Saturday, 2 June 2007

Bishop of Niagara wants 'local option' on same-sex marriage

[...] by allowing birth control, the church recognized that between consenting s is about more than making babies. "Once you open that door a little bit, you can begin to discuss all kinds of aspects of uality," Spence says.

Since then, the church has been tossed into turmoil over such issues as remarrying divorced men and women, abortion, female clergy and common-law couples. Each time, says Spence, who was ordained in 1968, conservatives have threatened to leave the church.

"I remember ministers standing up and saying, `There will never be a divorced person at my altar,'" he says. "Now, 40 years later, we say, `Did people really say that?'"

He expects that people will ask the same question about same-sex marriage in 40 years.

Patterson, whose job is to help the church attract new members, says the Bible needs to be seen more as a living document, to be interpreted within the context of modern life, than a series of strict rules governing what it means to be a good Christian.

"Judgments and absolutes have never been how we have interpreted scripture," he says.

Spence describes himself as a "theological conservative and a pastoral liberal." He wants the door of the church held open to all who would enter.

"The Jesus that I see in the gospels reached out to everybody." Read more

"Respect tsar" blames single parent families, decline in churchgoing for lack of politeness

"Respect tsar" Louise Casey has called for a campaign to bring politeness back to Britain.

The government coordinator said there was no excuse for yobbery and believed that society should be more ready to spend money to encourage good behaviour.

In a newspaper interview, she also called on TV soap operas to portray a nicer side to life, rather than constantly showing the UK as a land of candidates for an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo).

Ms Casey is best known as the driving force behind the Asbo, and she insisted that it was an important part of the effort to restore a culture of respect.

She also suggested people should try to do a good deed a day, saying: "It's important to help old ladies across the road. The greatest pleasure you can give yourself is to help somebody else."

She added: "We need a greater sense that it's OK to be decent, you're not the nerd if you don't throw your rubbish on the floor - you're the person who's making Britain the country we all want to live in."

Ms Casey singled out the rise in single-parent families and the decline in church-going and neighbourliness as factors in falling levels of politeness. Read more

Read the interview with the Telegraph here.

Wife of Alister McGrath criticizes conservatism at Wycliffe

[...] Conservative Anglicans feel under threat these days. So it is not surprising that they feel the need to police their boundaries with vigilance, and that their greatest ire is not reserved for atheists or secularists, but for members of their own group who stand at the margins - the significantly named "open evangelicals" (gatekeepers who leave the gate ajar).

Alas, none of this is new. With supreme irony, we find it played out in the life and death of Jesus: a man from a minority religious culture attempting to keep itself pure in the light of dominant secular powers; a man repeatedly criticised by a high-minded religious group intent on maintaining purity, the Pharisees, for his association and physical contact with marginal people (Roman collaborators) and the ritually unclean, and for his critical engagement with valued cultural traditions such as strict Sabbath observance.

The threat posed by Jesus was precisely that he was open, and that he was a "category violator" - a holy man who embraced the profane, a religious man who loved the secular. And because such marginal people are threatening, they must be rooted out. We see in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus a coming together of the religious and secular powers to achieve this end. The marginal person is expelled well beyond the margin. The impurity is removed to a hill outside the walls of the city and destroyed. Read more


The Lambeth Conference won't look like past gatherings predicts the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas a design team member. He says the Conference will aim to equip bishops in their leadership vocation.

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," says Douglas, a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council and of its delegation to the Anglican Consultative Council.

He told the Episcopal News Service that "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]."

"[But] coming together [is] to encounter one another and God's word, engage the hard issues at a deep level of conversation, and then be equipped to serve God's mission in the world."

The last two Conferences featured four issues-related groups that developed resolutions for the entire group of bishops to consider, said Douglas. Instead, in an effort to equip the bishops as leaders in God's mission, the 2008 Conference will begin with groups of eight bishops from different provinces meeting in what are being called "ndaba groups" to begin the practice of encountering God's Word and encountering each other through sharing their stories and God's story. The word "ndaba" is Zulu, which Douglas said can be translated as a gathering for conversation for the sake of conversation.

Groups of five ndaba groups will be combined for discussions of issues. Douglas told the Executive Council that some of those issues may well include the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global economic justice, environmental concerns, interfaith dialogue (especially between Christians and Muslims), how to include voices not normally heard at Lambeth (such as women, young people and other members of the laity), Anglican biblical hermeneutics, Anglican identities, the Listening Process, and "human sexuality writ large."

What is wrong with this picture? Read more

Unmarried priest quits top job after becoming pregnant

One of the Church of England's most senior women clerics has quit her job after becoming pregnant while unmarried.

The Rev Dr Emma Loveridge stepped down as principal adviser to the Archbishop of York after only 13 months in the post.

The 42-year-old cited "personal and family reasons" for leaving the staff of Dr John Sentamu, who ranks second in the Church's hierarchy.

He is regarded as conservative in matters of sexual morality

She is also understood to have resigned her licence to practise as a priest and to have effectively stepped down from the clergy. Read more

Friday, 1 June 2007

ABp Jensen: Buddhism perfect for individualists

[...] Buddhism has been accused of being the religion you're having when you're not having a religion. Some argue it is a philosophy, not a faith. And more pointedly, a religion that is light on community compassion but very heavy indeed on individual happiness. Perfect, in fact, says Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, for contemporary society obsessed with the individual.

"The problem with all this individualism, though, is that it doesn't necessarily give you any purpose, so if you're looking to fill that spiritual void then Buddhism fits the bill. Christianity, on the other hand, involves getting your hands dirty; being involved with people you might not want to associate with," Jensen says. Read more

Richard Turnbull responds in the Guardian to Giles Fraser

[...] I know of no homophobia or misogyny at Wycliffe. If there is any evidence then it must be produced. For Giles to say that I believe 95% of people will "burn in hell" is a misrepresentation when the rest of my sentence, "unless the message of the gospel is brought to them", is excluded. Nor does my deputy believe it's "wrong for women to teach men". He believes, as I do, that in our college women can and should teach and preach. There are various views on practices in local churches.

Completeness is important. We do not control the admissions policy to university courses. If the complaint is of intellectual engagement with complex matters on which Christians may disagree then the plea is guilty. Read more

Abortion comments: media reaction

The Independent

The man who wants to lead a sensible debate on abortion

Anti-abortion campaigners are ready to launch a US-style cultural war against the 40-year-old law that allows women in the UK to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies - with politicians who are also practising Roman Catholics as their first targets.

MPs and other elected representatives who attend Mass but have not taken a hard line against abortion will be targeted by activists who say they should be disowned by the Church. Read more

Abortion: The hysteria which divides the US

Anti-abortion campaigners in the US will tell you their crusade is about the sanctity of life. But really it is about upholding a singularly unhealthy tendency in American public life - the exploitation of a divisive social and ethical issue to further the ambitions of a single political party whose agenda doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of the anti-abortion campaigners at all. Read more

Joan Smith: A minority is trying to impose its morality on the rest of us

Whenever people start talking about abortion becoming a political issue once again, I know they're speaking in code. What it means is the religious right has spotted a chance to impose its opinions on the rest of us, first in the guise of more restrictive criteria for terminating pregnancies and then in the form of an outright ban. Read more

The Guardian

The leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics yesterday questioned whether politicians who backed abortion should remain full members of the church, and also compared Scotland's abortion rate to "two Dunblane massacres a day". In a sermon marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act, Cardinal Keith O'Brien attacked both the practice of abortion and pro-choice members of the Scottish parliament.

After mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Cardinal O'Brien told journalists he supported a change in the law governing what he described as "an evil trade", and challenged the right of pro-choice Catholic parliamentarians to remain full members of the church. He warned them of "the barrier such cooperation [on abortion] erects to receiving holy communion". Read more

Daily Mail

The leader of England's Roman Catholics has warned MPs that they cannot tolerate abortion and keep their faith.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's intervention places unprecedented pressure on Catholic politicians for reforms to abortion law.

His warning means nearly 70 MPs are faced with a crisis of conscience if they fail to rally behind a fresh push for the abolition of legal abortion. Read more

Wycliffe changes 'necessary' say student presidents

Church of England Newspaper May 31

Sir, Although Wycliffe Hall has been going through a period of change since Richard Turnbull’s appointment as Principal this is a situation that is reflected across the University of Oxford. Traditional forms of collegiate government are giving way to more contemporary forms of management and this transition has not been easy. As the elected present, past and future Student Presidents of Wycliffe we want to publicly affirm that change has been necessary to ensure that Wycliffe retains the high standards it sets itself as a theological college. Read more

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Sydney Anglicans Prepare Motion To Oppose NSW Stem Cell Research

The Anglican Archbishop of NSW, Dr. Peter Jensen is preparing to put a motion at this weekend Provincial Synod requesting that it opposes the NSW Premier’s plan to lift the ban on stem cell research in a new bill.

Archbishop Jensen has previously argued that a human life deserve respect regardless of whether it is at the beginning or at the end. He goes further saying that human embryos should not be created and used as an instrument of research.
“Life is a continuum, deserving of respect from its start at fertilisation to its end at death,” Archbishop Jensen said. “Human beings deserve our protection and respect wherever they are on this continuum… Human embryos should not be created and used as instruments of research.” Read more

Roman Catholic pro-abortion politicians may be disbarred from Communion

Catholic politicians who defend abortion cannot expect to remain full members of the Church, Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic will warn.

In a sermon marking 40 years since the Abortion Act, Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien will threaten to bar pro-choice politicians from taking Communion. Read more

American Christian Zionists funding Oak Hill?

Who knows whether they are or whether they aren't? It's just a thought offered on the Fulcrum Open Evangelical website as to where the Kingham Hill Trust gets its money from. Read more

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

'Teachers should be banned from promoting marriage in class', says lecturers' union

Schools should be banned from teaching children that marriage is superior to gay partnerships, according to lecturers.

The University and College Union said new regulations outlawing discrimination against individuals on grounds of ual orientation did not go far enough.

There is no protection for transgender people and schoolteachers are still free to express negative views about homosexuality, according to the union, which represents university and college lecturers.

Delegates at UCU's annual conference in Bournemouth unanimously backed a motion which said:

"All negative characterisations by teachers of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people, identity and lifestyle should be outlawed and classified as an act of discrimination and an incitement to hatred based on ual orientation." Read more

Ugandan Primate Restates Intention to Boycott Lambeth

The Church of Uganda will boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference if the bishops who participated in the New Hampshire consecration are seated at the gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion.

In a statement released on May 30, Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda stated that as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had extended invitations to “all the American bishops who consented to, participated in, and have continued to support the consecration” of Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, the Church of Uganda would honor the commitment it made last December and not attend. Read more

Church of Uganda bishops will not attend Lambeth 2008

Church of Uganda

For Immediate Release

30th May 2007

In response to the recent announcement that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams, has sent out invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, made this statement:

On 9th December 2006, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, meeting in Mbale, resolved unanimously to support the CAPA Road to Lambeth statement, which, among other things, states, “We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.”

We note that all the American Bishops who consented to, participated in, and have continued to support the consecration as bishop of a man living in a homosexual relationship have been invited to the Lambeth Conference. These are Bishops who have violated the Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” and “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

Accordingly, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda stands by its resolve to uphold the Road to Lambeth.

The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi


The Debt Disaster: Rents soar as rate rise squeezes buy-to-lets

Ed: As this is a bit of a personal campaign, I will be moving posts to the Ugley Vicar blog in future.

Landlords are ratcheting up rents at the fastest and most sustained rate in almost a decade, as those involved in the buy-to-let market struggle to make money from their investments.

The revelation came as economists warned of growing cracks in the property investment sector, where the gross yields landlords can hope to make are now falling at the fastest rate in three years, even before the impact of four increases in interest rates is taken into account. Read more

Christopher Hitchens: "God is not great"

[...] God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything, although sweeping in its erudition, is a righteous harangue. When Ruth Gledhill of The Times recently interviewed Richard Dawkins about his scientific debunking of faith, The God Delusion, she found him less angry than his confrontational writing style suggested. But Hitchens is never far below boiling point. He is an evangelical secularist, an atheist warlord. Religion, he writes, is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children”.

This is the book he has been writing all his life, since his primary school teacher remarked how kind the Almighty was to make trees and grass green, a colour so restful to the human eye, and he knew she was wrong, that our eyes were adjusted to nature, not the other way about.

“Marx says criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism,” Hitchens says. “Philosophy starts where religion ends, just as chemistry starts where alchemy breaks off or astronomy starts where astrology runs out. It is the necessary argument. Not believing in the supernatural is the critical thing.”


He was married to his first wife in a Greek Orthodox church, to his second, Carol Blue, by a rabbi. He had his son, Alexander, now 23, baptised. He educates his daughter, Antonia, 13, at a Quaker school, Sidwell Friends, alma mater of Chelsea Clin ton and Al Gore’s son. He has taken her to Washington’s Anglican cathedral to familiarise her with the liturgy. He worries that without the scriptures – which he can quote chapter and verse – she will never understand Milton or Shakespeare.

“The point is,” he says, “religion should be private: I am not paying my taxes to support it. I’m not going to have children taught that metaphysical things are true.”
Read more

UK sub-prime mortgage lender rescued by SA bank

Investec, the South Africa bank, has agreed to rescue Kensington, the troubled sub-prime mortgage lender, which admitted today it is no longer able to raise financing to support its business. The bank is paying £283 million, less than half the value Kensington commanded in the spring of last year,

Investec rode to the rescue of Kensington in an all-share deal after the British company said revenues for the current financial year would be significantly below 2006, adding: "Trading conditions have been challenging in the first fiove months to April 20, 2007." Read more

Trinity Episcopal church leaves TEC, joins CANA

Trinity Episcopal Church has declared itself a member of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

The Rev. Donald Helmandollar, Trinity's rector, confirmed Tuesday that as of Sunday the parish had joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a self-described mission of the Nigerian church, serving Episcopalians who hold traditional beliefs. It is based in Fairfax, Va.

The action means the parish is no longer a member of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. but is still Anglican, Helmandollar said. Read more

Anglican Church in a 'mess' over gay bishop row

A senior Anglican conservative witheringly described the state of the worldwide Church as "a mess" and "awful" yesterday as the Archbishop of Canterbury prepared to take a three-month break.

The criticism will come as a blow to Dr Rowan Williams, who last week attempted to placate the Church's conservative wing by snubbing the Church's first openly gay bishop. Read more

Australian heritage 'Judeo-Christian' or not?

On May 29, 2004, Treasurer Peter Costello addressed a crowd of Pentecostal Christians at Scots Church in Melbourne.

Costello provided his audience with a lesson in Australia’s colonial history. “If the Arab traders that brought Islam to Australia, had … settled or spread their faith among the Indigenous population, our country today would be vastly different. Our laws, our institutions, our economy would be vastly different.

“But that did not happen. Our society was founded by British colonists. And the single most decisive feature that determined the way it developed was the Judeo-Christian-Western tradition. As a society, we are who we are because of that tradition … one founded on that faith and one that draws on the Judeo-Christian tradition.” Read more

Cardinal: Britain's abortion laws "lies masquerading as truth"

CARDINAL Keith O'Brien has attacked Britain's abortion legislation for being a "pack of lies", as official figures show the number of terminations in Scotland has hit a record high.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland denounced assurances made when the 1967 Abortion Act was passed - that abortion would be allowed only in exceptional circumstances - saying they were "lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth".

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh will launch his attack in a sermon at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh tomorrow afternoon.

The service marks the Catholic Church's annual "Day for Life" event. Read more

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Massive mortgages creating nation of young 'wage slaves'

Massive mortgages are turning a generation of young couples into wage slaves, it has been claimed.

A report warned that the spiralling price of housing means Britain is in danger of becoming the "grossly divided" society of have and have-nots not seen since Victorian times.

First-time buyers who manage to make it on to the property ladder and parents with young families are like "bonded labourers" tied to their jobs.

With housing prices soaring to unprecedented levels, many young couples have been reduced to 'bonded labourers' in a 'modern day slavery', the shocking report has claimed

The bleak report by academics - called On The Treadmill - says "super-size" loans are pushing soaring numbers of parents to desert their children in order to work long hours.

Many are taking on second jobs to pay a mortgage which could be up to seven times' bigger than their salary.

The warning came as figures from the British Bankers' Association showed the average home loan is now a record-breaking £152,800 - compared with £50,000 in 1994. Read more

Read Why mortgages matter on the Ugley Vicar blog.

Thousands celebrate Pentecost and Church unity at West Ham prayer event

Following the success of the Global Day of Prayer London held at West Ham United FC on 27 May, Britain’s Christian community are being encouraged to book their place for next year’s event scheduled for 11 May 2008.

Over 18,000 Christians from across the denominational and cultural spectrum braved the rain to attend the four hour ecumenical prayer extravaganza which celebrated Pentecost.

Worship was led by Tim Hughes and there were contributions from Patti Boulaye, the Royal Holloway Choir, All Souls Orchestra, Geraldine Latty and Graham Kendrick.

Using the Lord’s Prayer as the key theme for the event, there were readings and reflections from Monsignor John Armitage; an international prayer for the world in different languages; Elizabeth Bartha of Christian Solidarity Worldwide led a special prayer for persecuted Christians across the world and there was a prayer of repentance for the transatlantic slave trade and a plea for reconciliation. Read more

Walk back to the future at Bradwell on Sea

The annual Pilgrimage to St Peter's Chapel, Bradwell-on-sea, Saturday 7 July 2007

For more information phone 01621 776203 or visit . Enjoy refreshments and live music. Bring a picnic, or to book a meal call Othona Community in advance on 01621 776564. Read more

Official guidance for churches' no-smoking signage

In a world gone mad, there's always one more bit of madness. Download it here.

"It will be up to each church body (eg, select vestry/parochial church council) to choose the most appropriate place in the building for the sign, as long as the sign is prominently displayed. It is not necessary for it to be permanently fixed to the fabric of the building. It may be that the sign could be displayed within a porch at the front of the church or on a notice board which is near the main entrance. If you have any questions about the new law (for example, you are unsure about where a sign should be positioned), we recommend you consult your environmental health officer at your local council (who will be responsible for compliance) for further information. Their role will be to help you – it is not the intention of enforcement authorities to approach churches in a punitive way."

Secret plans to turn us all 'veggie'

Ed: I did think about binning this in the 'unlikely' box, but nothing would surprise me any more.

Secret plans to encourage the nation to give up eating meat are being examined by the Government.

A leaked e-mail expresses sympathy for the environmental benefits of a mass switch to a vegan diet - a strict form of vegetarianism which bans milk, dairy products and fish.

The change would need to be done "gently" because of a "risk of alienating the public", according to the document.

The extreme policy is being examined on the basis it could make a major contribution to slowing climate change. Read more

In Iran, everybody breaks the rules

"Every Iranian is an actor with a private and a public face." This is how the situation of rules here was explained to me.

Everybody breaks the rules. When simply wearing makeup or playing western music is enough to get you arrested it is pretty hard to live your life completely according to the laws.

Ninety per cent of the people hate the rules but are powerless to do anything about them so just get away with what they can.

The ten percent who have are in influential positions via family or profession need to at least pretend to agree with the rules so they can maintain their position in society. Read more

Sunday Times: 200m Christians 'face persecution'

[...] “One of the world injustices least noticed in the West is the growing scale of Christian persecution,” says Lyle, who runs the British arm of Open Doors, a charity that works with afflicted churches and individuals. “We estimate that 200m Christians in more than 60 countries face the most brutal retribution because of their faith.” Christians have been persecuted, and have persecuted others, of course, since the Romans. What is unparalleled today is the sheer scope across the world. Take Bhutan: a Buddhist country with a religion usually associated with tolerance, it refuses to acknowledge that Christianity exists and is among the top 10 on the Open Doors 2007 list of global offenders." Read more

Giles Fraser 'goes postal' over Wycliffe Hall

Ed: 'Going postal' is an American English slang term, used as a verb meaning to suddenly become extremely and uncontrollably angry, possibly to the point of violence. (Wikipedia)

[...] what should really happen is that the bishops of the Church of England stop using colleges like this to train its priests. Places such as Wycliffe are turning Anglicanism into a cult. But it's a symptom of how bad things are in the C of E, and how frightened its bishops have become of the financial muscle of conservative evangelicals, that they won't find the gumption to cut Wycliffe adrift.

But clearly they should. For Anglicanism is fast becoming the nasty party at prayer, with traditionally inclusive theology being submerged by a bargain-basement prejudice that damns to hell all those who disagree. This isn't faith, it's fanaticism. And the University of Oxford should not be supporting its work. Read more

Monday, 28 May 2007

British Oppression demo a 'Government setup'?

[...] I believe that this demo is being organised by agent provocateurs who will fuel the Government’s propaganda that the Muslim community is full of ‘radicalised’ hotheads. It will damage community relations and will be used to justify further erosion of the civil liberties of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims. Judging by the inflammatory postings on the petition website, it is clear that the mere advertising of this demonstration is causing a wave of Islamophobia.

The question that must be asked is how the organisers have managed to secure permission for the demonstration at Downing Street, inside the exclusion zone? I hate to be sceptical, but I wonder whether the Government does not mind such events from taking place, as they can be capitalised on later, as has been seen in the past.

Read more
And a similar analysis here.
For a somewhat different Muslim take, see here.

O Muslims, rise against British Oppression!

O Muslims! do your duty and rise up against oppression. Demonstrate on 15th of June and end the slience! Come out and speak out, condemn the oppression we face. Respond to the call of Allah and the Messenger. Read more but also read here.