against religious conscience, whatever that may dictate and despite the fact that we ourselves take a different view"? (Our three cheers are rapidly dropping to two, or maybe even just one.)

That would, indeed, appear to be the case, except that in their own letter they write that, "It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest."

Vulnerable to what, though? Clearly neither Abp Williams nor Abp Sentamu believe children are 'vulnerable' to adoption by gay persons, otherwise they would put their own house in order. The point at issue here is surely not the children but the adults, who would be required by Government legislation to act against conscience. The Roman Catholic Church is not proposing to remove children under its care to a place of 'safety', but to close its agencies, leaving the children to the doubtless otherwise competent care of other agencies.

We are left, then, with a situation in which the Archbishops of Canterbury and York seem to be either confused or confusing. Either they have forgotten what has happened in their own backyard, or they are striking a very different pose in reality from that which might be assumed. Worse than that, however, if it is realized where the Church of England itself stands on this issue, they may very easily seem to be simply hypocritical.

John Richardson

As a PS to this post, you can listen to Archbishop John Sentamu being interviewed on Radio 4. The interview concludes with this exchange:

Interviewer: The Cardinal is a leader of a church in this country which teaches that homosexuality is a sin; that is not a view you share, do you?

Sentamu: No. But it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean that on this particular issue about adoption agency he hasn’t got a case. I think he’s made his case [obscured] rather carefully ...

Interviewer: [Cutting in] But you’re not supporting him on the grounds that you share a view of that sexual orientation as being inherently sinful?

Sentamu: The Church of England is very clear that sexual orientation is not sinful. What the Church of England then goes on to say [sic] that homosexual genital acts actually fall short of the glory of God like adultery and fornication and they require repentance. But pure being oriented in a particular way should not bar anybody from anything, I mean that’s very clear.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Abortion pictures woman seeks human rights ruling

A Christian anti-abortion campaigner launched a High Court human rights action today over her conviction for sending pictures of aborted foetuses to chemists.

Veronica Connolly, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, was prosecuted under the 1988 Malicious Communications Act after sending the photographs to pharmacies in Solihull, Birmingham, that sold the "morning-after" pill.

The 51-year-old Roman Catholic grandmother from Sheldon, Birmingham, is asking two senior judges to rule that her right to freedom of speech has been breached.

Solihull magistrates convicted her in October 2005 on three charges of sending "indecent or grossly offensive" pictures for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety. Read more

Southwark Evangelical defends acceptance of gay relationships

Canon Simon Butler, the leading Southwark Evangelical who previously accepted that gay relationships may be godly, is currently arguing his case here on the Fulcrum (Open Evangelical) website.

Article raises question whether you can be Catholic believer and Labour MP

Ruth Kelly once argued that one can be a politician and a Roman Catholic. Not a Labour politician, Ruth. From faith schools to abortion, crucial issues pit core Labour members against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The latest row is over gay adoptions. The Government has decided that, as of April, all adoption agencies will place children with gay couples. The Catholic Church wants its seven adoption agencies to be exempt.

The tussle is over rights: Labour wants to protect gays against discrimination in any sphere. But in so doing, argue the Catholic bishops, Labour is stomping on the right of Catholics to live by their religious code, which preaches that practising homosexuality is a sin. Read more

Catholics refuse to accept gay adoption law

The Roman Catholic Church squared up for a political battle with the Government yesterday as it warned the Cabinet that it could not accept a law forcing it to embrace adoption by gay couples.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, took the unusual step of writing to every Cabinet member saying that he would have “serious difficulty” with such a move.

Catholic teaching about family life meant that its adoption agencies “would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents”, he added. “We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the Government to insist that, if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences,” the Archbishop told them. Read more. For information on how to become a Roman Catholic, go here.

Christian Aid to host climate change march

Volunteers are being recruited for Christian Aid’s upcoming climate change march in the UK. The charity is searching throughout churches and communities nationwide for people who will ‘put their best foot forward’ for the first ever mass march for climate justice this summer.

The 11-week, 1000 mile Cut the Carbon march will need hundreds of marchers, including 10 core marchers who will walk the whole route. They will join campaigners from the developing world to protest against the scandalous injustice that poor peoples’ lives are being wrecked by dangerous greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere by the rich world.

Letters of recruitment have already been sent to the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and URC churches and Christian Aid is also talking with leaders of many black majority churches. Read more

CofE on the net

"Love life, live Lent", the Church of England's new website for Lent, is here and some criticisms of why it almost works and why Rowan Williams' sermons on YouTube won't work are here. See also Church of England offers mobile Lent service.

The article by wannabepriest is also good for explaining how and why most diocesan websites don't work, especially if you follow the link to Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design.

Anglicans in Jamaica want to halt decline in membership

THE Anglican Church yesterday announced that it would be focusing its energies on revitalising its congregations which "are suffering a decline in membership".

But in making the announcement, National President of the Brotherhood of St Andrew Oswald Seymour insisted that the slide was in no way linked to the split in the worldwide Anglican community over the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

According to Seymour, Robinson's appointment which has sent the church body into a tailspin "has nothing to do with the diocese of Jamaica". In fact, he said the split abroad has had "no impact" on the Anglican church in Jamaica.

Rather, he said that Jamaica's dwindling congregations - especially in rural areas - was due in part to population shifts and urbanisation which have taken a toll on their membership. Read more

Interview with John Pritchard, next Bishop of Oxford

[...] ‘I am a catholic evangelical in the power of the Spirit! I identify with a whole range of traditions but the shaping factor in my ministry and life is mission and evangelism. These two things shape what any bishop offers a diocese in the 21st century. We are facing urgent times.’

Indeed, the Church of England faces many challenges today. How does he see his role in these issues?

‘I really hope I can make a difference. A diocesan bishop at the moment has to be a reconciler who can stand in the midst of complex and passionately held beliefs and honour the sincerity of every view, and still find a way that points to Christ through it all, saying “there lies our greatest loyalty”.’ Read more

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Chelmsford's "Vicar in a Van" spreads gospel of fire safety

An innovative partnership with the Diocese of Chelmsford – the first of its kind for the UK fire service – was launched on Saturday (Jan 20).

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend John Gladwin, Chairman of the Fire Authority, Councillor Lionel Lee, Chief Fire Officer David Johnson and Fire Minister, MP Angela Smith were present at the launch reception at Connexions new centre in Southernhay, Basildon.

The scheme will see Fire Safety Evangelist Stephen Rice, taking the fire safety message to congregations throughout the county. [...]

Stephen, affectionately tagged ‘vicar in the van’ though he is not actually ordained, is employed by the Diocese of Chelmsford but will be on permanent secondment to the fire service to carry out his work. Following his training with ECFRS’ community education team, he has spent the last few weeks shadowing other officers as they conducted routine home fire safety visits. Now he is ready to go it alone.

“My job will involve going out to visit different churches and telling them about the service ECFRS offers and then, when the requests come in, I will conduct the home fire safety visits, install smoke alarms and make sure that people are as safe as they can be,” said Stephen, from West Mersea. Stephen was an active member of his local congregation and is training to be a lay evangelist, which is how he came to be chosen for the job. Read more