Saturday, 12 May 2007

Why mortgages (ought to) matter to Christians

Ed: I said I'd blog on the issue of mortgages and their significance for Christians, and now I've got around to it on the Ugley Vicar blog.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Ruth Gledhill interviews Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins believes that children should grow up reading the Bible and has a “soft spot” for the Church of England. He also believes some of the historic atrocities of human behaviour were not inspired by religion, but were a result of our “ruthless Darwinian past”. And he believes in the possibility of a transcendent “intelligence” existing beyond the range of present human experience. It is just that he refuses to call it God.

These are just some of the more surprising confessions to come from the man variously described as Britain’s angriest atheist and the self-appointed Devil’s chaplain. Read more

Housing costs taking their toll of society

Ed: I promise to blog on why this should be of concern to Christians, as soon as I get the time.

[...] The squeeze on incomes must eventually tell. Next month’s new selling regulations may cool the market a little more. But there will not be a price crash unless there is a much sharper rise in unemployment than currently looks likely.

Nonetheless, there will be a price to pay for the continuing rise in house prices. As existing borrowers see their budgets stretched, consumer spending and economic growth will suffer, perhaps at just the wrong time. And more people will be excluded from decent housing.

This will not only raise shrill demands for regulation and subsidy. It has a social cost for those excluded from the housing market.

First-time buyers and lenders are resorting to evermore bizarre and unwise tactics to get a foot on to the bottom of the property ladder. Buy-to-let investors are pushing up the price of flats and houses, making it harder and harder for young people to buy a home. Read more

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Whatever happened to the 'Panel of Reference'?

If you've come here from Stand Firm, the url you really wanted was this one.
Somehow the Stand Firm url has a capital R for rowan and doesn't work.

Ed: Remember how after the Dromantine Primates' meeting, way back in 2005, a Panel of Reference was set up to look at those situations across the Anglican Communion where there was serious conflict? Whatever happened to it, I hear you asking, given that the conflict is as bad as ever (worse, in the eyes of some)? The answer is, it has met and it has reported. But if it is to do its work effectively, it needs to be bigger and have more funding:

[...] Even so, it is clear that the Panel could do with far greater resourcing if it is to develop and improve its work. References are time-consuming and complicated; the members are scattered across different time-zones, and the parties often highly committed to their own wide-ranging responsibilities. The situations which have to be addressed are often politicised and subject to the attention of the media. In all these circumstances, I believe that the Panel has been faithful in discharging the duties assigned to it, in spite of criticism which is often based on a misapprehension of its purpose, or a lack of comprehension about both the situations it addresses and the constraints under which it works. [...]

Read the other five pages here.

For an update on the Panel of Reference (September 2007) go here.

The other man running the Anglican Communion

Ed: And you don't get to elect him, either.

[...] Canon Kearon explained that “at the heart” of Anglicanism, “authority lies in the dioceses and parishes, not at the top.” That is where the “life of the church is and where mission and ministry happen.”

What holds the Communion together is the “figure of the Archbishop of Canterbury” as Anglicans across the globe are “not in communion with one another but with him.”

“Bishops go to Lambeth,” the “primates go to the primates’ meeting,” the provinces elect members to the ACC, he explained, and “I am the secretary general of all of that,” under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. “I arrange the meetings, set the agenda, and carry out their decisions.”

It was “nonsense” to suggest there was any friction between him and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Canon Kearon said. A spokesman for Archbishop Rowan Williams noted Canon Kearon “has the archbishop’s support, as the work done at the primates’ meeting in Tanzania showed.” Read more

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

All-white schools to be forced to find multi-ethnic twins

Ed: More constructive innovation from our masters. Listen to their latest proposals here.

All-white schools will be legally obliged to twin with multi-ethnic schools as part of a new government drive to promote better community relations.

Ministers are placing a new responsibility on all schools to promote "community cohesion" between racial and religious groups. But the move, announced yesterday, was condemned by headteachers' leaders last night as "unnecessary" and "bureaucratic".

Under guidance published by the Department for Education and Skills today, schools will have a legal duty from September "to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different groups". Read more.

Akinola writes to Rowan Williams re US consecration

My dear Rowan,

Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus the Christ.

I have received your note expressing your reservations regarding my plans to install Bishop Martyn Minns as the first Missionary Bishop of CANA. Even though your spokesmen have publicized the letter and its general content I did not actually receive it until after the ceremony. I do, however, want to respond to your concerns and clarify the situation with regard to CANA. I am also enclosing a copy of my most recent letter to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

We are a deeply divided Communion. As leaders of the Communion we have all spent enormous amounts of time, travelled huge distances - sometimes at great risk, and expended much needed financial resources in endless meetings, communiqu├ęs and reports – Lambeth Palace 2003, Dromantine 2005, Nottingham 2006 and Dar es Salaam 2007. We have developed numerous proposals, established various task forces and yet the division has only deepened. The decisions, actions, defiance and continuing intransigence of The Episcopal Church are at the heart of our crisis. Read more

England not as bad as Channel 4 says

Worried about rising violent crime? The prevalence of binge-drinking? Or the rudeness that blights everyday life? Well, you can relax. According to a new Channel 4 series, 'The Seven Sins of England', "binge-drinking, rudeness, violence, hooliganism, slaggishness, consumerism and bigotry" are not modern phenomena, but an ancient and integral part of our national heritage. The programme claims that we, the English, have been a drunk, racist, rude and violent lot for over a thousand years. It's a nice, neat thesis, but unfortunately (or rather fortunately) is just isn't true. Read more.

Patrick Moore: 'Women are dumbing down the BBC'

Sir Patrick Moore has identified an alien species that threatens to destroy intelligent life – the women who have taken over the BBC.

The veteran astronomer celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Sky at Night with a withering attack on the female executives he believes have dumbed down the corporation.

Sir Patrick’s outburst echoes criticisms raised by Alasdair Milne, a former Director-General, who provoked a furious response when he accused a female-dominated BBC of producing “terrible” programmes.

Sir Patrick, 84, was asked by the Radio Times if television had got better or worse during a career spanning the medium’s life. The answer was worse – “much worse”. He said: “The trouble is that the BBC now is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days.” Read more.

Ed: Another "I Told You So", though in this particular case I pointed out (based on hard evidence) that the real reason is that young women drive the ratings and ratings drive the programming.

BNP's failure 'masks worrying levels of support'

The BNP's failure to gain seats in last week's elections masks worrying levels of support, according to Labour MP Jon Cruddas.

Speaking at a rally in support of better rights for immigrants and asylum seekers in Trafalgar Square at the weekend, Cruddas said that the BNP achieved very significant levels of support in some parts of the country, polling in excess of 27% of the votes cast in the wards they contested in Stoke-on-Trent and close to a quarter of the votes in Rotherham, Burnley, Sandwell and Thurrock.

An extra 2,500 votes in North Wales would have seen the BNP gain a seat in the Welsh Assembly. Read more.

Ed: I'll add this to my Told You So tee-shirt.

New Atheist loathing of religion is counterproductive

[...] The durability and near universality of religion is one of the most enduring conundrums of evolutionary thinking, one of Britain's most eminent evolutionary psychologists acknowledged to me recently. Scientists have argued that faith was a byproduct of our development of the imagination or a way of increasing the social bonding mechanisms. Does that make religion an important evolutionary step but now no longer needed - the equivalent of the appendix? Or a crucial part of the explanation for successful human evolution to date? Does religion still have an important role in human wellbeing? In recent years, research has thrown up some remarkable benefits - the faithful live longer, recover from surgery quicker, are happier, less prone to mental illness and so the list goes on. If religion declines, what gaps does it leave in the functioning of individuals and social groups?

This isn't the kind of debate that the New Atheists are interested in (with the possible exception of Dennett, who in an interview last year was far more open to discussion than his book would indicate); theirs is a political battle, not an attempt to advance human understanding. But even on the political front, one has to question whether all the aggression isn't counterproductive. Robert Winston voiced increasing concern among scientists when he argued in a recent lecture in Dundee that Dawkins's insulting and patronising approach did science a disservice. Meanwhile, critics in America argue that the polarisation of the debate in the US is setting the cause of non-deism back rather than advancing it. Read more

Catholic leader calls for immigrant amnesty

A mass rally was under way calling for a one-off "earned amnesty" for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in the UK.

The Strangers Into Citizens campaign was joined by faith leaders, immigrants from across the world, community activists and church groups in a gathering in Trafalgar Square, central London.

The campaign is calling for a two-year work permit, without access to benefits, for "irregular" migrants - refused asylum seekers or visa overstayers - who have been in the country for four years or more.

Addressing the rally, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said immigrants living and working in the country deserved to be treated with "fairness, with justice and with dignity". Read more

Read the Migration Watch case against here.

Bishops don't get it on Islamism

I am a fan of modern British bishops, having never yet met one who I didn’t like. They tend to be good company, especially Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, who has (thank the Lord) survived a controversy involving a drinks party, someone else’s car and a collision with the pavement. Like Tom they all do good works uncomplainingly, and their job is a difficult one.

It is therefore possible, I suppose, that between public appearances and supervising diocesan affairs they don’t get much time for reading. Certainly the evidence of the past week suggests that no one at the Church of England has found the three or four hours necessary to complete a new book called The Islamist by Ed Husain. So, I hope their Right Revs will allow me to present them with this summary. Read more

Sunday, 6 May 2007

MPs prepare for fight to lower time limit on abortion

A parliamentary battle to cut the time limit on abortions from its current level of 24 weeks is being prepared by MPs.

Campaigners plan to "hijack" the Government's forthcoming changes to the law on fertilisation and embryology to stage what would be the first full-scale Commons vote on lowering the legal limit for 17 years.

A leaked memo from Caroline Flint, the public health minister, has revealed that ministers are preparing to be confronted with the incendiary move. Read more

Priests v Imams soccer ends in walkout over women players

A friendship-building football match between Muslim and Christian clergy in Norway was called off after a row over the participation of women players.

Muslim Imams had refused to play against women because it went against their beliefs about close physical contact with the opposite sex.

But when the church decided to drop its women players, the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

The game was meant to be an enjoyable end to a day-long conference in Oslo.

Members of the two faiths had been discussing ways of encouraging greater inter-faith dialogue at the "Shoulder to Shoulder" event. Read more

Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service calls for independent review of Anglican sex abuse cases

The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service has today called for the Church of England to commission an independent review into its handling of child abuse cases, following two cases where abusive church employees went unpunished for several years.

The charity, which advises churches on child protection, said a review should focus on the circumstances surrounding the case of Reverend David Smith who was jailed for five-and-a-half years on Thursday for abusing six boys over three decades while working for the church. Read more