Saturday, 14 April 2007

Girls 'becoming more violent'

Girls are becoming increasingly violent when they bully other children, a university study suggests.

Researchers from Brunel University highlight the growing phenomenon of the "girl gang" and warn this is leading to more aggressive behaviour among girls. Read more

Propaganda ad agency working for Church of England

The Church of England has appointed strategic and creative agency Propaganda to evaluate and develop its fledgling Back to Church Sunday campaign.

The Church sought out the Leeds-based agency, which was involved in the Channel 4 series Priest Idol, in an attempt to understand more clearly the points of connection between church and culture today. Read more

Chelmsford Chief Executive commends 'Back to Church Sunday'

Incumbents and clergy in the Diocese of Chelmsford have received a letter from the Chief Executive, Stephen Webb, encouraging them to get involved in 'Back to Church Sunday', and telling them how and when to order resource packs (it is worth pointing out,though, that you don't have to order these packs to be involved in B2CS, so don't be put off by the 'deadline'):

Dear Incumbent,


I hope that you are having a wonderful Eastertide and that you are inspired to help create new life within your parish.

At the Diocesan synod in March a debate took place on whether we should join in with the national "Back to Church Sunday" campaign. The idea met with wholehearted approval and I am now writing to recommend that you participate in this exciting and easy effort to encourage people back to church.

"Back to Church Sunday" on 30th September 2007 is a day when parishes are encouraged to make an effort to be especially "user friendly" to visitors. It is just about the easiest piece of evangelism a parish can do. It was originally piloted in Manchester Diocese and gradually it is being broadened out across the Church of England. This year Chelmsford is backing it as a diocese, although one deanery did pilot it last year and found it to be a success.

The concept is simple. There are many people out there who have at some time been involved with church who no longer attend. Our aim is to welcome those people back to God and the church.

Recent research undertaken by Tearfund demonstrates that contrary to the secular image of the country, Christianity remains the dominant faith. One in seven adults go to church every month. Perhaps more surprising was the finding that some three million people who have stopped going to church or who have never been in their lives, would consider attending given the right invitation. "Back to Church Sunday" is about providing that invitation.

In order to work "Back to Church Sunday" needs the engagement of your congregation. As the Bishop of Manchester has been quoted, "The key seems to be the quality of the personal invitation by the members of the church and the quality of the welcome when they come back. Thousands have renewed their relationship with God and their local church."

The national church has engaged a PR agency to help promote the event and support the initiative. There will be national and local publicity, co-ordinated by our Director of Communications, about Back to Church Sunday and people will be encouraged to attend their local church on 30th September. Newcomers are attracted to the idea of coming back to church when there are likely to be other new people there.

Some people will come back just because they hear or read about it and we will endeavour to raise the profile by using our local media, but they real key is the personal invitation to come in.

This really is simple and achievable without any great outlay. It plays to some of our strengths as kindly, welcoming, rational people who want to share our experience of God.

Evidence thus far suggests that what attracts people back to church and prompts them to stay is not that they find a "perfect church" but the sense that there is a caring community, interested and committed to friendship.

There are thousands of people out there waiting for us to invite them in and on 30 September that is what we aim to do.

I refer to you the following websites that will give you further information:

This year Traidcraft is sponsoring the national resources that are available for your use. They have produced a Back to Church Pack which comes in two sizes. The Small pack contains 100 prayer card invitations, 10 posters and Welcome balloons and it costs £20. The Big Pack also contains 5 welcome team t-shirts and costs £45.

These packs can only be ordered through this office and orders need to be sent by me to arrive by 21st May. Realistically I need your order by 17th May 2007 so that I can collate all the orders and forward a combined order. When sending me your order can you please send a cheque to cover the cost made payable to "Back to Church Sunday'. If your parish cannot use all of these invitations then I would encourage you to combine with another parish in your deanery and place a joint order.

I hope that you and your parish will throw yourselves into this effort and I look forward to hearing from you with an order.

I also refer you to the enclosed poster for the "Walk back to the future" which is this year's Bradwell Pilgrimage. Please display it prominently in your church.

Yours Sincerely,

Steven G Webb
Chief Executive

Teachers demand ban on new faith schools

Teachers have demanded a halt to the government's plans for a new generation of faith schools.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) annual conference in Belfast today stopped short of calling for existing faith schools to be phased out. Read more

Telegraph: How did the death of Jesus save us?

I am afraid that Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Alban's, popularised a sort of blood libel against God as an unintended consequence of a BBC radio talk before Easter, when he attacked views that made God seem like "a monster". Read more

Florida Diocese goes ahead with litigation

An Anglican church in Jacksonville, Fla., lost its church property to the Episcopal diocese in a court ruling earlier this week.

Judge Karen Cole ruled that Redeemer Anglican Church belongs to the Diocese of Florida, which put parish members on legal hold until an official report is issued for review.

"We are naturally disappointed that the diocese ignored the appeals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Panel of Reference," Redeemer's rector, the Rev. Neil Lebhar, told VirtueOnline, a voice for global Orthodox Anglicanism. "We had hoped that the Primates Communiqué would be taken seriously and honored by the Diocese of Florida." Read more

We have made our youth degenerate

[...] I feel, in an unwarranted and perhaps unprecedented burst of compassion, that I must acquit our youth of responsibility for their degeneracy.

Why are some so weak-minded compared with those 18-year-olds who, within living memory, went over the top on the Somme, or splashed through machine-gun fire onto the Normandy beaches?

Why do youths feel it is acceptable to beat up their teachers? Why do so many of them see no harm in carrying a knife and, at the slightest provocation, using it?

The answer is simple. It is because we, their elders, have made them like this. Read more

Finding Brown Owls challenge for Britain’s biggest sisterhood

[...] They opened 600 new packs last year and have 50,000 more girls waiting to join, who cannot do so because Brown Owls have become an endangered species. So she is torn between two female generations: daring girls to pursue their dreams, while persuading working women to make the time to join hands in a fairy circle every week.

“I don’t know if I’d describe us as a victim of feminism, really. I mean I think the promotion of advancement for girls and women is something that is a passion for us.

“I just feel there are elements of the current population of adult women that we need to knock on the door and invite in.” Read more

Friday, 13 April 2007

What Southern Baptists think of Jeffrey John and Giles Fraser

What gets said here gets heard everywhere. A Southern Baptist broadcaster in the US has picked up on Jeffrey John's radio broadcast and makes his own response: listen here, (it's about 2/5 way through).

Why men flock to Islam, not church

One evening I was speaking to a group in upstate New York. I posed the rhetorical question, “Why do men flock to Islam while avoiding Christianity?” I didn’t expect an answer, but one woman blurted out, “If Christianity required women to walk behind their husbands and wear burquas, then we’d have a church full of men.”

So is male dominance the key to Islam's rapid growth? Must a religion oppress women to attract men? I posed these questions to David DeMeo, professor of Middle Eastern and Arabic studies at Harvard. I sum up his response this way: Islam is a religion that delivers results for men. Too often, Christianity does not. Read more

Muslims 'being radicalized in prisons'

YOUNG Muslims incarcerated in Britain's jails are being radicalised by the prison system itself, rather than hardline Imams, a Scottish expert in Islamic studies claimed yesterday.

Dr Gabriele Marranci, a lecturer in anthropology of religion at Aberdeen University, has spent four years interviewing Muslims in jails throughout Britain in a study to discover how life behind bars is affecting their Muslim identity and their experience of Islam.

His detailed report reveals that current efforts by the prison authorities to curb radicalism within the UK's jails are in fact fostering extremism.

He said that Muslims who chose to display their faith by growing beards or wearing Islamic caps were being discriminated against in prison. The reluctance of prison Imams to talk about Iraq and other flashpoints in the Islamic world was serving only to leave young and vulnerable Muslims to be "self-educated" behind bars. Read more

Teachers blame 'Life on Mars' for rise in 'homophobic bullying'

Television shows such as Life on Mars, which contain dialogue deemed belittling to gay people, risk fuelling a rise in homophobic bullying in schools, a teachers' leader warned yesterday.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was speaking after a survey revealed that gay teachers were more likely to be singled out for taunts by pupils than any other group. Read more

Pope: evolution 'not proven'

Benedict XVI, in his first extended reflections on evolution published as pope, says that Charles Darwin's theory cannot be finally proven and that science has unnecessarily narrowed humanity's view of creation - but stopped short of endorsing intelligent design.

InCreation and Evolution, published on Wednesday in German, the Pope praised progress gained by science, but cautioned that evolution raises philosophical questions science alone cannot answer. Read more

The prospect of all-female conception

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue. Read more

Archbishop of Wales Calls for Women Bishops

Churches should allow women priests to become bishops, the leader of the Anglican Church in Wales has urged.

Archbishop Barry Morgan, a strong supporter of women priests, expressed his views to the Church in Wales's powerful governing body during its annual conference at the University of Wales in Swansea.

The Archbishop maintains ordaining women as bishops is the ”only logical step” for the Church in Wales to take after allowing female priests. A final decision on whether to allow the move is expected in a year's time. Read more

CT Letter: Giles Fraser wrong about evangelicals and resurrection

I always enjoy the provocative comments of the Revd Dr Giles Fraser, and am frequently personally challenged by his comments about Evangelicals, a group that he sees as fair game for ridicule. In seeming to claim the high ground for liberals over the meaning of Easter (Comment, 5 April), however, he has, I think, misunderstood Evangelicals — and a fair number of other persuasions within the Church.

When he says that, for those who hold a strong view on the events of Calvary, the resurrection is “almost an unnecessary add-on”, he completely misreads Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, of both the Anglo- and Roman viewpoints, and the Orthodox.

The Cross, which seems to Fraser to be almost an irrelevance, is the main point of controversy that divides Christians from others. It is described as a stumbling point in the Bible, and so it is today. Were it not for the Cross, we would not have had the resurrection. Read more

Dean John stands by condemnation of 'God's wrath'

Dr Jeffrey John
Got hate mail: Dean Jeffrey John

THE Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, received “a deluge of hate-filled messages” after public condemnation in advance of his Lent talk broadcast on Holy Wednesday evening on BBC Radio 4. Many, he says in a letter to the Church Times published today, were “abusive and obscene”. The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, and the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, responded before they had heard or read the full text of Dr John’s reflection on the crucifixion, but after previews by The Sunday Telegraph, and, on the Wednesday morning, by the BBC’s Today programme. The Dean describes the Sunday Telegraph report as “partial and inflammatory”, and accompanied by a “scandalously false” headline: “Easter message: Christ did not die for our sins”. Read more

'Fresh Expressions' are just old institutionalism

[...] I find the whole rhetoric of "new ways of being church" vacuous and cynical. The truth is that the institutional churches want to promote innovation in order to control it, to own it. A website on which people pretend to be at church is supremely unthreatening. Perhaps it will impress one or two onlookers as far-sighted. Its real function is to reassure those in the churches that they belong to a daring organisation.

By playing with trendy gimmicks the churches are evading the scale of the crisis they face. Christianity cannot recapture the cultural imagination by means of such trivia. It is institutionalism itself that is the problem. A genuinely fresh expression of Christianity will not be church-sponsored; it will be independent of every institutional church, and therefore it will be condemned as dangerous, anarchic and not really Christian at all. You'll know something interesting has at last happened in Christian culture when the clergy stop grinning and start frowning. Read more

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Spectator: Our enemies are right to mock us

[...] Grandiosity and lack of character are two sides of the same coin. When someone believes that he is born not with original sin, but with original virtue, he comes also to believe that all his opinions, all his ends and all his actions are, by definition, pure, moral and therefore right. He is able to change from moment to moment, and even to act in a completely unscrupulous manner, secure in the knowledge that he is the moral equivalent of the Cheshire Cat. He may act in contradictory ways and change his opinions to their very opposites, but the purity of motive remains behind when everything else has disappeared. Such a person can have no honour, for honour implies a loyalty to a fixed standard, even or especially when it is not in that person’s immediate or instrumental interest to uphold it. Read more

Blair blames murders on black culture

Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.

One accused him of misunderstanding the advice he had been given on the issue at a Downing Street summit.

Black community leaders reacted after Mr Blair said the recent violence should not be treated as part of a general crime wave, but as specific to black youth. He said people had to drop their political correctness and recognise that the violence would not be stopped "by pretending it is not young black kids doing it". Read more

Canadian bishops warned they are 'near the edge'

Dear Bishops,

Greetings to you in this season of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This letter is an expression of grave concern that the motions recently proposed by the Council of General Synod for debate at this summer's meeting will lead us to exclusion from the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Primates, in their Dar es Salaam Communiqué, clearly request that The Episcopal Church and, by implication, the Anglican Church of Canada reaffirm Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as the teaching of the Communion on human sexuality and also that the necessary assurance is made that we will not authorize the blessing of same-sex unions. It is clear to us that unless you, as a House, call us back from the edge we will lose our place as a full member of the Communion that we hold dear. Read more

How the Tehran 15 showed us up

[...] The Tehran 15 showed a lack of faith, an egocentric assumption that their personal desires took precedence over their obligations. That attitude certainly raises questions about their training, as some commentators observed. But the matter has implications beyond this single situation.

A nation's military is a microcosm of the surrounding society. If that society is morally deficient, then so too will be the military. Anyone who's visited London in recent years will have noticed the increasing vulgarity of British society -- from the omnipresent security cameras to the crudity of the Soho crowds. Why? British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple sums it up: "The underlying problem is a lack of purpose, a lack of feeling of belonging to anything larger than one's own little life. This gives rise to quite a large amount of social pathology." Read more

Oxford Churches give service invites

Hundreds of Oxfordshire people will be invited "back to church" during a national event in September.

So far 34 of the county's churches have signed up for Back to Church Sunday (BTCS) on Sunday, September 30.

The idea behind the event is to attract people keen to go to a service, but who would like to be invited. Research carried out by Christian relief and development agency Tearfund found one in seven adults in the UK attends a Christian church and 3m who do not said they would if they were invited. Woodstock's St Mary Magdalene Church took part in BTCS last year and enjoyed a boost in numbers attending. Read more

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

I'd always been pro-abortion ..until the day I became a mother

(Ed: Though isn't this a slightly odd statement to make?)

[...] It's in everyone's best interest for a termination to be performed as soon after the pregnancy starts as possible. Read more

The Independent: Teachers told to praise the unruly as strike looms over discipline

Schools have been ordered to take a "softly, softly" approach to school discipline by praising difficult pupils, despite teachers' leaders vowing to step up strike action to protect themselves against attacks. The guidelines, introduced yesterday by the Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, ask teachers to praise difficult pupils and give special prizes to encourage good behaviour.

Teachers should, on average, reward children five times as often as they punish them for disrupting lessons, the guidance says. Read more

The Daily Mail: Classroom thugs told: Disrupt school and win an iPod!

School tearaways are to be offered mountain bikes and iPods in return for good behaviour.

In a government campaign against soaring indiscipline, teachers are being told to reward disruptive pupils with prizes and privileges.

Badly-behaved youngsters must be praised five times as often as they are punished or criticised under guidelines unveiled by Education Secretary Alan Johnson. Read more

Bennison claims hidden agenda at SA Anglican meeting

An Episcopal bishop recently revealed that the latest Anglican conference, while publicly centered on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, had a hidden agenda - concern over the issue of homosexuality.

More than 400 people had convened in Boksburg, South Africa, last month for the Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) conference. While discussing concerns on HIV/AIDS, poverty, women and education, Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison said the hidden agenda of the gathered Anglicans "concerned how our House of Bishops would respond by the Sept. 30 deadline set in the Feb. 19 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Communiqué." Read more

Primate of Canada blames Williams for looming schism

Canadian Archbishop Andrew Hutchison said the Anglican Communion is headed for schism and blamed the Archbishop of Canterbury for not being more decisive at critical moments.

The remarks come less than a week before Archbishop Rowan Williams is scheduled to make his first official visit to Canada since assuming the See of Canterbury in 2002. On April 17, Archbishop Williams will lead a retreat for members of the Canadian House of Bishops gathered for their spring retreat at the Mount Carmel Retreat Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont. Read more

Liberal TEC perspectives: one problem, many views

[...] "Inevitably you have some ambitious people who come to power in the Third World branches of the Anglican Communion, and they've never had an opportunity to beat up on the Episcopal Church before," he said. "So when Bishop Robinson was consecrated, it gave them a wonderful opportunity to hammer the Episcopal Church. People like Bishop Akinola have seen the consecration of Bishop Robinson as an opportunity for getting power."

Identity crisis

"We see this very differently," said Rev. Paris Coffey, pastor of St. Christopher in Oak Park, "and we're in the same deanery, so you can see how difficult it is to talk about how the whole church sees the issue."

Coffey believes that, at it's core, the issue is identity. To explain, she told a personal story. When she was a teenager in a conservative Presbyterian church, she was "kicked out" of the congregation for arguing about the doctrine of predestination. When she tried out an Episcopal church, she discovered that "not only were the questions tolerated, they were welcomed and encouraged." She said, "My great love of the Anglican Church, since my introduction to it, was the great freedom for many diverse opinions to be held in one community, understanding that the gospel was larger than any single issue." Read more

Bp of Dallas commits to traditional line on sexuality

[...] The House of Bishops' document we have received says nothing we have not known before now. I said after the 2006 Convention, "There can be no question, given the facts as they have emerged since the Convention that the leadership of the Episcopal Church is set on a course that will not change." This document underscores that assessment. Many will take great joy and comfort in this prospect. Many have already drawn this conclusion and departed our Church.

On the other hand, the document changes nothing about where this Diocese stands. We have a long record of supporting the Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10, of supporting the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process. The Standing Committee and Executive Council have supported the Communique. We have overwhelmingly affirmed our desire to remain connected to the Anglican Communion. Read more

The British way of murder

[...] As with any widely publicized murder in Britain these days, an outpouring of sentiment ensued. Mourners left flowers (still in cellophane wrapping) at the site, and the press conducted interviews with the victim’s relatives, who never seemed too distressed to grab a moment of fame, and who noted that the victim was a wonderful person. Then followed the typically emasculated detective, whose first thought, at least for public broadcast, was for the grieving relatives, and who said that this was a senseless murder, implying that perhaps there are perfectly sensible ones. Read more

Monday, 9 April 2007

Police order boy, 5, to stop chalking hopscotch 'graffiti' on the street

A boy of five playing hopscotch with friends looked up to find himself confronted by two police officers.

They ordered Ryan Badland and his five playmates to stop because chalking the grids on the road in their quiet cul-de-sac was "graffiti".

"I couldn't believe it," said Ryan's mother Lisa, 30, at their home in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. Read more

Rowan Williams: Easter Sermon

[...] Now what the events of Good Friday and Easter tell us is that every single human being is implicated in something profoundly wrong. We say, rather glibly, that Jesus died for our sins, that he died to save humankind – and thereby we say that we are all in need of something we cannot find or manufacture for ourselves, in need of a word, a gift, a touch from someone else, somewhere else, so that we can be made free of whatever it is that keeps us in the clutch of illusions and failures. If the purpose of Jesus dying was that all might be made whole, the implication is that all have been sick. So that Good Friday tells all of us, those who think they’re good and those who know they’re bad, all alike, to look inside and ask what part we would have played in the drama of the Lord’s death. There is only one innocent character in that drama and it isn’t me or you. So for all of us there is something in our lives that would, if it came to it, if it reigned unchecked in us, allow us to range ourselves with the crucifiers – some habit of selfishness or fear, some prejudice, some guilt that we don’t want confronted, some deficit in love or lovability. In some way, however small, we have already contributed to the death of Jesus. He is there on the cross because we are the way we are. Read more

Time for Williams and Sentamu to swap jobs

There is a story about William Whitelaw which, in a touching if faintly damning way, sums up the plight of the Church of England. It involves the moment when the Conservative politician was told that, somewhat unexpectedly. Robert Runcie was to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Whitelaw, who had admired Runcie’s military record during the Second World War, was delighted. “Splendid news,” he said. “Fine man, Runcie. I knew him in the Army; very brave, very brave.” He then concluded: “Quite religious too, you know.” Read more

The threat to monogamy from gay marriage

[...] Gay marriage threatens monogamy in two ways. First, gay marriage threatens monogamy because homosexual couples — particularly male homosexual couples — tend to see monogamy as nonessential, even to the most loyal and committed relationships. Of course, advocates argue that legal gay marriage will change all that — that marriage will make gays more monogamous. But it is just as likely (indeed, far more likely) that the effect will go in the other direction — openly non-monogamous married gay couples will break the connection between marriage and monogamy… [And in relation to this, Kurtz has proved prophetic.]

Even more powerfully, gay marriage threatens monogamy through its tendency to lead, on a slippery slope, to the legalization of polygamy and polyamory…

It’s important to understand what the danger of openly non-monogamous gay marriages, and of legalized polygamy and polyamory, really is. The key problem here is not, say, that polygamous marriages are unfair or exploitative to women. (That is a legitimate concern, of course, but it is not the greatest social danger posed by legalized polygamy.) The real problem is the effect of openly non-monogamous gay unions, and of legalized polygamy and polyamory, on the ethos of monogamy. Read more

Sunday, 8 April 2007

One woman's journey on abortion

[...] In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life. But perhaps the fact of life isn't what is important. It's whether that life has grown enough to take on human characteristics, to start becoming a person.

In its early stages, the foetus clearly hasn't, so I have no problems with early abortions. In fact, I think they should be given on demand, as they are in France, rather than the UK system which forces women to get two different doctors' signatures in order to get an abortion.

But once an embryo has developed enough to feel pain, or begin a personality, then it has moved from cell life into the first stages of being a human. Then, for me, ending that life is wrong. Read more

Bishop of Rochester praises Iran

A leading Church of England bishop has claimed the Iranian president showed a better understanding of “moral and spiritual” values at the end of the naval hostage crisis than Britain’s political leaders.

Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, contrasted the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad favourably with Britain’s “free-floating” attitudes. Read more