Saturday, 24 February 2007

Saturday - blogging later

I will update this blog late Saturday. I'm off to London to teach. BTW has anybody noticed the apparent sidelining of the "Panel of Reference" in the Dar es Salaam communique? It gets a paragraph to itself (14), but then no mention in the Schedule outlining the requirements regarding TEC. Does this mean the Primates are bypassing the Panel?

Thursday, 22 February 2007

A Tacit Liberal Triumph at Tanzania

Ed: I was intrigued by this headline, until I discovered the writer was talking about the acceptance of the ordination of women. What I'm looking for now is a commentator from the 'Anglican right' (opposite of his 'Anglican left') to say that the ordination of women is not a 'Liberal' triumph at all.

[...] For the moment,I am awfully impressed by what seems to be an utter rout in the Anglican left's favor, one that has not been sufficiently attended to, and which may point the way forward on SSBs. I mean the place of women in the Anglican Communion: the fact ++Schori was seated, remained seated, celbrated Eucharist so successfully at Zanzibar, and entered a high office of the Communion pretty much shows that opposition to women's ordination is functionally dead in the Anglican Communion. Strident FIFNA-types will continue to protest, but their battle is lost. With ++Schori enfolded, there is no discernible future for resistance in the Anglican Communion to women's ordination. Before Tanzania, there might have been a question; a slender opening remained to the opposition if ++Schori could be turned away for some reason. Now her presence is an ongoing repudiation in praxis where it counts, laying the foundation of precedent and setting up facts on the ground enabling still further gains elsewhere. That is indeed a great victory for the left, if not the victory they were hoping for most of all. Read more

Report of the November 2006 Chelmsford Diocesan Synod

Report of Diocesan Synod on 11 November 2006

Aspiration ‘to be a transforming presence’

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd John Gladwin, gave an address for the inauguration of the Synod on the passion, aspiration and resources of the Diocese.

2006 Budget

Don Cardy, Chair of the Budget Sub-Committee, referred to his report to the June Synod where he had referred to:

a) The clergy pension interim increase adding 3% to Deanery Share.

b) The need to account for and control stipendiary clergy numbers.

c) The financing of new initiatives approved by Synod.

d) The need for wider ownership of the “chronic” nature of much Share shortfall; and

e) The need to address this to relieve the burden on parishes which pay in full.

The position had been set out in detail in the budget report and consultation document which had been widely circulated at the end of June. Steven Webb reported that 166 responses to the consultation document had been received, compared with five in 2005. He commented that this was a successful consultation and would be built on in future years, though comments about the timing had been noted and would be addressed.

Don Cardy confirmed that the proposed budget allowed for:

1) Stipends to increase by 2.5% in April 2007

2) Increased pension contributions

3) Reduced number of stipendiary posts

The resultant increase in Deanery Share for 2007 would be 5.1%. Whilst more than in the last two years, it was less than in 2003 and 2004. There was no provision for Share shortfall. Robert Berry, Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance, indicated to Synod that a rigorous appraisal of the Board’s reserves was being undertaken in order to establish how these might be used to meet the shortfall. Firm proposals would be put to the Finance Committee in the spring of 2007.

The following spoke in debate :

Revd Paul Greenland Chelmsford North

Robin O’Neil Saffron Walden

Revd Dave Richards Newham

Revd David Tomlinson Thurrock

Revd Canon Tim Potter Harlow

Harry Marsh General Synod

Robin Stevens General Synod

Marion Peterson Southend

Bishop of Bradwell

Steven Smith Brentwood

The following points were amongst those made:

aa) Concern about making no provision for Share shortfall and a suggestion that the budget should be set higher to include some such provision.

bb) The timing of the budget consultation in August was difficult for parishes and deaneries.

cc) Tithe giving competed with many other requests.

dd) There was a crisis of confidence in the ability to pay for stipendiary numbers. Should we, therefore, still be encouraging vocations?

ee) Concerns about the possibility of longer interregna.

ff) Consultation did not account for affordability and concern regarding the sustainability of a 5.1% increase across the Diocese.

gg) Concern that 20% of parishes don’t meet the Share in full.

hh) There is a duty to care for clergy. A 2.5% stipend increase for next year is low.

ii) A challenge to double giving and see what effect it has on life style.

jj) Reducing stipendiary numbers was not a negative retraction. Changing patterns of ministry should equip the Church with more clergy, but not necessary stipendiary.

In response to comments and questions Robert Berry commented that we lived in a changing world which was difficult for the organisation. However, he was more positive than at any time in his role as Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance. He was confident that resources would cover shortfalls for the life of this Synod. Significant work was being done in enabling parishes to reduce shortfall from £1m in 2005 to an anticipated £768,000 in 2006.

There was a need to continually adjust how we work within the Church and we have to tackle pastoral issues around how best to provide ministry. The financial situation is forcing us to be creative.

Robert Berry then moved the motion:

“That this Synod:

a) Approve the Diocesan Budget for 2007 and the Deanery Share of £13,943,638

b) Approve the apportionment of the total Deanery Share to deaneries in accordance with the Deanery Share Scheme, subject to a ceiling of 3% in rises over the average of 5.1% compared with 2006”.

This was passed with two against and five abstentions.


Two questions had been received. The full text of those questions and the written answers are given as follows:

Q.1 Mr. Trevor Ireland (Colchester) to ask the Bishop of Chelmsford :

I thank our Diocese for its model policy on Child Protection. Would the Bishop kindly address Diocesan responsibility, as part of his mission for Social Responsibility, producing model policies for parishes on health and safety, Disability Discrimination Act, churchyard safety, hiring of church premises to outside organisations, working as a volunteer in church premises, at height or otherwise all with provision of appropriate insurance, using advice from legal sources as well as church insurers to ensure no possibility of parish insurances being invalidated and the greatest degree of uniformity of approach across the Diocese.

A. I am very grateful to Trevor for this question and I endorse the idea of achieving a degree of uniformity on such matters. Although I do not see this strictly as a Social Responsibility issue, I have discussed it with our Chief Executive who has been considering similar matters and we are minded to develop this idea.

At the start of this new synod it is our intention to put in place three complementary sources of information for diocesan benefit.

Firstly, SOCCS has just produced a Diocesan Clergy Family Handbook.

Secondly, we have begun the process of reviewing the Chelmsford File or the Bishop’s Regulations as they are sometimes known. We expect that document to be finalised by early spring 2007.

Thirdly, and specifically on Trevor’s point, the Chief Executive is going to produce a Parish Handbook which will include those matters referred to in the question as well as other topics such as information on Green energy, grant-making bodies and employment legislation. Steven expects the document to be completed by late spring / early summer 2007. Steven would welcome comments and ideas from Synod members, preferably by email to

Q.2 Fr. Steven Saxby (Waltham Forest) to ask the Bishop of Chelmsford :

Would the Bishop kindly explain why the Diocese has been re-branded as “the Church of England in Essex and East London” and comment on whether he believes, that in light of the historic development and current demography the Diocese, it would be more appropriate for the Diocese to be re-branded as “the Anglican Church in East London (and Essex)”?

A. ‘The Church of England in Essex and East London’ is the strap line. We are the Diocese of Chelmsford. You raise an interesting point. Essex is the historic shape of the Diocese. East London has grown within it. We need each other.

In response to supplementary questions from Fr. Steven Saxby and Revd Dave Richards Bishop John commented that he considered that the “Church of England” communicates much more what we were about as a Diocese than “the Anglican Church”. He reaffirmed that he was in fact already the Bishop of Canning Town.


The Bishop of Barking made a presentation to Synod on the important topic of the London Olympics which were now just 5½ years away. He asked the question, “How can we best maximise the potential of the Olympics for our Church and the Diocese?”

80% of the Games would be played in Chelmsford Diocese.

The greatest physical impact for preparation for the Games would be the colossal regeneration of the Stratford area, impacting on community facilities, transport, housing and jobs. There was a question mark, however, as to whether these things would build sustainable communities. In conjunction with the Stepney Area of the London Diocese, Barking Area had been undertaking preparation of the churches ahead of the Games.

Shirley Biro (Newham) spoke of the Inspire Project which would be at the centre of the proposed new shopping area, built on the scale of Lakeside. This ecumenical project was intended to create a living spire of witness of the local Christian communities, giving focus to hospitality, study, prayer and worship. The Trustees were drawn from Methodists, Anglican and Free Churches and the Methodist Church and the Diocese was funding a feasibility study. This exciting project offered a real opportunity for ecumenical witness.

Bishop David called upon the Diocese to engage with those responsible for planning and regeneration to monitor and critique their plans.

There was the possibility of a collaborative appointment between the Dioceses of Chelmsford, London and Southwark and Lambeth Palace for someone to speak for the churches at a national level. The Revd Kelvin Woolmer had been appointed Priest in Charge at St. Paul’s Stratford and Hard Hat Chaplain to the Stratford construction site from January 2007. Alan Boulding, a Reader, would be ordained by Bishop John next year as Sports Chaplain ahead of the Beijing and London Games. Bishop David indicated that spiritual preparation for the event was also required and the Revd Elwin Cockett (Basildon) spoke of an event to be held at West Ham Football Ground at Pentecost 2007. This would be a united time for prayer for folk from London and Essex and it is estimated that 35,000 people were expected to attend.

The following spoke in a subsequent discussion :

Revd. Quintin Peppiatt (Newham)

Revd. John Dunnett (General Synod)

Revd. Gillian Greenslade (Dunmow & Stansted)

Revd. Dr. Ian Jorysz (Brentwood)

Revd. Paul Carr (Barking & Dagenham)

Bishop of Bradwell

Robert Berry (Chair Diocesan Board of Finance)

Revd. Brian Lewis (General Synod)

The following points were amongst those made:

a) Regeneration could simply be another layer of activity that doesn’t relate to or benefit local people. Lessons needed to be learnt from the Docklands development.

b) The Church needed to drive issues of housing, employment and health.

c) The Olympics offered a unique opportunity for mission and sharing good news.

d) The effects would ripple out from the immediate area.

e) Many parishes and deaneries would be hosting visitors for the Olympics and would be looking to the Diocese for support and guidance.

f) The experience of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester indicated that we should not be sceptical but join in.

g) Regeneration could be little more than reclamation of urban areas by the rich with subsequent dispossession and displacement of the poor.

h) Must ensure that some of the wealth coming into the area remained for the benefit of local people.

i) Property prices within the area were already increasing and pricing local people out. Property was being advertised for sale globally.

j) A plea to be excited about the event but to speak for and from the local community.

In conclusion Bishop David commented that the bid must deliver aspirations for the people of East London.

Other items

Among other items, Bishop John, the Chief Executive of the diocese, Steven Webb, and others gave presentations on the structure and working of the Diocese, the Synod and its committees. An extra-ordinary meeting of the Diocesan Board of Finance was held.

Date of Next Meeting

10 March 2007

Bishop John Gladwin's address to Diocesan Synod, November 2006

Ed: only just available!

Welcome to the Diocesan Synod and thank you for agreeing to serve for the coming three years.

Over the summer weeks I and my colleagues have been praying, reflecting and setting some directions for our ministry. As a team we had to answer the questions, ‘what is our passion?’, ‘what is our aspiration?’, and ‘what are our resources?’. Each person had to think this for themselves and contribute into groups. This is what we agreed:

Our passion is Jesus – proclaiming and living out God’s love for all people

Our aspiration is to be a transforming presence in every community, open and welcoming to all and serving all.

Our resources are faithful people, prayer and worship, visionary leadership and liberating gifts.

This is what your episcopal team in this diocese is about and you must hold us to it. To you we say, ‘We want the Diocese of Chelmsford to be passionate about Jesus, to be a transforming presence in every community and to see its people, our prayer and worship and the gifts God has given to us that set us free as our fundamental resource.’

I look to this Synod and every member to share with us in this vision of what God is calling us to become.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, God has called to live as Christians in the world as it is. Not as it was 50 years ago or even 10 years ago. Living for Jesus today and looking to be a life transforming presence right across the multiple faces of human life and community in this diocese. Look at the big things that have been happening and their impact upon us – even in the last 10 years.

1. A massive change has happened in European culture with the end of the Cold War. Already in East London and elsewhere we are welcoming new citizens of the EU. In a diocese linked to Iash in Romania we have a particular interest in the contemporary movement of people and of cultures. With the new European dispensation comes the language of human rights and fundamental expectations about how people are to be treated. This is the moral language of living with difference - race, sexuality, gender, faith or none and disability – to name but some!

2. Post 9/11 and 7/7 in this diocese we live with the challenge of a world where boundaries no longer hold and where it is possible for people and small groups to pursue their agendas through violent attacks upon innocent citizens. Religion, according to Richard Dawkins, is a bad thing. It encourages violence and war. Faith in God is being questioned in new ways and provides us with a mission focused theological agenda. This is at the heart of the public debate about faith schools about religious dress and symbols.

3. In this liberal mass communications international world where high finance moves around the globe with the press of a button how are we to meet the pressing moral agendas of global warming and environmental responsibility and the demand of justice to the poor and excluded? This in the diocese facing the biggest expansion of housing and development of any in this country. Behind all of this large questions about the values of driving social and economic change.

That is why the ‘five marks of mission’ and the Bishop’s commentary on them is fundamental. Evangelism, church building and sustaining and our social and cultural responsibility are held together in one coherent Christian strategy for the church.

Think of some of the things happening closer to home that have been forcibly drawn to our attention.

1. What about the recent report comparing the experience of young people in this country with our European neighbours on the issues of lifestyle? It would be easy to dump the problem on the shoulders of young people – ours are the most violent, drunken and sexually undisciplined youth in Europe. But what of our collective responsibility? Materialism, self-interest, and a growing lack of respect for the dignity and individuality of each person – what vision have we for the human community and those most at risk? Our schools and youth strategies and becoming increasingly urgent priorities.

2. What about the Stern report on the environmental challenge? Are our parishes environmentally aware and alive? Is there good Biblical teaching and debate about the world we live in and our place in it? How are we to be with and ministering to our rural communities at this time of change?

3. If we want real theological work taking us deep into the heart of the Gospel and of Scripture how about the crisis in our prisons and in the field of law – we have two prisons in this diocese in which our people both lay and ordained minister.

I illustrate rather than give you an exhaustive analysis. My point is that if we are to be passionate about Jesus then we have to inhabit the world as it is. Our calling is to live in order that it may experience the transforming meaning of the Gospel of Jesus. I know we talk about it but we still find it difficult. 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.

The second thing this means is that we form our agenda holding to our priorities in mission. The five marks of mission are not about an internal outmoded ecclesiastical agenda designed to make sure we all fall out with one another. They are an agenda encouraging us to look to Jesus, to look out towards the people and the world we all inhabit and shape our ministry accordingly. I am sure the Deanery Vision work is going to be a crucial part of moving our vision outwardly to the people we are called to serve.

Yes, we do have some church business to deal with and we must do so graciously and with mutual listening and respect. We do need to think about women and the episcopate. We do need to keep along with the issues facing the Anglican Communion. On women and the episcopate there is plenty of good material to help us and I hope personally, in parishes and deaneries we can find out what this is about and begin to think how we think the church should proceed. The General Synod will be looking at ways of moving forward and wants to hear from a wide discussion across the church. We will suggest material that might help with local debate and thinking. When you have worked on it let us know what your thoughts and ideas are.

I am less convinced that Synodical work is the way to get us thinking through the issues that are causing concern in the Anglican Communion. We must consider carefully what to do. Past attempts to enable us to talk about the sexuality issues would indicate that people are not rushing out to meetings for this subject. I wonder whether we need a diocesan group advising us in the whole field of human sexuality and relationships.

But we do need to ask, as we engage in these tasks, what message is coming across to the world out there? 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?

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.

Michael Burleigh, a very eminent historian, has recently produced a book called ‘Earthly Powers’ – on religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the Great War. This is what he says about the work of the Church of England in the Victorian era:

“When attempts were made to involve working-class people actively, notably through the Church of England Working Men’s Society, this was largely a tool of the High Church ritualists battle with the Low Church Evangelical Party in the rival Church Association. In other words, internal Church faction fighting took precedence, a pattern that has been endlessly repeated with other ‘issues’, most of monumental irrelevance to all but insistent minorities.” (P372)

It is in the character of the Church of England, claiming to belong to the universal church of God in Christ, that its life embraces a great diversity of experience and of understanding. That is because, like the Bible, the church is held together by Jesus Christ. In the pages of Scripture we find things that seem to be complete opposites. That means we can all run to the text and find parts that give comfort to our views. The joy of the Bible and the joy of the church is that we are all held together in the mystery of the life and redemptive love of Jesus Christ. No Jesus, no Gospel of Jesus and you have no Bible and no church. I often find that it is the parts of the Bible I find most difficult and the experience of others in the church I find most troublesome that have the most to teach me. But for that to happen it requires us to listen carefully to one another and seek the face of Jesus in what is offered.

We must bring that diversity and difference, rooted as it is in a shared love of Jesus, to bear on the central mission agendas of our time. Let me say one more thing to this. All serious philosophy and theology post 1945 – done always in response to the terror of the holocaust – is about difference and diversity and our living face to face with people who are other than us. It does not lead to a liberal consensus but to persistent conversation. If we in the church cannot live well with difference and express the universality of Christ through it that spells not only disaster for the church as we know it but for our world hanging as, I believe it does, on the edge of the abyss. Our faithfulness to what God has created in us through Jesus Christ is at the heart of our faithful witness today.

I am very glad as a small step in our desire to be faithful in this conversation that Canon Andrew Knowles has, with my support, begun working with a very diverse group of people as a theological resource group for me and for us all. That group will work in confidence but may offer us things from time to time both in substance and in style.

If you share with me and my colleagues passion about Jesus and a contemporary desire to enable the church to be a transformative presence in all our communities, what about our resources?

Faithful people. God has been amazingly generous to us. Think in the narrow terms of church ministry – over 500 ordained people, similar numbers of Readers, Pastoral assistants, Lay Evangelists, trained children’s workers, growing number’s of ministers to young people. That is before we talk of Church wardens, PCC members, the multitude of people involved in our voluntary organisations – the MU and so on. That is an army! How do we liberate these precious gifts? I look forward to the completion of the Deanery Vision work and how this work might help give direction in all of this.

Let me suggest things that we do need to address.

1. Deepen spirituality

2. A learning church with serious education in the faith

3. Training and support for people taking on roles of ministry

If we all commit ourselves with a passion for Jesus to improve and strengthen the quality of our ministry – I mean all of us – from the parishes to the Bishops – how can we improve our ministry – be more focussed, more contemporary, more professional seeking excellence in all things. Doing less and doing it better?

What of our material gifts?

I shall be disappointed, in three years time, if we have not radically reduced the budget deficit and what we are presented with today gives us a good structure and beginning. I shall be disappointed if more of what God has given to us is not going on innovative new work in the face of the new challenges facing us at all levels. I shall be disappointed if we have not strengthened the resolve of our people and those who will join with us in the years to come to ensure that the resources are there for the priorities to which God leads us. I shall be disappointed if we do not have some new examples of how to transform the burden of our buildings into opportunity for service in our communities.

This Synod is entrusted with these responsibilities as together we serve the Gospel of Jesus in our time.

Let me finish in this way. We – and notice the word – are mostly middle aged and upward, male, almost exclusively white. That means we will be conservative, backward looking and unrepresentative of the people we serve?

In 1958, a hitherto unknown white, single and elderly male was elected Pope John XX111. He proved to be radical, forward looking and utterly in touch with the emerging world at the end of the 1950’s and he brought hope to multitudes. I think God always calls the wrong people for the task. If our hearts are alive with the message of Jesus and we have been captured by the hope of God’s Kingdom let us without fear and in faith do what we can to make Jesus known in our time and to help the church in this diocese be a transforming presence wherever people are in whatever condition of life we find them to be.

As the Apostle urges the Ephesian Christians so may he encourage us:-

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all”.

May God help all of us to hear and receive His Word.

Bishop of Chelmsford

A lesson in why parents find God

Ed: if you start it, it is worth reading the whole of this, otherwise it's just another story about getting your kids into a Church school.

About 10 years ago, a rather wonderful thing happened: I started going to church. Not that I had ever entirely stopped. The church where I grew up in Surrey was exceptionally beautiful and possessed good Elizabethan tomb effigies, somebody's funerary helmet and the oldest monumental brass in the country. You just don't get that sort of thing out of your veins.

But, once I lived in London, Sundays would come and go without Aslet looking out for his soul. And then this small miracle happened. I didn't quite go down on my knees in Eaton Square, but I began attending church there. So did my wife, and she's Jewish.

Ah, you know what's coming, don't you? A lot of parents will have already twigged. They will adopt an ironic elevation of eyebrow when I say St Peter's has become our spiritual home.They will deduce that the small miracle of faith of which I have just written had been preceded by another small miracle: the birth of our first son. You've got it. St Peter's has a CoE primary school attached. Read more

Church of England Newspaper interview with Bp Bob Duncan

The leader of the American Church’s traditionalist coalition, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh has told The Church of England Newspaper he is “cautiously optimistic” over the outcome of the Feb 14-19 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam.

Four American bishops testified on Feb 15 before a special session of the Primates Meeting, describing the situation in the American church. Bishops Bruce McPherson of Western Louisiana and C. Christopher Epting of the Presiding Bishop’s staff left the meeting following after they gave their testimony, while Bishop Duncan and Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori stayed through the end. A last minute push to reach an agreement moved the close from mid-day to near midnight, preventing him from staying until the close. Bishop Duncan spoke to CEN on Feb 20 in Zurich moments after reading the text of the Communiqué. Read more

The End of Anglican fudge - what it was like at Dar es Salaam

Well it looked like fudge; even smelled like fudge. I'm sitting on board a Boeing 777 somewhere between the Persian Gulf and New York with the taste of fudge still in my mouth. But Dar 2007 wasn't fudge after all. It was not what most people expected. It may not have been what anyone wanted. But whatever it was, the Primates' Meeting wasn't fudge.

Over the weekend one orthodox leader told my colleague, Dr. David Virtue, "Go home and tell all your people to abandon ship. Leave TEC. It's over. We lost." This morning at the cashier's window at the White Sands Hotel that same orthodox leader, who asked not to be named or quoted directly, said that the orthodox had won.

At breakfast Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda and head of the AMiA, said with a tired grin to a crowd of friendly inquirers, "It's a new dawn."

Was there a rabbit pulled out of a hat after all? If so, how did I miss it? Read more

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Robert Gagnon: How Bad Is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture and Does Scripture’s View Apply to Committed Homosexual Unions?

It’s a response to a paper that appeared in a PCUSA publication so to that extent it is more relevant to Presbyterians. However, the 11-page appendices at the end (pp. 12-23) deal, in a free-standing way, with the questions asked in the title and are relevant to anyone interested in these issues, whatever the denominational affiliation. It’s a good summary of my views on (1) how seriously Scripture views the offense of homosexual practice and (2) whether Scripture’s indictment of homosexual practice applies to committed homosexual unions. Earlier parts of the article also address the question whether a denomination’s support of homosexual practice justifies departure from the denomination.

Download pdf
View as html

Bishop of New York: 'we would not respond positively to that request'

[...] I believe that what was desired was a statement that we were wrong to confirm Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire and that we will never do it again. And I do not believe that the majority of [American] bishops believe that. I do believe that they did not adequately confer [with the Anglican Church and also with each other], and that’s what they apologized for. God is working in the community to help us understand that gay and lesbian people can be called to have any role within our community. My view is that [the primates] have in fact upped the ante. I think that what they’re wanting is an affirmation that we will never do this again. My own guess is that we would not respond positively to that request. Read more

Marriage rates in England & Wales 'lowest since records began'

Fewer people in England and Wales are getting married than ever recorded before, according to new statistics.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), marriage rates in England and Wales are at the lowest since they were first recorded in 1862. Read more

Archbishop of Uganda: "We welcome all..."

[...] the Church of Uganda is committed to providing pastoral care for those struggling with sexual temptation, for example, homosexual urges, heterosexual pornography, pre-marital sex, and post-marital adultery. There is no sin too big for God. Sadly, many of our girls have also been defiled and sinned against, and they grow up with confusion about Godly sexuality. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers the only way to a transformed life, including a transformed sexuality. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about transformation, not inclusion. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more,” not, “Go and sin some more.” For the North American church, pastoral care means providing services for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do not mean that. For us in Uganda, pastoral care means leading people into the fully transformed life that Jesus promises to those who call upon His name. We welcome all those struggling with sexual temptation, and those suffering from sexual violation, to find healing and deliverance through Jesus Christ. Read more

Californians set to reject 'unity at any cost'

The Anglican Communion's directive this week that its Episcopal branch in the United States ban the blessing of same-sex unions is a direct rebuke to the Bay Area, where the Diocese of California has blessed the practice for nearly three decades.

The Episcopal Church risks being severed from the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, the largest, most unified Protestant denomination in the world. The question roiling the global body is whether it can be multicultural enough to include literal believers in Nigeria as well as liberals in the Bay Area.

In the Bay Area diocese, which is believed to have performed more same-sex unions than any other in the country, many Episcopalians say unity must not come at any cost. Read more

LGCM rolls out big guns for Homophobia & Human Rights conference

Ed: I couldn't resist commenting on these talks as I've listened to them.

Whilst the Primates were busy in Tanzania, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in England rolled out the big guns for their conference on Faith, Homophobia and Human Rights:

The Assistant General Secretary of the TUC
(Kay Carberry, who argues we all have to respect difference and dignity - and therefore the Trades Unions must oppose the stance of Conservative Christians on LGB issues.)
The National Co-ordinator of the Gay Police Association
The Chairman of the Greater London Assembly
(Brian Coleman, who is a Methodist, thinks the Primates are meeting in Nairobi, says its not a dispute over anything that matters, but then thinks some Christians are extremist and not very Christian and should be resisted, and hopes some of the attendees may 'get lucky' tonight.)
The leader of Faithworks
(Revd Malcolm Duncan, leader of the organization set up by Steve Chalke, who acknowledges many of the membership are Evangelicals, but says we should treat everyone equally - if a cohabiting couple can stay in our hotel, so can a gay couple. You can think what you like, just don't infringe 'other people's human rights'.)
The Chair of the London Anti-Racist Alliance
The President of Inclusive Church
(Revd Dr Giles Fraser, who starts with a comment about Simeon seeing the teenage Jesus in the Temple - er, would that be the 40-day old teenage Jesus? Still, since he talks about God as 'her', that is perhaps the least of his lapses.)
The former Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport and chairman-designate of the Advertising Standards Authority
(Lord Smith, who calls protesters against SORs outside Parliament "so-called Christians", and describes those who voted against as representing "the forces of darkness". He also denies a right to act in accordance with Christian beliefs at this point. He says the Church should move onto other issues, but that it is vital to stand up for the truth over this one!)

Way to go, Tanzania! What about here at home?

Speeches from these and others are here. All of them are just a few minutes long.

Carey pleads for prayer over Synod gay debate

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, has backed a plea by Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON) for churches to open their doors for prayer on 28 February 2007 – the day the General Synod of the Church of England debates two Private Members Motions (PMMs) related to the rights of so-called 'Gay Christians' in the church.

CCFON, a network of tens of thousands of Christians run by the public policy arm of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, is urging vicars, pastors, elders, ministers and all Christian leaders to make their church available for prayer.

Lord Carey and CCFON are encouraging Christians from all denominations to drop into a local church sometime between 9.30am to 7pm on February 28 (Synod's hours), to "ask for God's guidance for Synod members, and that they would make a public stand, backing marriage and the authority of Scripture". Read more

Connecticut bishop expects schism

[...] Connecticut Episcopal leaders said Tuesday that a final break with the international Anglican body could well be the outcome of a communiqué issued from Africa over the weekend demanding that the American church renounce its support for gay clergy and blessing civil unions.

The demand was made on Monday, at the end of a five-day meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, of the 38 primates - or archbishops - of the international Anglican Communion. The primates gave the U.S. Episcopal Church until Sept. 30 to formally renounce its policies on homosexuals.

Bishop Andrew Smith, the head of the Episcopal Diocese in Connecticut, doubts the U.S. bishops will reverse their stand.

"If the Council of Primates is asking us to undo what we have already done, that is a step many of the [American] bishops would be unwilling to take," Smith said. Read more

Schori 'wept during Primates' meeting'

No not Jesus, although I expect he did too, after recent events in the Anglicans' own very special incommunicado Big Brother-style Bishops' house in Dar es Salaam. I have it on good authority that TEC Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori actually wept during the Primates' meeting in Tanzania. Welcome to what it feels like to be a woman in the world of international Anglican politics, Bp Katharine. I learned to stop crying long ago. Read more

Bishop Martyn Minns responds to Communique

After the Press Conference, Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America who was attending the Primates Meeting with press credentials was surrounded by the Press. He commented:

This was a recognition of the division within the Episcopal Church. I believe they are trying to recognise a serious problem. The fact that the gospel is in the Covenant I am pleased at.

This communique is a serious recognition there is a difficulty. That is important. I hope Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia will recognise this. Read more

Leading Episcopalians ready to go

Several leading liberal Episcopalians said yesterday that they would rather accept a schism than accede to a demand from leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion for what they view as an unconscionable rollback of the U.S. church's position on gay rights.

The defiant reaction to the communique issued by the primates, or heads, of the Anglican Communion's 38 national churches on Monday at the conclusion of a weeklong meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, reflected a growing feeling on both sides of the dispute that time for compromise is running out.

"Yes, I would accept schism," said Bishop Steven Charleston, president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. "I would be willing to accept being told I'm not in communion with places like Nigeria if it meant I could continue to be in a position of justice and morality. If the price I pay is that I'm not considered to be part of a flawed communion, then so be it." Read more

Episcopal 'rainbow church' confused, defiant

There was a time when the Episcopal Church in the United States was known as “the Republican Party at prayer,” but in the last 30 years it has evolved into the Rainbow Coalition of Christianity.

There are hip-hop Masses, American Indian rituals to install a new presiding bishop and legions of gay and straight priests who don the rainbow stoles of gay liberation. Its pews are full of Roman Catholics and Christians from other traditions attracted by its aura of radical acceptance.

Now the conservatives who numerically dominate the global Anglican Communion have handed their Episcopal branch in the United States an ultimatum that requires the church to reel in the rainbow if it wants to remain a part of the Communion. Read more

Guardian Leader: victory for Nigeria, defeat for TEC, embarrassment for Williams

[...] This is a victory for the Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola, whose attempts to intervene in America by appointing a conservative evangelical priest now have official support, and a defeat for Episcopalian bishops who had hoped to be allowed to find their own path. It is also an embarrassment for the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose own progressive views on sexuality now have little to do with the preaching of his own church. He is left looking like a man who has put unity ahead of everything, including belief. In the wake of the deal, outsiders might be forgiven for asking what the Anglican communion now stands for, apart from its own continued existence. Read more

TEC: Liberals, Traditionalists in 'interpretive free-fall' over Covenant, Communique

Tensions between the worldwide Anglican Communion and its liberal U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, continued Tuesday as both sides fell to arguing over the requirements listed in documents released by the top bishops of the 77-million-member Communion.

On Monday, bishops released a draft "covenant" and a "communique" intended as a roadmap to mending divisions over views of the Bible, homosexuality and other questions.

On Tuesday, those trying to understand the documents squared off "in interpretive free-fall," says Canon Jim Naughton, spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. Progressives and traditionalists looked at the documents from the five-day meeting of 38 primates — leading bishops of national and regional churches — and drew opposite conclusions. Read more

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

MP bids to end hostility to RCs

DISCRIMINATION against Roman Catholics has to be removed if Britain is to become a truly tolerant society, one of East Anglia's senior MPs argued in the Commons yesterday

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who converted to the Catholic faith 13 years ago, presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the Commons which would end all statutory opposition to the Church and its adherents.

Mr Gummer said it was deeply offensive that the heir to the throne could not marry a Catholic without abandoning his right to succession. Read more

Canadian Primate: church must look 'seriously' at primates’ request

The Anglican primates’ directive for the U.S. church to unequivocally bar same-sex blessings and gay bishops is something that the Canadian church “will have to look at seriously,” according to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Archbishop Hutchison acknowledged that while the Canadian church has not ordained a gay bishop nor decided as a national church to allow same-sex blessings, it could face the same consequences “if it were to follow the same path” as The Episcopal Church. The American church’s decision in 2003 to ordain Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, has triggered near-schism in the Anglican Communion. Read more

Pink News: analysis from a 'gay' perspective

The final communique from the leaders of the Anglican church seems on the surface to provide a simple way forward.

The primates demand that the American church stop ordaining gay bishops and give a commitment not to bless same sex partnerships.

The Americans have been given until 30th September to make a statement pledging they will comply with these instructions. Read more

Rowan Williams comments and answers questions on the Primates' Communique

[...] Hence the recommendations of the Primates at the end; a proposal to establish a pastoral council; a responsibility shared between the Primates’ Meeting and the Presiding Bishop, asking those bishops who have already offered to take up this responsibility to provide pastoral care within The Episcopal Church for the conscientious minority and a challenge to both sides really, a challenge to The Episcopal Church to clarify its position; a challenge also to those who have intervened from elsewhere to see if they can negotiate their way towards an equitable settlement within the life of the North America Church.

You’ll notice that we also suggested, to pick up an unfortunate metaphor that’s been around quite a bit, the kind of ceasefire in terms of litigation. At the very end of the recommendations you’ll see that the very last paragraph that the primates urge representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it, to suspend all actions in law arising from this situation, None of us; none of us believe that litigation and counter litigation can be a proper way forward and we don’t see that we can move towards sensible balanced reconciliation while that remains a threat in wide use. Read more

Radio 4 item on Dar es Salaam Schedule

The reporter calls this "a way of buying time", not a solution, and can't see this being kept by the Americans (Charlie Brown's football again).

Theo Hobson thinks there will now be pressure within the Church of England for similar divisions to those in TEC. In his view, the established Church of England is on the Liberal course because it cannot afford to seem 'counter cultural' as the 'Church of the nation'.

The last two minutes of this item is the sports report, if you're interested!

Listen here.

Article (John Richardson): The Schedule - a battle to fight, a mountain to climb

Last night I went to bed (late!) wondering if the Primates’ Communique released (equally late) that evening really had teeth.

Forget the Covenant proposals which came out earlier. Indeed, forget most of the Communique itself, which consists of the usual niceties these occasions produce (does anyone remember a fraction of the Dromantine version?). The reader, wading through the first thirty-four paragraphs may well find themselves screaming ‘get to the point’.

And there it is, two paragraphs from the end: “Our discussions have drawn us into a much more detailed response than we would have thought necessary at the beginning of our meeting. But such is the imperative laid on us to seek reconciliation in the Church of Christ, that we have been emboldened to offer a number of recommendations. We have set these out in a Schedule to this statement.”

The point, then, is in the Schedule. And, even after a night sleeping on it, the Schedule indeed has teeth.

Basically, the Episcopal church is put under ‘special measures’. First, it is instructed by the Primates to allow the setting up of a Pastoral Council, part-nominated by the Primates, to provide care for disaffected parishes within TEC. Secondly, it allows a group of disaffected TEC bishops (the “Camp Allen” group) to nominate a ‘Primatial Vicar’, with the Presiding Bishop’s consent, to supplement her oversight. However, this person will be responsible to the aforementioned Council, most of whose members are not appointed by the Presiding Bishop.

Thirdly, it requires that the House of Bishops of TEC “make an unequivocal common covenant” not to authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions and not to give consent to any candidate for episcopal orders who is living in a same-sex union, unless or until a new consensus emerges throughout the Anglican Communion.

Fourthly, interventions by other Provinces into the United States will only cease when this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be “fully operational”. After that, congregations or parishes in current arrangements will negotiate their place within the new structures.

In case this is unclear, imagine the opposite situation arising in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is told by the overseas bishops that he must allow the setting up of a five-person panel to monitor what goes on in the Church of England, of which he can nominate only two and the Presiding Bishop of TEC will nominate one. Imagine him being told that a group of rebel Liberal bishops, allied to TEC, can nominate a ‘flying Archbishop’ (with his approval), who will answer to that panel. And then imagine him being told that the current moratorium on same-sex blessings and appointments such as that of Jeffrey John must cease and desist. Meanwhile, all those renegade parishes who have become part of American and Canadian ‘provinces’ in this country are allowed to go on as at present. Imagine, finally, this left one of our best-loved bishops excluded both as to his manner of life and his teaching.

Somehow, I don’t think Katherine Jefferts Schori is quite as comfortable with this as her initial public reaction tried to suggest.

Most telling of all is the ‘silence of the blogs’ — a place where the term ‘chattering classes’ really comes into its own. One blogger has found ‘wiggle room’ in the fact that the Schedule only prohibits the ‘authorizing’ of same-sex blessings, not their actual doing — a typical ‘Charlie Brown’ response, it must be said. Yet that is really no more than takes place in England at present, and we know how unsatisfactory it is to groups like Changing Attitude or Inclusive Church. The otherwise general lack of comment suggests the Liberals are as stunned as many Conservatives probably are.

The reality, as Stephen Bates has pointed out in the Guardian, is that the Schedule is unprecedented in the sanctions it places on TEC. And this is why the Covenant is an irrelevance. The line in the sand is, for once, clearly drawn, and it is drawn here, not in some putative future document. If TEC steps across, no Covenant on earth is going to rescue the Anglican Communion if sanctions do not follow. That battle, however, has yet to be fought, as TEC has until September to respond.

We therefore must move to a new, and urgent, task, which is actually to develop and justify the Anglican Communion’s response to those who experience, and in many cases wish to express, same-sex attraction. Compliance by TEC with the Dar-es-Salaam Schedule will not make them go away — nor should they.

Assuming all that the Schedule demands comes into effect — which is a very big assumption — the Anglican Communion will indeed have plugged a hole that was threatening to sink the ship. But it will be very far from seaworthy! If it has rejected one version of the ‘full inclusion’ of people with same-sex attractions, it has yet to develop a fully-rounded version of its own. And that presents us with another mountain to climb.

Revd John P Richardson

Stephen Bates: Unprecedented sanctions on TEC

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, kept the worldwide Anglican communion together, at least in the short term, but at the cost of imposing unprecedented sanctions on the US Episcopal church to force it to abandon its liberal policies towards gay people. Read more

Anglican leaders say U.S. church must bar gay bishops and prayers for gay couples

Anglican leaders demanded that the U.S. Episcopal Church unequivocally bar official prayers for gay couples and the consecration of more gay bishops to undo the damage that North Americans have caused the Anglican family.

In a statement ending a tense six-day meeting on Monday, the leaders said that past pledges by Episcopalians for a moratorium on gay unions and consecrations have been so ambiguous that they have failed to fully mend "broken relationships" in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of world Anglicanism, must clarify its position by Sept. 30 or its relations with other Anglicans will remain "damaged at best." Read more

(Gay) marriage counselling needed for for Anglican-Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion and U.S. Episcopal Church are in serious need of marriage counseling after the last five days events in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The marriage is falling apart over opposing views on homosexuality, blessing same-sex unions, and the 2003 consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a gay man in a committed relationship. Read more

Anglican Church leaders give ultimatum to liberals

The liberal American branch of Anglicanism was last night given seven months to prove that it has fully reversed its pro-gay agenda or face expulsion.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Tanzanian Archbishop Mtetemela
Dr Rowan Williams confers with the Tanzanian Archbishop Donald Mtetemela

In a strongly-worded unanimous communiqué, only agreed at the eleventh hour, the Anglican primates called on the Episcopal Church to state unequivocally that it will not consecrate more gay bishops or authorise same-sex blessings. Read more

"Integrity" wants bishops to reject Primates' demands

“The primates of the Anglican Communion have utterly failed to recognize the faith, relationships, and vocations of the gay and lesbian baptized,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, responding to the communiqué released today from Dar Es Salaam.

“Let us pray it doesn’t take another hundred years for yet-unborn primates to gather for a service of repentance for what the church has done to its gay and lesbian members today, as they repented in Zanzibar yesterday forwhat it did to those the church failed to embrace as full members of theBody of Christ.” Read more

NY Times: Anglicans Rebuke U.S. Branch

Facing a possible churchwide schism, the Anglican Communion yesterday gave its Episcopal branch in the United States less than eight months to ban blessings of same-sex unions or risk a reduced role in the world’s third-largest Christian denomination.

Anglican leaders also established a separate council and a vicar to help address the concerns of conservative American dioceses that have been alienated by the Episcopal Church’s support of gay clergy and blessings of same-sex unions. Although the presiding American bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, agreed to the arrangement, some conservatives described it as an extraordinary check on her authority. Read more

Anglican leaders say U.S. church must bar same-sex blessings, election of gay bishops

Primates of the Anglican Communion have given the U.S. Episcopal Church until September 30 to “make an unequivocal common covenant” that its bishops will not allow same-sex blessings in their churches and that it would not consent to the election and consecration of a bishop living in a same-sex union “unless some new consensus on this matter emerges” across the Anglican world.

Failure to do so would mean that “the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remain damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion,” the communiqué warned. It did not specify what those “consequences” would be. Read more

Rome on the rise in England?

If you didn’t know better, you would think that the Times of London is trying to tell us something.

While religion writer Ruth Gledhill has been slaving away trying to cover the behind-closed-door negotiations among the Anglican primates in Tanzania, she has also been serving up print and online reports about another major religion story or two, stories that hinge on a high-profile role for the Church of Rome in England. Read more

TEC given deadline (and non-specific threat)

The Anglican Communion gave the U.S. Episcopal Church a September deadline on Monday to stop blessing same sex unions, but did gave no clear indication of what action it would then take.
Click to learn more...

Anglican Church leaders are meeting in Tanzania to reconcile conservative and liberal views on homosexuality, exacerbated by the U.S. Episcopal Church's consecration of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

In a statement issued in the final hour of the tense meeting, the Anglican Communion gave the U.S. church the September 30 deadline to meet the request first issued in 2004. Read more

Various reactions on Thinking Anglicans blog

"It could have been much worse."

"If TEC accepts this, then they have as little integrity as the rest of the communion."

"The question isn't *whether* to say "Back to Hell with This!", but HOW???"

"This is a disgraceful document. The Episcopal Church is uniquely humiliated and degraded."

"The fundigelicals have got everything they wanted."

"I find it difficult to understand how the Primates can expect the Anglican Communion to respect what they say when the cannot manage consensus among themselves, and it certainly devalues the recommendations that follow."

"it doesn't look good"

Read more.

Schori: Episcopal charism is to encourage discussion

"It is clear that despite the subcommittee report, a number of the Primates were unhappy with General Convention's response, and clarification of that response is among the Primates' requests of the Episcopal Church," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, one of the Anglican Communion's 38 Primates, said after their meeting's final business session adjourned at 11 p.m. local time.

"There is awareness that these issues are of concern in many Provinces of the Communion, and that the Episcopal Church's charism is to continue to encourage the discussion," said Jefferts Schori, who will offer additional comment after further reflection and her nearly 20-hour journey back to New York. Read more

Raspberry Rabbit blog: I suppose TEC will say no

[...] I suppose TEC will say no to many of these suggestions. That's where I'm placing my money. As somebody who comes from another Province (Canada) and working in still yet another (Scotland) it would actually make life easier for us if you did say no. Read more

Anglican Scotist Blog: so be it if we are thrown out

[...] this document contemplates a vast alteration in the Episcopal Church's polity; we may very well never be autonomous again if we say "Yes" to it, as the divisions institutionalized by the document will not heal, at least in our lifetimes. These changes, and the institutionalized division they imply, are not worth upholding a dead remnant of British Imperial power. For the Anglican Communion is not a church in itself, and its authority is not properly ecclesial. It will be up to the House of Bishops to say "No" clearly. Would that they had the courage! I am confident General Convention would turn it down.

As a consequence, we can expect to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion--so be it. That is part of the price to be paid. It is not worth compromising our being as church in order to belong to that unchurch. Read more

Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church 'cautious welcome' to Communique

Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude give a cautious welcome to the communiqué issued today by the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Dar Es Salaam. We commend the work that the primates have done to further the mission of the church and to strengthen the bonds of the Anglican Communion. In particular we value the progress achieved on the listening process and the Anglican Covenant.The standard of teaching on human sexuality set out in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 has never been one that Christian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people have accepted. It was drafted and agreed in our absence. The bishops who drafted the original version of the Resolution refused to meet us and hear our testimony. It is not possible for us to be bound by teaching drafted by a largely male, heterosexual body of bishops. The Anglican Communion can never come to an integrated teaching on human sexuality until it has listened with open mind and heart to our experience and Christian testimony. We subscribe to a high Christian sexual and relational ethic. We object outright to the idea that it is possible to divide our innate sexual identity as lesbian and gay people from what the church insists on calling 'genital activity'. Like heterosexuals we believe the love between two mature adults should be expressed in a faithful, life-long partnership in which sexual expression is integral. Read more

Ruth Gledhill: TEC put on notice

There has been a surprising, late-night development from Tanzania. I had speculated that the softness so far towards TEC augured a tough line in the Covenant and Communique, but even I did not expect anything quite so hard-line. Read more

Monday, 19 February 2007

Oh Grandma, are those actually teeth you've got? First impressions of the Primates' Communique

My first reaction to the final Communique from the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania is that it does look as if it might actually, and against all the odds and expectations, have teeth. I may be mistaken - but this seems to be the relevant material from the Schedule to the Communique:

On Clarifying the Response to Windsor

The Primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the Primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made [4]. While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.

In particular, the Primates request, through the Presiding Bishop, that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
1. make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention (cf TWR, §143, 144); and
2. confirm that the passing of Resolution B033 of the 75th General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent (cf TWR, §134);
unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion (cf TWR, §134).

The Primates request that the answer of the House of Bishops is conveyed to the Primates by the Presiding Bishop by 30th September 2007. If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.

I keep looking at this wondering if it is actually a mirage, or whether I'm somehow missing the point.

The test will be reactions on non-Conservative blogs over the next 24 hours, and I will be watching those closely, and publishing links here.

John Richardson

Primates' Meeting: the fat lady sings

Ed: Congratulations to EVnews on getting out the Primates' Communique with the schedule for actions to be taken with regard to TEC.

I've not had a chance to read and digest, but at first glance it looks like an 'OFSTED' style proposal to put The Episcopal Church in 'special measures' like a failing school in the English educational system.

Read the whole thing here.

Primates' Meeting: The fat lady warms up

Ed: This is the first posting I have been able to discover of the Communique from the Primates' Meeting. It is on the Fulcrum website, and I don't know where they got it from. I also don't entirely agree with Graham Kings' assessment that "it is very good". However, the substance is in paragraphs 17-35.

The key statement, however, is this:

35. Our discussions have drawn us into a much more detailed response than we would have thought necessary at the beginning of our meeting. But such is the imperative laid on us to seek reconciliation in the Church of Christ, that we have been emboldened to offer a number of recommendations. We have set these out in a Schedule to this statement. We offer them to the wider Communion, and in particular to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in the hope that they will enable us to find a way forward together for the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process. We also hope that the provisions of this pastoral scheme will mean that no further interventions will be necessary since bishops within The Episcopal Church will themselves provide the extended episcopal ministry required.

However, the Schedule is yet to be published!

Read the Communique

Charlie Brown's football: why the Covenant is irrelevant

Remember those Peanuts cartoons where Lucy holds the ball for Charlie Brown to kick it? Every time Charlie Brown runs up, Lucy whips it away at the last minute, and every time Charlie Brown finishes up flat on his back.

The joke, of course, is not that Lucy always behaves the same way, but in the fact that Charlie Brown does. Lucy always acts according to character, but against all experience, Charlie Brown always acts as if she won’t.

Welcome, then, to the world of the Anglican Covenant. Doubtless over the next weeks and months there will be much time and energy spent analysing it, wondering if it will do the job for which it is designed, namely to provide a framework of discipline for the Anglican Communion.

In the same way, we might examine Charlie Brown’s football. Is it the regulation size and shape? Is it inflated to the right pressure? Are the stitches secure? And what about Lucy’s grip. Is her finger holding the ball upright? Will she be in the way of Charlie Brown’s kick?

We might examine all these things, and deliver the same verdict as does Charlie Brown himself. It all looks good enough. But it makes not a jot of difference. What matters is that Lucy is going to pull the ball away. How do we know? Because that is what she does.

And so the content of the Anglican Covenant is, to all intents and purposes, an irrelevance. What matters is what will be done with it by the constituent Churches of the Communion. And we already know what that is.

Let us ask ourselves this: was Lambeth Resolution 1.10 clear? Was the Windsor Report sufficiently specific? Was the Dromantine Communique properly worded? The answer to these questions is surely yes, certainly, of course.

And did the Episcopal Church in America heed the call to discipline which they expressed? The answer is that even the generous report presented to the Primates in Tanzania only gave them two out of three on compliance with the Windsor Report. Yet has it been made clear by the Primates that this is not good enough? The answer to these questions is no, and of course not.

Charlie Brown’s problem lies not with the ball but with his own attitude towards Lucy. He refuses to face the fact that she is deceitful and he is gullible. And in the same way, a discussion of the Anglican Covenant per se, without addressing the events that brought the Primates to Tanzania in the first place, will be a refusal to face the institutional dishonesty that runs through the Anglican Church like ‘Brighton’ through a stick of rock.

By all means, let us discuss the Covenant’s first draft. Let us dissect it, tweak it and refine it. It will bolster the spirits of the optimistic. It will keep the bureaucrats happy. It will keep us all at the table talking. And no doubt, what we will see in a few months time is a very fine Covenant.

And while we’re about it, let’s buy Charlie Brown a new football.

Revd John P Richardson
19 February 2007

Williams 'going cool on gay issues' over union with Rome

The ongoing row over gays in the Anglican church took a new turn today with the revelation that senior church figures are considering submitting to the authority of the Pope.

A commission set up in 2000 to consider ways of re-uniting the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches is due to report later this year.

The Times newspaper published extracts of the report today, and it includes the proposal that the Anglican church should work towards recognising the Pope as head of the church.

While the concept of a reunification of the Western churches under one patriarch has been discussed for decades, the present anti-gay stance of Pope Benedict XVI has alarmed gay Anglicans.

Commenting on the leaked report, Fr Martin Reynolds, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, told

"It is not good news, because the present Pope is conducting a worldwide war against gay marriage.

"There is evidence to suggest that Rowan (Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury) is going cool on gay issues." Read more

IC Blog: Covenant looks OK

The draft of the proposed covenant is out. On a very fast first reading, it seems OK, if one accepts the idea that a covenant is acceptable within the Anglican ethos.

The section which concerns me most is the very last section. It basically suggests that we should seek accord in controversial matters and -- this is a gross simplification -- let the primates decide everything. I understand that the primates would put themselves in power, but I think they might want to contemplate +Rowan's sermon yesterday. If we're going to have a supreme authority, which I wholly oppose, the ACC would be a much more logical choice. But then, the ACC has lay people as constituent members, and when did bishops ever let lay people do anything? Read more

Things 'looking good' for Inclusive Church as press conference delayed

The press conference, scheduled for 6:45 p.m., has not begun. It is almost an hour late. I have solid information about the reasons for the delay, and some of the news that will emerge. From what I have heard, things are looking very good from an Inclusive Church perspective.

Will post news when I can, as soon as the conference is over. Also, Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude will release a statement as quickly as possible once the event is over. Read more