Saturday, 17 February 2007

Conservatives 'reeling on the ropes' in Tanzania

Day one, and there has already been a shock. The conservatives had hoped to seize the high moral ground at the outset of the five-day primates' meeting here in Tanzania. Instead they are reeling on the ropes.

The conservative Global South group went into the White Sands conference centre near Dar Es Salaam on Thursday morning reasonably confident that their condemnation of the liberal Episcopal Church would be vindicated.

They have consistently called on the Americans to repent for consecrating Gene Robinson as Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop in 2003, and most of them believe that the Episcopal Church has, if anything, become more decadent since.

They had expected that a report assessing the current position of the Episcopal Church would provide them with further ammunition in their argument that it had "walked apart" from the rest, and should be disciplined.

They even meekly dropped their objections to the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the unapologetically liberal head of the Episcopal Church; after all, it would have looked petulant to try to exclude her from a discussion about her own Church which they believed would ultimately go their way.

But then the bombshell dropped - the report not only failed to reinforce their position, but it all but exonerated the Episcopal Church. Read more

Changing Attitude winning the charm offensive

[..] I am really gratefully to Bishop Martyn for being willing to take an initiative in helping his own church conform to the commitment made in resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference. The bishops committed themselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and wished to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. The bishops also said that while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, they called on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.

It is this irrational fear that Canon Tunde has been fuelling against Davis, and I hope and pray that Bishop Martyn can ensure Canon Tunde fulfils the requirements of Lambeth 1.10 and confirms that Davis is loved by God, a full member of the Body of Christ, and will be ministered to pastorally and sensitively. We’ll meet again at breakfast tomorrow, I hope.

I am also grateful to Angela Minns, Bishop Martyn’s wife, who offered to get any shopping we needed because she was going to central Dar this morning. I appreciate her kind and generous offer. Read more

Changing Attitude shows value of schmoozing at Dar es Salaam

Ed: Schmoozing - "To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection."

[...] I observe that every other Primate who has visited us in the exclusion zone have come to sit and chat, share a drink, smoke a cigar, and relax. Archbishop Akinola alone has come and refused to speak with people. He created a bad impression for me, especially after the openness of his greeting to Davis and myself on Wednesday. These signs mean a lot to me. Why does the Archbishop need to act in secrecy and run away from cameras and questions?

It reinforces my impression that in contrast to our open presence here, where we have been willing to talk with everyone, liberal and conservative, something underhand is going on upstairs amongst people who have something to hide. Read more

Archbishop snubbed at Dar es Salaam

Seven developing world archbishops last night refused to share communion with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and fellow Anglican leaders at their biannual conference in Dar es Salaam in protest at the presence of the leader of the American Episcopal Church.

In a statement, the seven claimed their action was "a poignant reminder" of the brokenness of the Anglican communion.

They said: "It makes clear that the torn fabric of the church has been torn further ... we have made repeated calls for repentance by the Episcopal Church and its leadership without any success." Read more

London Catholic churches see boost in illegal immigrants

The size of the Catholic Church in the British capital is being boosted by waves of illegal immigrants, according to a new report.

Undocumented or irregular migrants now make up more than three-quarters of the congregations of at least three London parishes, said "The Ground of Justice: The Report of a Pastoral Research Inquiry Into the Needs of Migrants in London's Catholic Community," published Feb. 14. Read more

Primates 'should follow Dromantine consensus'

This is clear. The present crisis is no longer on ECUSA's non-compliance. They have chosen to walk apart at GC2006. The Primates should simply follow up their earlier consensus at Dromantine. The spotlight is now on Canterbury. The present Primates' Meeting is about his ability - and with this Church of England's historic role - to lead the Communion. Is Archbishop Rowan Williams prepared to transform himself from a don whose horizons stayed in the trans-Atlantic, to turn his gaze to the Communion worldwide? To ponder, as some commentators did, that Canterbury can resign and return to (idyllic) academic life after Lambeth 2008 is nonsense. Those who have taken up the mantle and journeyed afar is no longer be at ease with the "old dispensation", as T S Eliot put it in the Journey of the Magi. There is no return for Canterbury as he takes up his office. This is the cost of discipleship. Read more

Williams will find 'little comfort' at home

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has an unenviable few days ahead.

On Thursday, he began chairing a difficult five-day primates' meeting in Tanzania, though so far it is turning out to be more conciliatory than many had predicted.

As soon as he packs his suitcase and flies home, he faces a potentially highly charged debate on homosexuality and civil partnerships when the Church of England's General Synod gathers in London later this month.Tensions in the Church of England, and within his own House of Bishops, could boil over if things go wrong out here.

His first task, therefore, is to ensure that the Anglican show is still on the road when the meeting of the primates, the heads of the 38 self-governing provinces that make up the worldwide Communion, concludes on Monday. Read more

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Article (John Richardson): The B word - how bisexuality queers the 'progressive' pitch

[...] As each new variant on sexuality arises, so the list grows. But the problem for the Christian community, and the unacknowledged point in the current debate, lies early on, with bisexuality.

Organizations like Changing Attitude are quite clear that they support the aspirations (as they understand them) of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Yet no-one seems willing to suggest or acknowledge what arrangements might be envisaged, let alone blessed by the Church, for such bisexuals.

Indeed, in their 1991 report Issues in Human Sexuality, the Church of England House of Bishops took the view that bisexual activity would “always be wrong for this reason, if for no other, that it inevitably involves being unfaithful.” The bishops went on to say,

"The Church’s guidance to bisexual Christians is that ... they should follow the way of holiness in either celibacy or abstinence or heterosexual marriage. [...] it can also be that counselling will help the person concerned to discover the truth of their personality and to achieve a degree of inner healing." (5.8)
Read more (download pdf)

Why Liberals may succeed in Dar es Salaam

Liberals around the globe have latched onto a technique for reducing what used to be primary to the nether regions of irrelevance. It's a familiar technique, but conservatives continue being flummoxed by it in their fear of being portrayed as hateful or extreme.

It is the simple technique of the false dichotomy.

Here again the issue that has captivated the Church east and west, north and south, homosexuality -- the issue everyone claims to be sick to death of - is a perfect illustration of the technique. In fact homosexuality has been brokered into the Church entirely on the basis of false dichotomies.

Here's just one example: if you don't agree with the homosexual that his lifestyle is good and right in the eyes of God, then you hate him. Since people of good will do not wish to be seen as hateful, they will acquiesce to the idea that the homosexual lifestyle is good and right in the eyes of God. They may never believe it, but they will not dare oppose it. They will retreat from a conservative biblical understanding and begin calling themselves "moderates". Read more

Nigerian gay activist becomes main story in Tanzania

[...] In the realm of the Primates meeting, everyone is still waiting for something to happen. As a result, Davis became the main focus of interest for the media for most of yesterday, continuing this morning. He has been interviewed by Reuters, Associated Press, local Tanzanian newspapers, BBC African service and the BBC have started recording their interviews for the Sunday Programme and the Heaven and Earth Show. The headline in this morning’s The Citizen, Dar Es Salaam, was “Gay activists lobby for ’rights’ at church meet”. The article focussed on Davis and the interview he gave them yesterday.

I have been told that I have been very clever in bringing Davis to Tanzania and setting up the story around him, as if I knew there would be a news vacuum on Valentine’s Day. If only it were so easy! I had a suspicion (and a hope) that Davis’s presence would attract attention. I had no idea he would become the focus of interest. I shouldn’t be so surprised. The Anglican Communion is in crisis because of the desire of lesbian and gay Anglicans to be welcomed as full members of our Church. This is the agenda of Inclusive Church - to work for a church in which no group is diminished because of their gender, race or sexual identity. Read more

'Peace breaks out' as Anglican Way prevails in Tanzania

Worryingly for a contemporary religion correspondent, I find myself in the journalistically ambivalent position of having to report that 'peace has broken out' among Archbishops of the Anglican Church. the report of the 'Gang of Four', the group set up to look at TEC's response to Windsor, has been presented to the Primates meeting in Tanzania today, Thursday. Fundamentally, the response of TEC to Windsor at GenCon06 was deemed by the group to be adequate except with regard to same-sex blessings. Read more

Heading for a draw? Notes from Primates press briefing

Ed: These are literally notes. My first impressions from the first real news, however, is that the meeting may be heading for a draw - which will therefore be a 'win' for Liberalism.

Schori aide: 'Spirit of Anglicanism will prevail'

The head of the U.S. wing of the Anglican church, who supports ordaining gays and allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, will not soften her views even as the issues threaten to break apart the Christian denomination, her aide said Thursday.

Splits between Anglicans have been growing for years, but became a crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church — the U.S. wing of the Anglican Communion — consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

"The spirit of Anglicanism will prevail here and there will be a middle way forward," said Jefferts Schori‘s aide, Robert Williams. But he said she "will not waver in her stand for justice and inclusion of all people in the body of Christ." Read more

Church leaders urged to 'get real' in Tanzania

Anglican Christians in parts of Africa are calling on their leaders attending the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this week, to concentrate on real issues and not spend so much time debating the rights of gay men and lesbian women.

Those who criticise the amounts of time and energy spent debating gay issues say there should be a focus on the catastrophic spread of HIV/AIDS, widespread and pervasive poverty, severe drought, lack of governmental transparency and how the church can use its moral influence to remove despots from power.

In London, a rising star in the Anglican Communion, the Bishop of Botswana, the Right Reverend Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba, told IWPR that Anglicans in Africa are growing tired of the gay debate, the endless arguments about who goes to bed with whom and what colour pyjamas they wear. Read more

Jonathan Petre: Primates' meeting 'becalmed'

By the time you read this, there may have been a dramatic twist in the Anglican Church saga.

But at the time of writing, the story out here in Tanzania has become as becalmed as the Indian ocean, which is shimmering benignly in the distance. Read more

IC Blog: TEC passes on 2 out of 3 benchmarks

The briefing finished an hour ago, which is the time it takes to make one blog posting here. Sigh. In any case, the big news is that when we walked into the room, we were handed the Report of the Communion Sub-group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. This was the report that basically judged whether ECUSA had met the terms of the Windsor Report. More later, because I want to get this sent before the power cuts again.

The short answer is that ECUSA made two out of three benchmarks. On the subject of the moratorium on consecration of gay & lesbian persons as bishops, ECUSA passed. There was reservation (and implication of failure) on the subject of public rites of same-sex blessings. Finally, the "expression of regret" passed at GC in Columbus last summer was judged to have passed muster. Read more

3 American bishops come and go with 'no comment'

There was no press conference by the three American Episcopal bishops meeting with Mrs. Jefferts Schori and the Archbishop of Canterbury today, disappointing a handful of media hoping for news that might signify a shift in the direction of the Anglican Communion.

"We were asked to say nothing by the Archbishop of Canterbury till after the conference of Primates has ended", Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan told VirtueOnline, "then we'll talk".

The three bishops, two conservative and one liberal had been invited by the Primates to address the state of The Episcopal Church as they see it. Read more

The ‘B’ word: how bisexuality queers the ‘progressive’ pitch

[...] As each new variant on sexuality arises, so the list grows. But the problem for the Christian community, and the unacknowledged point in the current debate, lies early on, with bisexuality.

Organizations like Changing Attitude are quite clear that they support the aspirations (as they understand them) of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Yet no-one seems willing to suggest or acknowledge what arrangements might be envisaged, let alone blessed by the Church, for such bisexuals.

Indeed, in their 1991 report Issues in Human Sexuality, the Church of England House of Bishops took the view that bisexual activity would “always be wrong for this reason, if for no other, that it inevitably involves being unfaithful.” The bishops went on to say,

"The Church’s guidance to bisexual Christians is that ... they should follow the way of holiness in either celibacy or abstinence or heterosexual marriage. [...] it can also be that counselling will help the person concerned to discover the truth of their personality and to achieve a degree of inner healing." (5.8)
Read more (download pdf)

Jesus wants you for a Valentine!

As the Diocese of Chelmsford has it, Jesus loves you more than you think (and possibly in ways you don't want to think about).

Tanzania Will Reveal True Anglican ‘Communion’

All eyes are on Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania this week, as the worldwide Anglican Communion comes together for a summit which could see the Communion splinter amid the continuing row over homosexuality in the Church.

Standing in one corner is one woman who has certainly flamed the fires of debate since she was appointed as the first-ever female leader of the American Episcopal Church (ECUSA). Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has outraged traditionalists within the Church with the outspoken manner in which she has firmly backed same-sex unions and gay clergy. Even more extraordinarily for a Christian leader, she even clearly stated in one interview that she did not believe that Jesus was the only way people can go to God. Read more

Islamophobia "the acceptable face of racism"

[...] The scapegoating of the Muslim community has become the stock in trade of politicians, the Conservatives recently accusing the Muslim Council of Britain of separatist tendencies, and New Labour all too frequently indulging in the same kind of refrain - notably during the most disgraceful period of its domestic rule last autumn, when cabinet ministers were falling over themselves to make disparaging remarks about the Muslim community.

The argument typically starts from the global terrorist threat and ends up by suggesting the Muslim community nurtures and sustains such a terrorist mentality by its failure to integrate. Jack Straw squirmed about the veil, Ruth Kelly inveighed against imams, Alan Johnson proposed that faith schools admit up to 25% not of the same faith (patently directed against the Muslim community), and John Reid warned a Muslim audience of "fanatics looking to groom and brainwash [your] children ... for suicide bombing". Amid this panic-inducing rhetoric, there was little acknowledgment that Muslims suffer more discrimination than any other section of society, no recognition that every attack on their community can only intensify that prejudice. Imagine what it feels like to be a Muslim, stalked by a constant sense of distrust and suspicion? As a society we may condemn racism, but when it comes to Muslims, it seems to be somehow acceptable, from the cabinet downwards. Read more

Polish pastor whose flock has doubled in just two years

Monsignor Tadeusz Kukla, in charge of pastoring Polish Roman Catholics living in England and Wales, estimates that the number of Poles in London has doubled since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004 to 600,000. Most of these arrived last year, and thousands more are arriving each month.

He was sent over by the Polish hierarchy 30 years ago to pastor Polish students in London. Five years ago he was appointed Vicar Delegate by the Polish bishops and now operates from a 75-year-old church bought from a Protestant community in Islington, North London. He is under the authority of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and has 30 parishes in his care. Read more

Letter to Williams calls for rejection of alternative primatial oversight

More than 900 Episcopal clergy and laity have signed on to an open letter developed by a coalition of Episcopal peace and justice organizations and sent it to the Archbishop of Canterbury before he left England for the Primates Meeting in Tanzania.

The letter calls on Archbishop Rowan Williams to reject requests for alternative primatial oversight because they "would pose a grave danger to the Anglican Communion." Read more

RCs set to pass Anglicans as lead UK church

Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world.

Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years after managing years of decline, according to a new report, as both legal and illegal migrants enter the country.

It says that the influx of migrants could be the Catholic community’s “greatest threat” or its “greatest opportunity”. Read more

Schori meets TEC missionaries in Tanzania

Collaboration between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Tanzania -- including missionary work in the dioceses of Dar es Salaam and Central Tanganyika -- was underscored as area missionaries shared perspectives with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo.

On the eve of the February 15-19 Primates' Meeting near Dar es Salaam, Jefferts Schori and Mhogolo of Central Tanganyika met with seven Episcopal missionaries to hear about their commitment to global mission and in support of their work throughout the East African province.

Jefferts Schori, who is visiting Tanzania for the first time, said that "the Anglican Communion is alive and well in this kind of partnership level on the ground. I think we need to be grounded. We need to remember what our mission is and where and how we're called to live out the gospel in this world, and you are alive and well doing that work." Read more

Author calls for change in UK sex education policy

Dr Trevor Stammers, co-author of Saving Sex, has recently called for the Government to change its approach towards sex and relationships education in the approach to Valentine’s Day.

According to Stammers, the increasing sex education in schools has not resulted in a significant decrease in pregnancies, abortions or sexually transmitted infections.

In this interview with Christian Today, Stammers expands on this issue. Read more

IC Blog: We're the ones following the gospel

At dinner conversation tonight, we got to talking about the Gospel and the current "crisis" facing the Anglican Communion. I, for one, am weary of progressives being tarred with the image of ignoring the Gospel.

This is a rant. Please feel free to read on to the next post, if you like. It is a well-trodden rant.

When I pick up my Bible and read the gospels, I read a message of radical and complete love. Love so strong that it reached out to the most marginal people in the culture. Love so strong that it offered health and salvation. Love so strong that it was not concerned with the structures of religion or society.

So, I ask you: who is following the Gospel? Those who would exclude people from fullness in the Body of Christ? Those who ignore issues of life and health in favor of pushing an agenda of division and purity laws? Read more

IC Blog: Fireworks on Thursday

The evening press briefing was fairly uneventful. Basically, what we learned (again) is that the primates will set their own agenda, behind closed doors, and we'll find out what they did when it's done. Maybe.

OK, we found out a few more things, but that was the gist of it. Tomorrow (Thursday) is when the fireworks will happen. After a Bible study first thing in the morning, the primates will begin their deliberations. The Anglican Communion staffers are saying confidently that the question of +Katharine and +John Sentamu being seated is settled. Rumblings around the pool are different. We'll hear what happens, I guess. Either way, there's a story tomorrow. Either +Katharine is accepted by all the primates, or she's sent off. Details as they come tomorrow. Read more

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Bishop of Rochester says family under threat from legislation

The Bishop of Rochester has suggested that marriage and family and therefore society as a whole are currently under threat because of recent government legislation.

Speaking to a panel of religious experts, MPs and journalists at the recent Faith Under Fire symposium, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali said, "If Christians are upset about some pieces of recent legislation, it's because those vital, basic institutions [marriage and family] are under threat, therefore society as a whole is under threat.

"Safety from harm is not just about individuals, it is about the safety from harm of vital social institutions and marriage and family are certainly some of them. Let us not underestimate the seriousness of this. The law, the institutions, the values and the customs of this country are rooted in the Judao-Christian tradition." Read more

Nigerian Changing Attitude activist meets Akinola

This afternoon, following the first press briefing prior to the official beginning of the Primates meeting on Thursday 15 February, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria, met for the first time. As Davis left the hotel lobby with Carol Denton Hall, he found the Archbishop in the company of Bishop Martyn Minns and his wife, and Canon Chris Sugden from Anglican Mainstream.

Davis went straight to the Archbishop to introduce himself and Caro. The Archbishop didn’t immediately recognise Davis, but asked him what he was doing in Tanzania. Davis explained that he has come to greet him and other Primates. Peter Akinola asked Davis if they had met before and Davis said yes, they had met several times, when Peter Akinola came to inaugurate the Province of Jos. Davis told the Archbishop the story of the late bishop Ugede, when they had met at the bishop’s funeral. Davis also told Peter Akinola how he had spent the night at his house following Bishop Ugede’s death in Abuja. Davis went on to describe the formation of Changing Attitude Nigeria. Peter Akinola then remembered who Davis was and thanked him. The Archbishop jokingly asked Davis if he was officially invited to the meeting, and Davis replied that no, he is not a Primate.

They were joined by Colin Coward from Changing Attitude England who had met Archbishop Akinola at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham. We exchanged handshakes and greetings with the Archbishop, who was friendly and open. Read more

Inclusive Church Blog: few primates at Tanzania eucharist

[...] Finally, there was a Eucharist this afternoon. When asked if the primates attended, a partial attendance list was provided. Only a few primates were there, and of a particular theological stripe. There was no official list of those present, so I cannot say anything with certainty. Still, it seems to be that there is some irony. The conservative forces are wailing about "last chance for unity" and so forth, but they don't seem to show up for a Eucharist. +Rowan was there with a few primates, mostly from northern provinces. What does this say about our communion? I'll be very interested to see what happens at the Eucharist on Sunday. We're to be allowed in, so there will be no masking who does and does not share in communion -- at this Eucharist of the Anglican Communion primates. Read more

Archbishop of York faces boycott at gay summit

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has flown nearly 5,000 miles to attend the controversial Anglican summit on gays in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

But the Ugandan-born Archbishop could tomorrow find himself “excluded” from the meeting after protests from African and Asian archbishops representing the conservative Global South.

The meeting, which begins tomorrow and lasts until Monday is crucial for the future of the Anglican Communion, facing a schism over the gay issue.

On Friday, the primates will debate a new document, an Anglican Covenant, designed to set out a framework of faith and unity to avoid future schismatic actions.

Each of the 38 provinces is normally permitted one primate at the meeting. Read more

"Changing Attitude" in Tanzania: an apology and some reflections

[...] The discomfort that has occurred between Bishop Martyn, David Anderson, Chris Sugden and myself is not surprising. Our membership of the Anglican Communion brings us into personal relationship with each other. The strategy which they are working on is designed, I assume, to diminish my ability to remain in the Anglican Church with integrity. I am gay and I do not believe I have a vocation to celibacy. If their strategy is to exclude Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from the Primates meeting because she is not ‘Windsor compliant’ and because of her involvement in the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, they will at the same time exclude me from feeling that I am welcome. They are attempting to make the Communion a place which is not open to the presence of partnered, sexually active LGBT people, lay, ordained, and consecrated as bishops. The church will become more dishonest. LGBT people will be pushed back into the closet. We will be at greater risk of discrimination and abuse, especially in countries like Nigeria. Read more

Tanzania bishop 'breaks ranks' in gay row

In the Anglican Communion's bitter row over gay priests and marriage, which threatens to split the church's 77 million faithful, Tanzanian Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo seems an unlikely rebel.

In December, the conservative Anglican Church of Tanzania declared it would no longer accept funding from dioceses in the U.S. Episcopal Church that condone homosexual practices or bless same-sex unions.

However, Mhogolo says it is with a clear conscience that his diocese of Central Tanganyika continues to accept money from its liberal counterpart in New York.

With individual donations of $50 a year, hundreds of Americans provide shoes, clothes, food and exercise books so that AIDS orphans in the impoverished Tanzanian diocese may attend primary school. Read more

Episcopal Church 'alive and well'

"I am Bonnie Anderson and I am an Episcopalian."

Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, spoke to fellow Episcopalians within the split Diocese of San Joaquin. Her introductory statement was met with a standing ovation by hundreds of people who chose to remain in the denomination.

"I want to assure you that the Episcopal Church is alive and well and is engaged in important work in the name of Jesus Christ, and we are building the church both here and in other parts of the Anglican Communion," said Anderson over the weekend at Episcopal Church of St John the Baptist in Lodi, California, according to the Episcopal News Service. Read more

Time for Anglicans to divorce

The primates of the Anglican Communion may wish to consider the benefits of schism when they meet in Tanzania tomorrow. There are now people in the Church who see so far from eye to eye that it is right that they should go their separate ways. And there is no shame in that.

There have been many schisms in the past. The Great Schism was between east and west in 1054. The Reformation was a whole series of disruptions between the 14th and 17th centuries. In both, the seeds were sown long before the splits. Just as now, the differences were deep-seated and often cultural as well as theological. It is possible to argue that these splits were necessary to allow the different Churches to go their own way in freedom and faith. Read more Nigerian Gay Christian Group Appeals to Anglican Primates

A group of gay Christians in Nigeria has written an open letter to the Archbishops of the world-wide Anglican Communion on the eve of the debate in the Nigerian Parliament of a draconian Bill to ban same-sex relationships.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, the director of Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) and has received telephone calls and emails threatening his life, is in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, to lobby the Archbishops who are meeting this week in the city this week. Read more (caution advised over advertising material on this site.)

Akinola: the real Anglican 'Mr Big'

Mention the name of the Most Rev Peter Jasper Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, to Rowan Williams, our Archbishop of Canterbury, and you tend to get a twitch of his luxuriant eyebrows, a quizzical look and, maybe, just the hint of a rolling of the eyeballs. Dr Williams is, by virtue of his position, nominal head of the 78 million-strong Anglican Communion, the world's third largest Christian denomination. But it's an open question today, as the church's archbishops from around the world meet in an agreeable hotel complex overlooking the shimmering Indian Ocean outside Dar es Salaam, whether the most important man in the church now - and therefore one of the most influential Christians on the planet - is actually the Archbishop of Abuja.

Affable, if slightly sinister looking thanks to his tinted glasses, the 63-year-old primate of Nigeria now heads what is almost certainly the largest national Anglican Church in the world - 18.5 million Nigerians at the last count. That's fewer than the 27 million who officially belong to the Church of England, but, as we know, only 5% of them make it through the doors on any given Sunday. Read more

Primates' session with TEC bishops moved to Thursday

The extra-curricular session with three bishops from The Episcopal Church has been changed from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, according to the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. The change of date for the special session during the Anglican primates’ meeting was announced last week, but was not widely publicized. No further information was available at press time.

Bishop Duncan is one of three other bishops scheduled to address the primates on the state of The Episcopal Church with particular emphasis on the response to the Windsor Report made by the 75th General Convention in June 2006. The other bishops are the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana and president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, and the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations. Read more

Article (John Richardson): The Realpolitik of the Global South

Some twenty years ago, I remember Dick Lucas describing how he, John Stott and others had tried repeatedly to mobilise African bishops in preparation for successive Lambeth Conferences. The English evangelicals, he said, patiently explained to the Africans the importance of the political process. The Africans nodded, then, when asked their opinion, smiled broadly and gave their testimony.

That was then. This is now. After years of domination by a post-colonial Anglo-Saxon hegemony, identified in a recent article by Dr Michael Poon, the Anglican Communion is facing the new Realpolitik of the Global South coalition.

The threat to exclude, or at least minimise the presence, of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of York represents both the unpleasant nature of the present situation and the demise of the forces which have brought it about.

Constitutionally, the English have an inherent dislike of confrontation and clarity in matters of religion. Our is an ‘inclusive’ church, not because we have a doctrine of inclusion, but because we have a dislike of exclusion. In Rowan Williams, it must be admitted, this is given a more theological definition, but for the most part, it is simply an aversion to the kind of plain speaking in matters of religion which exclusion requires. (Of course Williams is Welsh, but his theological stance entirely suited him for his most English of appointments.) In contrast with a certain high street bank, we are the Church that doesn’t like to say ‘No’.

We are, however, part of a Communion which contains many who have said ‘Yes’ to a breadth of theological and moral persuasions which is only temporarily sustainable alongside the old traditions. It is clear from the experience in the USA and Canada that if the former orthodoxy is reduced to the status of an option within an ostensibly ‘inclusive church’, the pressures that brought about this change will soon drive orthodoxy to the margins.

The English, and to a certain extent the Welsh and the Irish, believe they can maintain the interim situation between the old and new orthodoxies indefinitely, and identify this as the Anglican ‘Middle Way’. Both the North Americans and the Africans, however, along with their own allies, are firmly convinced this neither can nor should be done. Each believes there must be, and therefore desires, a decisive outcome.

For those who dominate TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada, the full inclusion of lesbian and gay sexualities now, with some yet-to-be-decided provision for bisexuals in the future, is a matter of justice directly comparable to the ending of slavery or the emancipation of women. Equally, for those in the Global South coalition, such an inclusion is an outright denial of what it means to be ‘church’.

The last Lambeth Conference illustrated what this meant. The final shape of Resolution 1.10 was clearly not what had been intended at the outset by those who were nominally in control of the agenda. Equally, the huge vote in favour was not what had been anticipated. Yet the outcome was never going to be a ‘victory’ for Conservatives. On the contrary, it was obvious that the Americans and their allies would go home, lick their wounds, and prepare for a comeback. The road for the Americans led directly to the election of Vicky Imogene Robinson. The road in the UK led to the campaigns by LGCM, Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church and others.

The irresistible forces and immovable objects involved are now meeting in Dar es Salaam. The outcome will not be pretty. Past failures by the central English institutions to act with resolve have left both sides nursing hurts and grievances and neither in a real mood for true compromise. However, where once the Anglo-Saxons held the aces, rather as European armies had the Maxim gun, now a new political awareness, coupled with sheer weight of numbers, has given the former colonial churches new power. There seems little doubt they will use it, and sadly there is equally little likelihood they will use it entirely with finesse.

Revd John P Richardson

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Schori, Sentamu may be for 'early baths'

Ed: "To take an early bath" - to leave the field of play before the end of the game, hence to be in the changing-room baths early.

The dismissal of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of York John Sentamu will be among the first items under discussion in an alternate agenda proposed by the Global South coalition for the primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Following two days of meetings at a hotel near the Tanzanian capital, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria wrote to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Feb. 12 setting forth the Global South’s concerns over the agenda and structure of the Feb. 14-19 meeting of the leaders of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. Read more

Jonathan Petre: Primates in their unnatural habitat

[...] Now there is a new creature on the premises, often resplendent in colourful finery: the Anglican primate. They are generally shy and retiring, preferring to gather together in dark corners; approached by members of the press, some scuttle away while others look furtive.

Some of them arrived still wearing their Episcopal purple shirts and clerical collars, a camouflage they had adopted to pass through Dar Es Salaam airport with the minimum of fuss. But this was soon shed in favour of breezy short-sleeved shirts, either in vibrant African-style colours or more pastel shades, with sun glasses optional. One or two favour shorts and sandals.

The big beasts of the jungle are even more elusive. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has only just arrived and has not been seen in public, so his sartorial style is still under wraps. He was whisked through a heavily guarded back entrance to the hotel, away from prying eyes. Read more

Goddard (G) to Goddard (A): Conservative position 'unsustainable'

[...] You'll remember that 70% of the congregation here are of West African or Caribbean origin; some of them are lesbian or gay. Many more are deeply traditional. They are part of this church for many reasons, but at heart must be that fact that here they can encounter God and Jesus in a way which helps them to grow in their faith.

No theology can possibly be built on the back of anecdote and I have no doubt you could find powerful stories of the effectiveness of a more conservative approach. But my point is that we are not talking in a vacuum. We are dealing with real people's lives, faith and loves and in that context we have to tread carefully, lest we tread on their dreams. Read more

News from Dar es Salaam, Primates arriving

[...] The Anglican primates have been arriving in groups, some earlier than others, to attend several meetings scheduled prior to the general Primates’ Meeting. It is anticipated that several primates will not arrive, although that is unclear until the meetings actually start. We have been told that the primate of Wales will not attend due to a long planned sabbatical, and the primate of North India will also be absent.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is arriving somewhat late and will miss some or all of the joint meeting of the primates and Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). With Dr. Williams arriving late, Wales not attending, and a few others understood not to be coming; it may be that the joint meeting consists mainly of the Standing Committee of the ACC and Primate Bernard Malango (Province of Central Africa). Read more

Lawsuits 'un-Christian' and 'Heavy-Handed'

Leaders of The Falls Church and Truro Church Monday called new lawsuits filed against their congregations and nine other congregations by The Episcopal Church, in the words of Falls Church Senior Warden Tom Wilson, "not surprising but sadly un-Christian and heavy-handed."

The complaint by The Episcopal Church was filed Friday against the 11 churches, along with their rectors, vestries and trustees, that have severed ties with The Episcopal Church since mid-December. Read more

Monday, 12 February 2007

Youth in Hong Kong 'Surprisingly' Abstinent, Christian Group Reports

A survey conducted by a Christian group in Hong Kong revealed that, despite the city's reputation as racy and cosmopolitan, young people are 'surprisingly' traditional when it comes to sex.

While nearly 50 per cent of university and college students said they thought premarital sex was unacceptable, 30 per cent said they would be unhappy if the man or woman they married was not a virgin. Read more

Portugal Set to Legalise Abortion Despite ‘Void’ Referendum

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates has outraged pro-life supporters by saying that he will legalise abortion in the country, despite the weekend’s referendum having a turnout too low to be legally binding.

Sunday saw Portugal go to the polls to vote on whether to legalise abortion. For the vote to be legally binding at least 50 per cent plus one of the country’s registered voters must take part. The turnout of Sunday's referendum fell short at just 40 per cent.

Nevertheless, Socrates declared that he will change the law as 59.3 per cent of those that voted had backed a change in the law. Read more

List of Anglican Primates

The full list of current Primates is here.

Pink News: End of the road for united Anglican communion

This week the senior primates of the Anglican church will meet in Africa. Many predict the outcome of this meeting will be an outright schism in the church over the issue of gay priests.

Tony Grew examines the nature of the Church of England and questions whether it can ever be a home for radical evangelicals.

My dad used to tell me that the Anglican church is not really a religious denomination as such. It is more of a social club. Read more Gay sex fuels Anglican brawl

Unfortunately, it looks like Anglican omlette will be on the menu as Rowan Williams prepares to fly to Tanzania for a meeting of the church's primates. Judging by the pre-meet sword rattling, the summit is unlikely to be a cheery picnic

The summit will take place from 14-19 February, with the controversial Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA), Katharine Jefferts Schori also set to take part in talks.

Bishop Schori, who leads the 2.4-million members of the ECUSA, has enraged Anglican leaders across the world by openly offering her support for same-sex unions, as well as declaring in one interview that she does not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

This admirable woman has created such uproar since her installment last year,that approximately 250 ECUSA member churches have left her leadership, and many outraged traditionalists have even threatened to blank her at the upcoming summit. Read more

Williams battles to ward off final split

The Archbishop of Canterbury's hopes this week of preventing the 78 million-strong worldwide Anglican communion from finally sliding into schism over the issue of homosexuality appeared slim yesterday as he prepared to fly to Tanzania for a meeting of the church's primates.

Conservative archbishops, mainly from the developing world, have gathered in Dar es Salaam for a separate two-day conference in advance of a formal meeting on Wednesday to plot tactics and agree a strategy before Rowan Williams arrives tomorrow. Read more

Peter Jensen: Church must confront this clash of convictions

[...] In a world of division, great international movements such as churches are precious reminders that we all belong to the same human race. Through them, people from around the world care for each other in practical and effective ways. Christians are world citizens. Unity matters.

On the other hand, the church is not infinitely flexible. It cannot be, if it is to be true to its calling. It has a task to bear witness to the truth that is in Jesus Christ. There are boundaries to that truth, and hence boundaries to the Christian fellowship.

Christians sometimes have to decide that the truth of some major issue does not permit them to have unity with each other in the same way as before. We must be welcoming, but we cannot embrace indifference about doctrine and hope to survive. Read more

Archbishop's peace talks threatened

The Archbishop of Canterbury flies into the biggest Anglican crisis since the Reformation today without even knowing whether his fellow Church leaders will sit in the same room together.

Dr Rowan Williams will arrive at a primates' meeting in Tanzania, east Africa, with compromise proposals he hopes can avert schism by bridging the abyss between the warring factions over homosexuality. But when he reaches the White Sands conference centre in Dar Es Salaam he will find the primates, the leaders of the worldwide communion's 38 self-governing provinces, more polarised than ever.

Even before his plane touches down the event has become mired in unprecedented levels of politicking that have challenged his moral authority as "first among equals". Read more

Thousands of churches face closure

Thousands of churches face closure, demolition or conversion in the next decade, leading to the demise of some branches of Christianity in Europe, according to experts.

In some parts of the country, former churches are being turned into centres of worship for other faiths. A disused Methodist chapel in Clitheroe on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales is the latest, destined to become a mosque for the town's 300 Muslims. Read more

Schori ready to defend herself

At a book party last week at the New York headquarters of the Episcopal Church, a line of more than 100 fans waited to have the church's new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, sign copies of her new book of sermons, A Wing and a Prayer.

Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop in the history of the Anglican Communion, appeared a bit surprised at the celebrity treatment but clearly enjoyed the sentiment.

She is about to head off to a hostile reception. Read more

New book challenges 'spend' culture of weddings

Buying your wedding dress from a charity shop and giving it back afterwards, inviting your guests to bring a bottle, and arriving at the church as part of a flower parade or in a taxi are all suggestions included in a new book published today by the Church of England.

The book aims to debunk the idea that weddings need to cost thousands of pounds. With St Valentine’s Day just a few days away, the Church of England is using the book to remind couples that their wedding day need not cost the earth and that the real investment has to be made in the relationship itself. Read more

Article (Guardian): Bishop of Winchester "counterproductive"

The notion that the US Church - one of the longest established in America, an offshoot of the Church of England and the church of most presidents since George Washington - is not Christian is so bizarrely overblown as to be risible. They may not share the Bishop of Winchester's cramped, disapproving and drably censorious, dessicated Anglicanism, but they certainly have a clearly motivated Christian belief system, based on faith, hope and charity, the old nostrums that Scott-Joynt may once, dimly, have read about in college. He may not like their Christianity, but he can't say they don't believe in Christ.

The outpourings of the Bishop of Winchester and his colleagues are counter-productive, both from the perspective of changing anyone's minds and for the reputation of the Church of England, and they also serve to undermine the Archbishop of Canterbury as he strives to keep the worldwide communion together this week in Dar es Salaam.

Furthermore they are deeply divisive within the CofE's bench of bishops, where Scott-Joynt and Nazir-Ali are both regarded as insufferable by many of their colleagues. What a happy ship it is. Read more

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Minister defies Church of Scotland on 'gay weddings'

THE Kirk's fragile alliance over gay weddings has been blown apart after a minister revealed she would use her church to bless the civil partnerships of four homosexual couples.

Aberdeenshire minister the Rev Kim Cran will go ahead with the blessings, even though she risks disciplinary action if an official complaint is made.
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Traditionalists have condemned the move as inflammatory, and warned it risks splitting the Kirk. Last year, the majority of the Kirk's local branches - the presbyteries - voted to reject a new rule allowing clerics to conduct the ceremonies without fear of punishment. Read more

Schori braces for gay rights test

At a book party last week at the New York headquarters of the Episcopal Church, a line of more than 100 fans waited to have the church’s new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, sign copies of her new book of sermons, “A Wing and a Prayer.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop in the history of the Anglican Communion, appeared a bit surprised at the celebrity treatment but clearly enjoyed the sentiment.

She is about to head off to a hostile reception. Read more

Last bid to stop Anglican split

The Archbishop of Canterbury will this week launch what could be his final attempt to save the Anglican Communion from an irreparable split triggered by the increasingly bitter row over homosexuality and the church.

Failure to keep the world's 70-million -strong Communion together would be a watershed in the history of the church and a personal disaster for Rowan Williams, who will use a gathering of bishops in Tanzania starting on Wednesday to try to calm the row dividing liberal and conservative wings of the church. But he faces an uphill task. Read more