(It's April 23rd, in case you didn't know.)
Patriotic firm gives workers a St George's day off
Greater London Authority hits back at St George's day criticisms
St George's day recipes
And finally ...
Does Officialdom Prevent St George's Day Joy?
The English can't celebrate St George's Day because it is boycotted by officialdom, a new survey shows.
While St Patrick's Day last month boasted a host of parades and boozy celebrations - which millions of Englanders joined in with - nearly half (45 per cent) of English folk complained that there are no similar festivities planned to celebrate the dragon-slaying patron saint of England. Read more
Friday, 20 April 2007
(It's April 23rd, in case you didn't know.)
[...] Do you remember, a good few years back, some chap called Gerald Ratner who owned a chain of high street jewellery stores?
For those that don't, it came out in the national press that Ratner, speaking at a private function, said the jewellery his stores sold was "total crap".
The chain - which had a strong brand name, even if Ratner's diagnosis was not far short of the mark - went into near ruin.
Now I'm not saying that Dean John's comments are going to bring the Church of England to its knees, but I do think he should be more careful about what he says in public.
Let's not forget that this man is no stranger to controversy, being the first gay dean in the church.
I had no problem with that, and don't see why his sexuality should have been a barrier to him getting the role.
But nevertheless, there were those in the Church who were far from happy at his appointment and you'd think that, after all the uproar his arrival caused, he would try not to make too many waves thereafter.
Seemingly not. But if I were him, I'd leave the denouncing of the Church's teachings to me when I'm drunk down the pub and concentrate more on giving his flock more of what they want to hear, and less of what they don't. Read more
One in 30 babies aborted for medical reasons is born alive, a study has found.
They lived for an average of 80 minutes - although in some cases foetuses survived for over six hours.
Most of the babies were born between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, but some had been in the womb for as little as 17 weeks. Read more
[...] I suppose it wasn't going to be long before they got round to England's patron saint. Sure enough, just in time for St George's Day on Monday, there are calls to give him a political version of the Trinny and Susannah treatment.
The proposal is outlined in a new report from an ecclesiastical think tank, entitled: "When The Saints Go Marching Out: Redefining St George For A New Era."
Simon Barrow, one of its authors, declared: "It is time that St George was reclaimed from the dragon, from past associations with racism and the far right, and from images of arrogant flag-waving."
Writing in the latest edition of the Church Of England Newspaper, he says St George's Day should become a "day of dissent" - celebrating "the pro- democracy Putney Debates, the equality-seeking Levellers, the anti-slavery abolitionists, the women's suffrage movement, conscientious objectors and peacemakers, anti-racism campaigners, human rights activists and those struggling against debt and poverty".
He seems to have missed out the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Bryant & May match girls, the Birmingham Six, the Dave Clark Five, the Guildford Four, the Fun Boy Three, the Forest Gate Two and the Winston Silcott One, but never mind.
It's the thought that counts. This is St George, patron saint of the Guardianistas. Read more
It is not often that the Church's house journal and the publicans' bible is of one voice but this week the two disparate lobbies have agreed that the time has come to honour our most famous dragon-slayer.
"The patron saint of England should be rebranded and St George's Day should become a national day to celebrate the tradition of dissent," says a report in the Church of England newspaper. "Licensees are asked to ring their bell at 10.45pm on April 23 and ask customers to raise their glasses in a grand toast to St George," reports the Morning Advertiser. Read more
Thursday, 19 April 2007
DIOCESAN ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCE AT THE CHAPTER HOUSE OF CHELMSFORD CATHEDRAL ON SATURDAY 23 JUNE 2007
1000 Registration and coffee
1030 Welcome from Rt Revd David Hawkins, Bishop of Barking
1045 Dr Elaine Storkey – UK President of Tearfund
1130 Chris Walton – Outreach Director of Ringsfield Christian Eco-Study Centre, Beccles, Suffolk. Editor of Christian Ecology Link’s journal Green Christian
1200 Coffee - to take to discussion groups
1210 Discussion groups
1300 Fork buffet vegetarian lunch/ stalls
1400 Daniel Kenning - Energy efficiency
1420 Dr Clare Ridgewell of Essex and Suffolk Water - Water conservation.
1440 Panel Question Time chaired by the Venerable Michael Fox, Archdeacon of West Ham
1530 Closing address by Rt Revd Christopher Morgan, Bishop of Colchester.
Tea and cake.
1600 Conference ends.
Stalls will include Essex Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, Essex and Suffolk Water, Sustrans and Christian Aid, and will be located on the first floor.
We would welcome a £5 donation from each delegate on the day towards costs.
Chelmsford Rail Station is five minutes walk from the Chapter House. The Diocesan Office Car Park will not be available for use on the day.
Disabled access and hearing loop in the Chapter House.
More detailed information will be sent after registration, nearer the event.
To: Wendy Boulton, Hillside Cottage, Beggar Hill, Ingatestone, CM4 0PH
01277 353154 firstname.lastname@example.org
In the light of the availability of Rowan Williams' full comments on reading the bible and Romans 1, Robert Gagnon has published a revised version of his earlier article. Read here.
(Ed: What have speed cameras got to do with Jesus? Answer: this article reveals all sorts of questions about truth in the public realm. It might be a good discussion starter!)
[...] The official statistics lump together deaths and serious injuries on the roads. These have shown a significant fall since speed cameras were introduced, leading to the inevitable conclusion - speed cameras save lives.
But the dramatic fall in serious injuries in road crashes puzzled some academics, who didn't think it reflected what was going on in hospitals. So they compared the hospital statistics for road injuries to the police figures, which the government uses.
"What we found was no substantial decline at all," says Michael Goldacre, a professor in Public Health from Oxford University, and part of the research team.
There's an even bigger problem with road deaths. In the decade before speed cameras came in, the number of road deaths fell by over a quarter. In the decade after they were introduced, deaths went down by just 8%, despite the improvement in new cars and the advances in emergency medical care.
The end of decades of rapid improvement is worrying experts like Jeremy Broughton, of the Transport Research Laboratory, who has written a report for the government examining what's happening to the road death figures.
He believes the problem is a minority of dangerous drivers who are not being deterred by speed cameras and need to be dealt with by more traditional forms of policing.
"When you drive home this evening, the likelihood of seeing a traffic cop is actually quite low and it's certainly much lower than it was 10 years ago," he says.
The other problem with speed cameras is they rely on drivers to be honest enough to register their cars properly. We've uncovered evidence that drivers are deliberately registering their cars at other addresses to make it difficult for the authorities. Read more
Amidst all the doom and gloom, this made me laugh. It is from a feature in the Guardian Weekendwhich invents new words, like the one we need for that verse the organist starts to play after everyone else has stopped singing.
The reserve spurt of energy that joggers deploy when passing someone sexy, even though they're so exhausted they could throw up their own heart. Body language is transformed from flailing sweatbox to "I'm fit - and so are you, baby. Let's work out." Once safely out of sight, they fall over.
[...] Such a day would celebrate:
· The role of the English as global citizens, not narrow nationalists
· The need for dissenters to call power to account
· Black Britons as vital contributors to our culture
· Shared values of social justice arising from the past
· Welcoming migrants in an interdependent world
· Exemplars of faith, hope and love, not thin celebrity
One of the report's authors, Simon Barrow, said: "It is time that St George was reclaimed from the dragon, from past associations with racism and the far right, and from images of arrogant flag-waving. Read more
The campus killer re-enacted scenes from a violent South Korean film in videos he made before he massacred 32 students and teachers.
Police believe Cho Seung-Hui repeatedly watched the movie Oldboy as part of what they now think was his meticulous preparation for the killing spree at Virginia Tech University. Read more
(Ed: This article is more worthwhile than the title might suggest, as it shows how the 'gay community' does actually pay careful attention to what is said about what the Bible says.)
This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams ruffled the stuffy feathers of conservatives when he agreed to meet with liberal Episcopalian bishops later this year.
There will be more right-wing harrumphing following an address to theology students in Toronto in which Williams effectively snatched away the textual crutch of the anti-gay Bible bashers.
He said conservative Christians who cite the Bible to condemn homosexuality are misreading a key passage written by Saint Paul almost 2,000 years ago. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the firebrand favourite for justifying everything from barring gays as priests to drowning them in boiling oil. Read more
Those who produced the report, blogged here earlier this week, saying that violent video games have no harmful effect on children might like to check out the images here. To Cho Seung-hui, it's clearly all a game come to life.
Civilians in Afghanistan are increasingly facing suicide attacks, abductions and beheadings, according to a leading human rights group.
A report by Amnesty International says that attacks on civilians are widespread and systematic, and are used by Taleban rebels to instil fear. Read more
A £7m sex theme park, which has no rides, is to open in London's West End later this year.
Visitors to Amora - The Academy of Sex and Relationships at the Trocadero in Piccadilly, will pass through seven zones including Pleasure and Orgasm. Read more
Hundreds of thousands of drivers caught on camera speeding and going through red lights are not being prosecuted, a BBC investigation has learned.
The figures, for England and Wales, suggest London is particularly bad, with more than half of cases failing.
The BBC Radio 4 probe found cameras in the capital catch about 500,000 people a year, but a third of those cannot be traced to an address. Read more
[...] About 70 people are packed into a back room of the Golden Lion pub, with not a skinhead or pair of Doc Martens in sight and more tweeds than T-shirts. They are male and female, young and old, working class and middle class, ex-Labour and ex-Tory, several of them Daily Telegraph readers. They are mostly solid Yorkshire folk who have watched immigrants transform areas in which they grew up and believe — rightly or wrongly — that their way of life is under threat. They are bewildered more than hate-filled. They are fearful more than fear-inspiring, and feel gagged by political correctness. They do not come from sink estates. They are stakeholders, people with something to lose. “We’re being overwhelmed,” laments a retired Latin teacher. “I’ve nothing against other races. It’s just that they keep flooding into the country to breaking point,” says a lorry driver. “We can’t invite the whole world to live in England,” says a former merchant marine officer. Few will give their names.
Griffin and his fellow speakers do nothing to calm their fears. Quite the opposite. In a promotional video he decries the alleged banning of the cross of St George, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and even Piglet because the character offends Muslims. Against a background of soft music and beautiful scenery, a woman’s voice decries the millions of foreigners of all races settling in Britain: “The one thing they have in common is there are too many of them.”
Michelle Shrubb, a candidate who lived in South Africa, says that a black crimewave is coming to Britain. Nick Cass, the BNP’s Yorkshire organiser, declares that “decent British people are fed up to the back teeth with seeing the country fall apart and being called racist when they want to do something about it”. The merchandise table offers “It’s Cool to be White” T-shirts and “I vote BNP because they look after me” bumper stickers. BNP candidates are presented with rosettes for daring to stand up and be counted. Griffin humorously coaxes about £500 in donations from the audience, then answers questions for an hour. He puts on no airs and graces. He has a pint on the table beside him. He presents himself as an ordinary bloke, like his audience, who is fighting a corrupt elite that bleeds taxpayers for its disastrous social engineering projects and treats them with contempt. Read more
On a brilliant spring afternoon it is easy to see why, 50 years ago, L S Lowry's eye was taken by the cluster of sandstone buildings which stand on Lowergate in the rural Lancashire town of Clitheroe.
The belching chimneys he found here are gone and the red fire station he painted is now a whitewashed chippy, but the grandeur of the buildings is undimmed - especially that of the redundant clothes factory marked out by a rooftop cross as a former Methodist chapel in terrain which John Wesley knew well. And therein lie the roots of a raging controversy, which could hardly be further removed from the gentle scene of endeavour Lowry depicted in his A Street in Clitheroe.
After a long struggle to find a suitable place of worship in the town, the small Muslim population of Clitheroe has, by the narrowest of council votes, secured planning permission to convert the Mount Zion Methodist chapel into its first mosque. Read more
Three Bible publishing house workers have been killed in the latest attack on Turkey's minority Christian community on Wednesday.
Four people are believed to have been detained for questioning regarding the killings, and one other suspect that fell from the building was taken to the hospital with head trauma.
It has emerged that one of those murdered was of German nationality, German Ambassador to Turkey Eckart Cuntz said. Read more
Three people have been killed at a publishing house in Turkey that produced bibles, in an apparent attack on the country's Christian minority.
The victims were discovered at the Zirve publishing house in the eastern city of Malatya.
They were bound hand and foot and their throats had been slit, officials said. Read more
In a gruesome attack that sent shockwaves through Turkey's tiny Christian community, assailants Wednesday slit the throats of three men at a publishing house that distributes Bibles and other Christian literature.
Five youths were detained at the scene in the conservative eastern city of Malatya, Turkish authorities said. One news report said the suspects carried notes indicating their motive was right-wing nationalism. Read more
Australians should pray for rain as the worst drought on record has parched the nation's prime agricultural land and put domestic supplies at risk, Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday.
Without heavy rains in the Murray-Darling basin in the next six weeks farmers won't get an allocation for irrigation so that townsfolk further down the river system can be assured of drinking water. Read more
The Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to let Congress ban a specific abortion method, even if many doctors consider it the safest way to end a pregnancy, appears to signal a new willingness to limit women's access to a medical procedure that has polarized political debate for more than three decades.
The court's 5-4 decision Wednesday let stand a federal ban on removing a fetus intact from a woman's uterus and then destroying it. The ruling, made possible by the votes of two appointees of President Bush and bitterly criticized by the dissenting justices, indicated that scores of anti-abortion measures now before state legislatures may well get a friendly hearing if they come before the court. Read more
Partly what this boils down to is this: Williams does not regard homosexual practice as a particularly significant sexual offense, if even an offense at all. (I have read in the press that he may have moderated or even changed some of his earlier strong support for homosexual practice but the evidence for such a change is at best conflicting.) For I can’t imagine Williams arguing that it would be inappropriate for the church to split over the issue of, say, ordaining bishops who were in committed sexual bonds with a parent, full sibling, or adult child. I suspect that in such a context he would never introduce issues such as ‘judgmentalism’ or self-righteousness or divisiveness on the part of those who opposed ordination of such. Yet neither he nor anyone else who talks in this way has made a convincing case that Paul would have viewed loving and committed same-sex intercourse involving people “oriented” to such behavior as a significantly lesser offense than adult, consensual, and loving incest of the first order. Until he or anyone else makes such a convincing case, no basis exists for arguing that severing ties with a schismatic Episcopal Church of the United States of America would be an unfaithful, self-righteous, and anti-Pauline act. Indeed, the truly anti-Pauline act would be a business-as-usual approach to a renegade body that endorses sexual immorality among its leaders. Read more
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Crematoria are struggling to deal with spiralling rates of obesity.
Expanding waistlines are forcing many councils to spend thousands widening their furnaces, the Local Government Association has warned.
In some cases grieving relatives have to travel hundreds of miles to find crematoria that can accommodate over-sized coffins. Read more
(Ed: Interesting, but I don't think he's quite got it right.)
[...] We want to believe that we are "good," moral, and self-aware. We want to believe that we're different from "bad" or "evil" people. Thinking so is essential to maintaining a sense of personal dignity and self worth. But the line between good and evil is permeable, like the cell walls of our body that allow movement of chemicals across their boundaries.
Anything that any human being has ever done - anything imaginable - is potentially doable by any of us in the same situation.
This is not to excuse immoral behaviour; the point is simply that understanding how someone could have engaged in wrongdoing, rather than dismissing it as a bad deed done by a bad person, allows us to identify corrosive social forces - the very same forces we need to counteract if we want to avoid going down the same wrong path. Read more
Laws that make denying or trivialising the Holocaust a criminal offence punishable by jail sentences will be introduced across the European Union, according to a proposal expecting to win backing from ministers Thursday.
Offenders will face up to three years in jail under the proposed legislation, which will also apply to inciting violence against ethnic, religious or national groups. Read more
Polygamous husbands settling in Britain with multiple wives can claim extra benefits for their "harems" even though bigamy is a crime in the UK, it has emerged.
Opposition MPs are demanding an urgent change in the law, claiming that the Government is recognising and rewarding a custom which has no legal status and which is "alien" to this country's cultural traditions. Read more
[...] research, from the University of New South Wales, suggests that we process information best in verbal or written form, but not in both simultaneously. As so often, it has taken the best efforts of brainy academics to prove what most of us instinctively knew. Trying to follow what someone is saying while watching the same words on a screen is the equivalent of riding a bicycle along a crowded train. It offers the appearance of making extra progress but is actually rather impractical. Read more
Players of violent video games claim that they recognise the difference between brutality meted out on screen and violence in real life and play mostly to escape the humdrum, according to a new study.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the body responsible for rating new releases, commissioned the research in response to public concern over violent games.
Interviews with gamers, parents and industry figures revealed that players often revel in violent scenarios and find killing a character in a game more exciting than passively watching a character being killed in a film.
Young boys report that they become addicted to games that they will play from the moment they wake.
But gamers told researchers that they rejected the suggestion that playing games makes them violent in real-life or desensitises them to the impact of real scenes of violence. Read more
The judgement of an Employment Tribunal dealing with a case where a Church of England bishop refused to appoint a gay man as a youth worker has been delayed for several weeks.
The Right Reverend Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford, admitted blocking the appointment of John Reaney. However, he denies it was because Reaney was gay, but because he was having sex outside of marriage. Read more
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
[...] The reluctant young doctors also know what a joke, what a legal fig leaf, is the system whereby two doctors have to certify that there is more risk to the physical or mental health of the mother from continuing the pregnancy than from termination (which, itself, is shown to increase the risk of serious depression). They know that the spirit of the 1967 Act is light years away from the 2007 practice: they know that without ever having debated or voted on it, we effectively have abortion on demand. And they know that this is the dodgy result of four decades of nods, winks, strident campaigning and secular consensus. And as the abortions increase and the stigma apparently fades, at the same time those emotive pictures from the womb get better and better, and passionate legal cases are fought over minute frozen foetuses . . .
So it was going to happen, this doctorly reluctance. There was eventually bound to be a shortage of volunteers to cooperate in what is sometimes an act of sorrowful mercy, but sometimes one of careless selfishness or neurotic control-freakery. Read more
[...] I believe something very elemental and, in the most academic sense, non-Christian. One of Miranda Sawyer’s biggest post-motherhood dilemmas over abortion was trying to work out where “life” begins in a foetus, and concluding that if abortion could occur before “life” begins, then that would, after all, be a “right” kind of abortion. However, given that both science and philosophy continue to struggle to define what the beginning of “life” is, wouldn’t it be better to come at the debate from a different angle entirely? For if a pregnant woman has dominion over life, why should she not also have dominion over not-life? This is a concept many other cultures understand. The Hindu goddess Kali is both Mother of the Whole Universe, and the Devourer of All Things. She is both life and death. If women are, by biology, commanded to host, shelter, nurture and protect life, why should they not also be empowered to end life, too? Read more
Archbishop to visit US Church
Monday 16th April 2007
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced that he intends to visit the United States this autumn in response to the invitation from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church.
Speaking in a press conference in Toronto, Dr Williams said he would undertake the visit together with members of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council:
"I look forward to some sharing of our experiences as pastors as well as discussion of the business of the Communion. These are complicated days for our church internationally and it's all the more important to keep up personal relationships and conversations. ….my aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this, to understand one another, and to encourage local churches".
Take Scripture out of this context of the invitation to sit at table with Jesus and to be incorporated into his labour and suffering for the Kingdom, and you will be treating Scripture as either simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct or a piece of detached historical record -- the typical exaggerations of Biblicist and liberal approaches respectively. For the former, the work of the Spirit is more or less restricted to the transformation of the particular believer; for the latter, the life of the community is where the Spirit is primarily to be heard and discerned, with Scripture an illuminating adjunct at certain points. But grasp Scripture as part of the form taken by the divine act of invitation that summons and establishes the community around the Lord's Table, and the Bible becomes coherent at a new level, as a text whose meaning is most centrally to do with the passage from rivalry and self-assertion and the enmity with God that is bound up with these to the community in which each, by the influx of the Spirit, takes responsibility for all, and all for each. Read more (NB the full text of RW's talk follows the introduction)
The Archbishop of Canterbury bowed to mounting pressure today and agreed to meet the liberal American Anglican bishops in a last-ditch bid to prevent a disastrous split over homosexuality.
In a move that will dismay conservatives, Dr Rowan Williams said that he will meet the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops later this year even though they are still refusing to toe the majority line on gays.
Speaking at a press conference in Toronto, Dr Williams, who is on a short trip to Canada, said: “These are complicated days for our Church internationally and it’s all the more important to keep up personal relationships and conversations ...
“My aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this, to understand one another, and to encourage local churches.” Read more
An increasing number of doctors are refusing to carry out abortions, leading to a crisis in NHS services, experts have warned.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there has been a big rise in the number of doctors who are "conscientious objectors".
About 190,000 abortions take place in England and Wales annually. Read more See also here The Independent.
Britain should consider making the legal drinking age 21 as it has "lost the plot" when it comes to regulating alcohol, policy pundits claim.
The UK has one of the worst problems in Europe with a fifth of children aged 11 to 15 drinking at least once a week.
Public Policy Research (PPR), the journal of the IPPR think-tank, says it is time to practise "tough love", such as reviewing the minimum drinking age. Read more
The Church of England's position on homosexuality was called a "shambles" today by a member of its own national assembly.
Susan Johns, who represents the diocese of Norwich on the General Synod, also said she could not understand the situation whereby gay clergy are punished for being open and honest about their sexuality, whereas it is acceptable if they cover it up. Read more
Monday, 16 April 2007
Catholic bishops in Scotland have called on the country’s voters to challenge attacks on Christian values “at the ballot box”.
In a strongly worded letter read out at all masses across Scotland’s 500 Catholic parishes over the weekend, the bishops said that a “conflict of values in society” had led to “legislation and regulations which are seriously at odds with the insights and values of our Christian faith and of other faiths". Read more
ATTEMPTS by Christian students at Exeter University to seek a Judicial Review on their Human Rights to the freedoms of speech, belief and association are being prevented by the campus university authorities.
University chiefs have imposed a leading lawyer to handle the Internal Appeals Procedure in the row between the Christian Union and the Student Guild, and the establishment of the process has taken so long that any adjudication and/or any future Court hearings will have to take place when the Christian students are to sit their final exams. Read more