Saturday, 26 May 2007

Is the Church of Scotland losing its voice?

IT SAID no to nuclear weapons, yes to troops out of Iraq and a resounding "Hmm, we'll get back to you" on the morality of gay relationships.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland drew to a close yesterday after a week of debate and deliberation which saw Scotland's "national" Church scrutinise everything from human trafficking to the correct weight of a hymn book.

Yet has the voice of the Kirk in annual communion now trailed to a faint whisper of what it once was, muttering only to itself, where it once spoke loudly for a nation? Or, is it in a transitional stage, negotiating the swift currents of an increasingly secular society, losing ground, but far from being swept away? Read more

Nigerian gay activist brings message to Episcopal Church, Executive Council

Nigerian Anglican Davis Mac-Iyalla, 33, founder of his country's only gay-rights organization, Changing Attitude Nigeria, has embarked on a six-week speaking tour of the United States.

Among his stops will be the Episcopal Church's Executive Council June 11-14 meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey. He will be an invited guest of the Council's National Concerns Committee.

Mac-Iyalla will visit about 20 cities and participate in 52 events before departing July 5 to attend the General Synod of the Church of England. His tour is being sponsored by which was founded by Josh Thomas primarily as a means of supplying the Daily Office of prayer to internet users.

Mac-Iyalla spoke at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, on May 21 and visited Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus on May 23. He is due to speak at a dinner May 26 at Church of Our Saviour in Cincinnati, Ohio and then preach at the congregation's 10:30 a.m. Eucharist on Pentecost the next day.

Canadian Rector troubled by same-sex blessings

Rev. Stephen London is troubled that the Anglican Church of Canada may approve a resolution next month allowing for same-sex blessings.

London stressed that his opposition to a so-called "local option" resolution - allowing each diocese to decide for itself on the issue - is based on his concerns that it will lead to a split within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Read more

Lambeth Conference won't look like past gatherings

The Lambeth Conference 2008 will be a significantly different gathering from the 1998 and 1988 sessions of the once-a-decade meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, according to a member of the Conference's design team.

The design for Lambeth 2008 "is not driven by production of reports and enabling resolutions building out of the reports, and that's a significant departure from previous designs," the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas, a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council and of its delegation to the Anglican Consultative Council, told the Episcopal News Service. "The focus here is on transformation, the building of communion and the engagement with each other, the goal of which is to equip the bishops to be more effective and faithful servants to the 'Missio Dei' [God's mission]." Read more

Friday, 25 May 2007

Scottish National Union of Students seeks to ban Christian course on relationships

At tomorrow's (26MAY) Annual Meeting of the Scottish NUS in Glasgow, a Private Members Motion calls on delegates to pass a resolution banning the Pure Course on the basis that it is homophobic.

The course, run by Christian Unions, is based on the orthodox Christian teachings concerning marriage, and teaches the importance of fidelity in relationships. It has been run on campuses throughout Scotland over the past 18 months. The Pure course was suspended from being taught on campus by Edinburgh University at the end of last year following claims by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans-gendered Society that it was discriminatory and breached Equal Opportunities Policies. However, the University, after examining the course, allowed the CU to continue to teach it on campus, rejecting the claims. Read more

Richard Turnbull writes on theological training

The call to ordained ministry is a wonderful privilege to serve God. Hope for the church lies, of course, in Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel, but I see the human means of that hope when I stand before the students at Wycliffe Hall. Faith, commitment, creativity, transformation are the hallmarks of how God has acted in the hearts and lives of these men and women, young and not so young, from north, south, east and west, charismatic and conservative, some both, some neither. Read more

Anglican Leader To Be Pressed On Gay Bishop

Ed: This surely has to be the most inadvertently funny headline of the year so far quoted on this blog!

(San Francisco, California) The worldwide leader of the Anglican Church will meet with American bishops in September and several say they intend to press Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on his decision not to invite Gene Robinson, the denomination's first openly gay bishop, to an international summit of the world's Anglican bishops scheduled for next year in London.

Williams informed Robinson, the bishop of New Hampshire he was not welcome at the summit, called the Lambeth Conference, earlier this month. (story) Also not invited was Martyn Minns of the breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America which opposes gays in the clergy. Read more

Bishop of California Stands in Solidarity With Snubbed Gay Bishop

Ed: Caution, some people may not like the imagery on the linked page.

Following the announcement that openly gay bishop Gene Robinson would not be invited to attend an important conference of Anglican bishops next year, the Episcopal bishop of California, Marc Andrus, has declared his support for Bishop Robinson.

"I will be seeking to learn how I can best be in solidarity with Bishop Robinson, through prayerful action," says the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Episcopal bishop of California. "The tactic of isolation and exile being employed against Bishop Robinson is retrogressive behavior that moves us towards a past from which Christ is always seeking to redeem us. I ask the people of the Diocese of California to pray with me about our common life with all of God's people and the earth." Read more (caution)

The other man who says we are going to hell

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy  that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Jesus of Nazareth, quoted in Matthew 7:13-14)

Tha man who says we are going to hell

Ed: I wonder where Richard Turnbull got that idea from? (Here's a hint.) I have now blogged on this.

The Rev Dr Richard Turnbull was little known outside ecclesiastical circles, until he condemned 95 per cent of us to eternal damnation. Now he is a star of the internet. Andy McSmith reports

Published: 25 May 2007

Nearly 58 million Britons, or roughly 95 per cent of the population, are heading for eternal damnation in the fiery pits of hell, according to the alarming judgement of one of the nation's leading evangelical Christians.

The fire-and-brimstone warning has turned the Rev Richard Turnbull, principal of Wycliffe Hall, the evangelical school of theology within Oxford University, into an overnight internet star. The Thinking Anglicans website that featured a video of his speech to an audience of fellow evangelical Christians had so many hits yesterday that it crashed for most of the day. Read more

Guildford's 'Top Ten things to do' for Back to Church Sunday

From the Diocese of Guildford website, the Top Ten things to do for Back to Church Sunday.

Top Ten Things To Do

1. Now: Pray
Mobilise the church to pray. Pray for the people you would like to invite. Be creative. When the prayer bookmarks/invitations arrive make sure people use them to write down the name of a person they will pray for and will invite.

2. September: Publicise
Publicise Back to Church Sunday. Download a parish magazine article and other images at (click on ‘downloadable resources’). Fill in the blank space on the posters with details of your special service. Why not tell your local paper what you’re doing?

3. September: Invite
Invite people to come along on the day. Ask people to fill in the blanks on the invitations and tear off and deliver one to a friend (do not mass canvas your area, invite your friends!).

4. Back to Church Sunday: Welcome
Welcome people in with a friendly smile. You might like to give out specially designed Back to Church Sunday pew sheets – you can find a cover design at

5. Back to Church Sunday: Consider Disability
Make sure you do not discriminate against those with a disability.

Is your entrance with a ramp already open? Is it clear which way to go if you need level access? Will people know where to sit if they need to use a loop system? Have you thought about someone with a visual impairment? Will part of the service alienate someone because they can’t get to a place due to disability?

6. Back to Church Sunday: Explain Yourself
Make sure you are user friendly. It is one of the worst things to be in the middle of a crowd and not know what is happening. Make sure you communicate to people where you are up to in the service.

Take the opportunity to introduce yourself and others as you go through the service. Don’t assume everyone knows who you are.

Take a few minutes to run through what’s available at the church for those who might not know.

7. Back to Church Sunday: Include
Make sure you are liturgically inclusive. Is your service appropriate for children? Young adults? Older people? Try to make everyone feel that they are part of the service.

8. Back to Church Sunday: Give Space
Make sure there is space during the service for people to say their own prayers to God. People come with different needs, some to say thank you, some for support and some with great burdens. Give people space to pray for themselves. The ‘wish you were here’ message is linked with having a break, a bit of space in a busy life. Why not let people have that space to respond?

9. Back to Church Sunday: Give a balloon
There are balloons this year! How you give them is up to you and depends on the size of your congregation, but they are a great conversation opener.

10. Afterwards: What’s next?
People are sure to want to come again, so make sure they know what’s coming up at church in the next few weeks.

Why not invite your friends to the harvest festival?

Have an Introduction to Christianity course running. There are plenty of courses to choose from and this is a good time of year for people to enrol onto something new.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Bp Wallace Benn to Sheffield Reform: A Bishop’s Reflections on the Church of England Today

Amongst his points:

70% of ordinands under 30 are at Oak Hill.

A battle for the heart of the Anglican Communion, between those who believe in a revealed faith, handed down through the Apostles, and those who believe the Christian faith needs to be reinvented.

US Liberals believe the future of the Church lies with the Holy Spirit now, not the Bible in the past.

Listen here.

Stephen Bates defends Wycliffe Hall story, "Evangelical Bishop" banns Oak Hill graduates

Ed: The most extraordinary thing about this story is the scarcely believable claim that an "evangelical bishop" has imposed a ban on Oak Hill graduates! Perhaps, given Stephen Bates' statement that airing troubles in public is "what journalists do", he would like to air that problem publicly as well.

[...] There are concerns that Wycliffe, which has a 130-year tradition of open evangelicalism, is going down the conservative path already trodden by Oak Hill – a college which, the same evangelical bishop once said to me, is now of such a character that he would no longer welcome its graduates into the diocese. Whatever one thinks of Oak Hill, or Wycliffe, this would be a tragedy for the wider evangelical movement, which is already the subject of suspicions and concerns in the heightened and polarising circumstances of the gay row. This is not liberal paranoia and there are straws in the wind, not only in other ongoing rows in the Church of England, but in the secretiveness, deviousness, fissiparousness and sometimes outright mutual antipathy between rival strains of evangelicalism. Read more

Church Society Conference

Church Society has just held its annual conference at High Lea in Hertfordshire. The conference theme was 'Christianity and Liberalism', with contributions from Lee Gatiss, Ian Hamilton, Melvin Tinker and John Richardson.

John's Bible readings from Colossians can be accessed on the Ugley Vicar blog.

Other non-invitations to Lambeth

In a variety of briefings to journalists over the last 48 hours following the announcement of the invitations to the Lambeth Conference, it appears that the following 10 bishops have so far not been invited to the Lambeth Conference. This information is gathered from a variety of press reports based on briefings from the Anglican Communion Office and its spokespersons.

Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of Recife, Brazil, under the primatial authority of the Archbishop of the Southern Cone (Primate: Presiding Bishop Greg Venables)
Dr Nolbert Kunonga, Bishop of Harare, Province of Central Africa (Primate: Archbishop Bernard Malango)
Martyn Minns, Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America who sits in the Nigerian House of Bishops (Primate: Archbishop Peter Akinola)
Chuck Murphy III, John Rodgers, Alexander Green, Thaddeus Barnum, T.J. Johnson, and Douglas Weiss of the Anglican Mission in America who sit in the Rwandan House of Bishops (Primate Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini)
Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire (Primate: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori) Read more

Theologian damns most Britons to hell

Ed: Actually I thought it was God's job.

Ninety-five per cent of Britons are heading for hell, according to the principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, who has been under fire from some staff for taking one of the leading Anglican theological training colleges in a conservative direction.

Richard Turnbull, appointed two years ago, made the claim in a speech to the annual conference of Reform, a conservative evangelical pressure group within the Church of England. If he truly believes it, the figure would encompass at least all non-evangelical Christians, including many members of the Church of England, and those of all other religions and none. Read more

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

More Liberal comment on Richard Turnbull

Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans, whose website contains this link to the 2006 Reform conference speech by Richard Turnbull. You can hear Richard for yourself and read here what the Liberal reaction is.

Open Evangelical fulimination continues here.

Gay bishop is left off Canterbury guest list

The openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration in 2003 has taken the Anglican Church to the brink of schism, is to be excluded from the Lambeth Conference next year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that Bishop Robinson would not be among the 800-plus Anglican bishops invited to Canterbury next summer. In a step that could risk a boycott from the Nigerian contingent, Dr Rowan Williams has also decided not to invite the Right Rev Martyn Minns, the evangelical bishop installed by the Church of Nigeria last year to serve orthodox Anglican congregations in the US. Read more

Guardian: Anger at decision to exclude gay bishop from conference

Church of England campaigners reacted furiously last night to the decision of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, not to invite the gay bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson to next year's Lambeth Conference, the fortnight-long gathering of the world's Anglican bishops held every 10 years at Canterbury. Read more

Church Conference snubs gay bishop

The first openly gay Anglican bishop, whose consecration in 2003 brought the worldwide Church to the brink of schism, has not been invited to next year's Lambeth Conference.

New Hampshire bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson of the US, was one of a handful not to receive invitations when they were sent to nearly 880 of his colleagues yesterday.

The decision by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will dismay many liberals. Several may now refuse to attend the 10-yearly gathering of the world's Anglican bishops in Canterbury. Read more

Church choir walks out in tears over 'happy-clappy' service

He may have been trying to attract a more modern flock. Or maybe it was an attempt to bring some variety to his church services.

Whatever the reason for introducing what have been described as "happy-clappy services", the Reverend Jerry Bird is learning the hard way that churchgoers can be a traditional lot.

Parishioners at St Gregory the Great Church in Dawlish, Devon, claim their usual Sunday worship has been pushed aside in favour of a "family" service, involving guitars and tambourines. Read more

Cult of celebrity and binge-drinking have replaced manners, says tourist guide

Forget afternoon tea, cricket on the village green, roast beef and good manners.

Britain is suffering an identity crisis as our genteel traditions are eroded by an obsession with TV talent shows, junk food, binge-drinking and porn, and diluted by multiculturalism, according to a travel guide.

It is "a telling indictment that more vote in TV talent shows than for their country's leaders", says the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain. Read more

Monday, 21 May 2007

The authority of celebrity

[...] most young people's view of Africa, insofar as they have one at all, probably derives more from the pronouncements of Bono, U2's lead singer, than from any other source of knowledge about the Dark Continent.

As it happens, Bono has boned up on his subject, even if his conclusions about what should be done to help Africa are eminently disputable and deeply hypocritical. His authority arises from his celebrity, not from his knowledge. An equally knowledgeable but otherwise totally obscure person would not be able to hector the leaders of France, Germany and Italy for falling behind on their promises of aid, as Bono did last week. When Bono speaks, they have to listen — he is more famous than they are. Read more

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Why theological colleges matter

I have blogged a little further on this subject here.