Saturday, 9 June 2007

Dispute grows over 'abrasive' Oxford principal

Pressure is mounting on Church of England authorities to take action against the principal of an Oxford theological college accused of alienating staff.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, is being urged to withdraw his support for the Rev Richard Turnbull, the principal of Wycliffe Hall, who has been criticised for his allegedly abrasive management style and conservative brand of Christianity.

Alister McGrath, a leading theologian and Wycliffe's previous principal, has pulled out of delivering a prestigious lecture in Liverpool in protest at the lack of action by Bishop Jones, who is the chairman of the hall's governing council.

The Bishop, meanwhile, has tried to assuage the concerns of senior colleagues in a confidential briefing at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this month. The dispute erupted following allegations of clashes between Dr Turnbull, who is introducing reforms in the college, and disgruntled academics, some of whom have resigned. Read more

Primus of Scottish Episcopal Church becomes co-patron of Inclusive Church

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Dr. Idris Jones, will join Archbishop Carlos Touché-Porter of Mexico as a patron of Inclusive Church, a U.K.-based organization that advocates for "a liberal, open church which is inclusive of all," regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

"It is a privilege to be associated with Inclusive Church. The Anglican Communion is seeking how it may develop and deepen its life today -- what better way could there be than working to keep our church as welcoming and encouraging to everyone who wants to follow Jesus so that everyone of us can be challenged by God's love," said Jones, who also serves as Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway. Read more

Friday, 8 June 2007

Hear podcast by Nigerian Changing Attitude activist Davis Mac-Iyalla

Listen here to the 'podcast'. The interview begins about 3 minutes in. The whole thing is a bit of an education, but be warned, some of the content is explicit: (Presenter: "If there's not a hard **** within a five mile radius, nobody's happy." Co-Presenter: "So very true.")

The interview is posted here. If possible, listen to the whole thing!

Perhaps the most curious moment is when he is doing the 'quick quiz' at the end:

Interviewer: "What happens when we die?"

Mac-Iyalla: "When we die?"

Interviewer: "Ah hm."

Mac-Iyalla: "When we die we die, we just go to rest."

Download Back to Church Sunday Prayer Bookmarks

I have produced a Prayer Bookmark for Back to Church Sunday. It comes as an A4 page with five bookmarks per page. There is space for you to write in the name of a person you are praying for. It looks like this:

It can be downloaded as a pdf file from here.

A society with plenty of laws but too little justice

Ed: OK, it's my opinion, but I offer it for your consideration - two stories from the same online newspaper:

Girl, 13, terrorised terminally-ill neighbour in last weeks of his life
A teenage girl terrorised a terminally-ill man in the final weeks of his life as she laid 'medieval siege' to her neighbours' homes.

Marlene Thomson, 13, waged a campaign of harassment against householders, pelting windows with stones and eggs, and yelling abuse.

Peter Brock, 72, was so intimidated by her violent rages he became too scared to go outside in his wheelchair. Read more

The driver who faces a £60 speeding fine...for failing to measure the gaps between lampposts
A motorist has been given a £60 speeding ticket for failing to spot the distance between roadside lampposts.

Ian Thomas, 44, was caught on camera travelling at 40mph in a 30mph zone but he says there was no 30mph sign.

The previous signs he saw all showed a limit of 40mph.

However, under a little-known section of the motoring laws, a road is classified as having a 30mph limit if there are no other speed signs and the street lights are no more than 200 yards apart. Read more

Time Magazine interviews Rowan Williams

For his last official act before a three-month sabbatical, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams chose a joyous one. He ordained the Reverend Canon Humphrey Southern as a new bishop. The ceremony took place in London's St. Paul's Cathedral, and the crowd smiled to see Williams, the tousle-headed, professorial leader of the Church of England and titular head of its global offshoot, the Anglican Communion, reveling in his mellifluous baritone as he prayed, sang and performed the rite of ordination. "Will you strive for the visible unity of Christ's Church?" asked Williams. Answered Southern, "By the help of God, I will."

By the help of God, indeed. Almost from the day he took over in 2002, Williams, now 56, has been attempting to prevent a schism among the world's 79 million Anglicans. It has been a horrible task. Within months of his taking the job, a simmering debate on homosexuality exploded into a brutal battle, pitting some of the wealthiest and most liberal of the church's 38 provinces, notably those in North America, against a larger, more socially conservative group concentrated in Africa and Asia and known as the Global South. Read more

Christian Activists Challenge “Gay Rights” Law In Northern Ireland

Churches and Christian charities in Northern Ireland are taking the UK Government to court, arguing that new laws on homosexuality threaten their religious freedom. The Christian Institute, a nondenominational Christian charity, took the case to the High Court in Belfast in Monday to argue that Northern Ireland’s Sexual Orientation Regulations restrict religious liberty.

The laws, which came into force in Northern Ireland last January, requires religious adoption agencies to treat homosexual couples as prospective adoptive couples, on a par with traditional married couples. If the challenge is successful, the regulations could be declared unlawful. Read more

Nigerian church's anti-gay campaign is about grabbing power, oil

Ed: What matters about this is that Changing Attitude describe Davis Mac-Iyalla's tour, which will include the UK, as part of the Lambeth 'listening process'. The Bishop of Chelmsford remains a patron of Changing Attitude UK.

An anti-gay campaign in Nigeria is part of the national church’s efforts to grab power and oil wealth in the west African nation, says a gay activist who is touring the U.S.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, the founder of Changing Attitude Nigeria, visited four Ohio cities in May with a plea for action from the LGBT community in America.

He says his refusal to deny his sexual orientation has put him at odds with this campaign.

Because he refuses to back down, he says the Nigerian church, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, has threatened his life. Read more

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Back to Church Sunday takes off across the country

More than 17,000 people are expected to return to church in September as Back to Church Sunday expands to take in 1700 churches across England. Resources to invite a friend Back to Church and to welcome them on Sunday, September 30th are now being delivered to more than one in 10 of the Church of England’s churches.

With 19 dioceses taking part this year, the 1700 churches involved is a tenfold increase on the 160 churches that took up the venture when it began, in Manchester, in 2004. Read more

Changing Attitude organiser on tour of UK

Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria arrives in London on 5 July directly from a 20 city speaking and preaching at 52 events across the USA, where he will address the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church meeting from June 11-14 on the homophobic violence promoted by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

On arrival in England, his first engagement will be to attend the General Synod of the Church of England. In York he will talk at a meeting of the CA York group on Saturday 7 July and a fringe meeting at General Synod on 8 July. He will meet bishops and members of Synod. He also hopes to meet Bishop Benjamin Kwashi of the diocese of Jos, Nigeria, who is at Synod for a meeting organised by Anglican Mainstream.

On Tuesday 10 July Davis will travel from York to Hexham to speak to the CA Newcastle and Durham group, and has invitations to speak to the CA groups in Ripon and Leeds, Lincoln, Birmingham, Manchester and Guildford. He will meet the Changing Attitude England trustees, preach in Devizes and at St James Piccadilly and St Thomas Finsbury Park in London and meet Canon Philip Groves, Facilitator for the Listening Process at the Anglican Communion office in London. Read more

Whitewash claims over bishop cleared of drunkenness

Ed: Blogged here.

The Church of England was accused of a whitewash after a senior bishop was cleared of drunkenness.

The Bishop of Southwark escaped disciplinary action even though a report by a senior judge found "substantial evidence" to indicate he was drunk.

He was said to have been the worse for alcohol in December after he climbed into the back of a stranger's car and threw toys out of it, saying "I'm the Bishop of Southwark. It's what I do."

But after examining all evidence, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has ruled no legal moves should be made against the Right Reverend Tom Butler under Church law.

A key witness to Dr Butler's behaviour revealed he had not been asked to give evidence to the Church inquiry.

The owner of a Mercedes into which the bishop climbed uninvited after attending an Irish embassy party said: "This is a whitewash." Read more

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Evangelicals to blame for Bishop Butler's embarrassment

Ed: I am increasingly reminded of Tertullian's comment, "If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, the cry is at once: 'The Christians to the lion!'" or, as it increasingly seems to be "The Evangelicals to the lion". (In the original instance, Tertullian added, tartly, "What, all of them, to one lion?")

For the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, this is one hangover that won’t go away. The bishop woke up this morning to find a photograph of his black eye on the front page of the Times, under the heading “The Bishop of Southwark was drunk, Church says".

Actually, the Church investigation into Butler’s mysterious doings last December – when he was found throwing children’s toys out of the back of a car after a party at the Irish embassy – didn’t conclude that he was drunk. It said that he might have been. The bishop complained to the Press Complaints Commission about today’s headline and the Times had to take the story down from its website.

The Times report itself, by Ruth Gledhill, was accurate enough but a bit of a non-story: the news that Tom Butler could have faced prosecution hardly justifies a front-page photo and a whole page inside. So I started ringing round my contacts to find out what was going on.

I think the answer is that Butler is a man with some very serious enemies: hard-line evangelicals who have clashed with him bitterly over illicit ordinations and were beside themselves with glee when he made an abject fool of himself in December. Read more

Times story on Bp Butler still available

Link here. This also contains a 'correction' issued by the Archbishop's Office which shows my initial caution about the headline in the Times ("Bishop was drunk after Christmas Party, leaked report says"), was justified.

On the Thinking Anglicans website is a story that Bp Butler is to go to the Press Complaints Commission.

(Frankly, I do find myself wondering if I could see this one coming, why couldn't the lawyers and editors at the Times - or maybe I am in the wrong job.)

Bp of Southwark 'had case to answer' over drunkenness allegation

UPDATE: It looks as though my editorial caution over the headline in The Times about Bishop Butler was justified as the story has vanished from their website! The Daily Mail have also substantially modified the story which first appeared this morning here. The beginning of The Times article is below. All the juicy bits have gone missing, though. If you get to Ruth Gledhill's blog quickly, there is a longer comment on the leaked report there.

The Bishop of Southwark could have been prosecuted for drunkenness under church law after a Christmas party at the Irish Embassy, according to a secret Church of England report leaked to The Times.

Dr Tom Butler escaped disciplinary action over the mysterious incident, in which he suffered head injuries and lost his mobile telephone, crucifix and briefcase. A report found that the layman who filed the complaint was not deemed of sufficient rank to continue proceedings. But a subsequent investigation into a second complaint influenced the Archbishop’s decision to take no action.

In his report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the top ecclesiastical lawyer, Judge Rupert Bursell, QC, ruled that there was “sufficient substance” to justify disciplinary proceedings against Dr Butler “in relation to the complaint of drunkenness”.

John Adams, a former churchwarden from Croydon, submitted a formal complaint against his bishop, who was found bloodied with a black eye and a bump on the head outside Bishop’s House in Streatham, South London, several hours after leaving the Irish Embassy last December.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Abortion 'serious risk to mental health'

Abortion can be a serious risk to women's long-term mental health and those who have a termination can be six times more likely to commit suicide than those who have given birth in the past year, doctors have told MPs.

Trevor Stammers, a tutor in general practice at St George's University of London, was speaking in support of a bill to be tabled in the House of Commons, which would ensure women are counselled about the possible consequences of abortion before terminating an unborn child.

Conservative backbencher Ann Winterton's bill would require women to be told of the possible ill-effects of abortion and to be made to wait a week to allow time for second thoughts before going ahead. Read more

Children to be given 'happiness' tests

Children as young as four are to take "happiness tests" in a controversial drive to force schools to improve the well-being of pupils, it has emerged.

Thousands of youngsters are expected to be quizzed on whether they are feeling optimistic, confident, loved and interested in other people.

They will be set questionnaires similar to the self-help quizzes found in women's magazines to check they are "feeling good about myself" and "dealing with problems well". Read more

Gene Robinson: "Every priest has option to bless civil unions"

John Lynch signed a law on May 31 that makes civil unions for homosexual couples legal; it will take effect in January 2008. The governor stated his belief that the civil unions will not "threaten" marriage. The Episcopal Church's bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, told the press that Episcopal priests in the diocese can bless civil unions: "Just like in marriages, every priest will have the option to bless or not to bless." Read more

A new law every three hours under Tony Blair

ONE law every three hours has been created during Tony Blair's decade in power - most of it without the full scrutiny of parliament, research published today will reveal.

Over the past ten years, close to 30,000 new laws have been created - an average of 2,685 a year or more than seven a day.

But the Labour government has also increasingly used statutory instruments, rather than acts of parliament, to impose the new flood of legislation.

Some 98 per cent of new laws in the Blair decade were introduced by statutory instrument, allowing less time for debate in parliament than the tabling of a bill. Read more

Palestianian TV told, "Wear a veil or lose your head"

All 15 women presenters reported for work at the official Palestine Television station in Gaza yesterday, in defiance of death threats by a radical Islamic group that is believed to have links with al-Qa'ida. The Righteous Swords of Islam warned that it would strike the women with "an iron fist and swords" for refusing to wear a veil on camera.

"It is disgraceful that the women working for the official Palestinian media are competing with each other to display their charms," it said in a leaflet distributed in Gaza at the weekend. "We will destroy their homes. We will blow up their work places. We have a lot of information about their addresses and we are following their movements."

The fringe group threatened to "slaughter" the women for corrupting Palestinian morals. "The management and workers at Palestine TV should know," it warned, "that we are much closer to them than they think. If necessary, we will behead and slaughter to preserve the spirit and morals of our people." Read more

ABp Jensen makes plea for prisoners

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen in the annual presidential address for the NSW Provincial Synod made his pleas for people in custody, saying there are too many of them in custody.

He said that although he is glad to see many Christians making a commitment to those who are detained at a practical level, much more needs to be done to help those in the process who are about to be released back into the community.

Dr. Jensen said that although he knows this might not be a popular winning cause for politicians, the prisoners need the help of Christian interest to keep it on the NSW State Government’s agenda. Read more

Rostock reels from violence at anti-globalisation protest

Germany was trying to recover from the worst G8 summit violence for six years yesterday after thousands of masked anti-globalisation protesters went on the rampage in the port city of Rostock pelting police with firebombs and stones and torching cars in clashes that injured over 900 people.

Police said that 433 officers were injured, 33 of them seriously, in what they described as "unprecedented violence" that erupted after a peaceful anti-globalisation demonstration in Rostock on Saturday four days before the summit of G8 leaders in nearby Baltic resort of Heiligendamm.

Protest organisers said at least 520 demonstrators had been injured in the clashes that began late in the afternoon after one masked youth jumped on to a stage at a closing rally and told the crowd " We have to bring war into this demonstration - we'll achieve nothing through peaceful means." Read more

Israel threatens British boycott

Israel’s parliament is to debate a draft law today that could lead to a consumer boycott of all British goods.

The proposed Bill is aimed at punishing Britain for recent threats from its largest trade union and UCU, the university lecturers’ union, to boycott Israel for occupying Palestinian land. The prospect of a boycott has prompted concern among the Israeli public. Leading commentators denounced the moves as anti-Semitic. Now a group of politicians has promised a harsh response, calling for Israel to begin its own boycott against Britain. Read more

The sexual agenda of our schools

Ed: It reminds me of a chart of world civilizations I saw in a school in East London over Easter which ommitted the British Empire (despite having the Persian, Roman, etc) and, perhaps even worse, ommitted Australia and New Zealand from the map!

"Stopping homophobic bullying, or changing a culture of homophobia, will take time. There are many achievements to be celebrated along the way, eg winning the support of governors, rewriting the school bullying policy, involving children and young people in an audit, providing access to information leaflets about safer sex that are relevant to LGB pupils, or simply increasing the number of images around the school that challenge stereotypes and traditional images of relationships. Each of these is an important step." (Emphasis added) Read more (pdf file)

New funding for UK-trained imams

Ed: Islamisation via the back door, with public money to boot!

The prime minister is to announce funding to train Muslim imams at British universities in a bid to cut reliance on religious leaders from overseas.

He will tell a conference in London that imams from abroad often struggle to engage effectively with young people born and brought up in Britain.

And he will say that British politicians and the public need to listen harder to hear the "calm voice of moderation and reason" from the Muslim community.

High education minister Bill Rammell will also announce that Islamic studies is to be designated "strategically important" to the national interest, allowing tighter scrutiny of university courses. Read more

How Changing Attitude is managing to Change Attitudes

Ed: For those who are unaware, one of Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream's key issues is with the Bishop of Chelmsford being one of the patrons of Changing Attitude.

Changing Attitude is bringing Davis Mac-Iyalla, the leader of CA Nigeria, to General Synod in York this summer. So, I made my way onto their website - which is colourful, classy, professional and very user-friendly, I will add - to find out a little more. And I was quite surprised at what I discovered. Perhaps you might be too.

First, the listing of the Patrons was hugely impressive. Names and titles of the great and the good include the bishops of Wolverhampton, St Edmundbury and Ipswich, Hulme, Ripon and Leeds, Lincoln and Worcester; the number of other Rt Revds were equally impressive (I counted seven, not including other Revds, a Revd Dr, a Revd Canon et al.). These are not committed but humble socio-political non-entities. From academic, ecclesiastical and professional perspectives, these patrons are powerful men (for the most part). And posting them as CA does automatically associates it as a group with its patrons’ authority and prestige.

CA’s work is flourishing, as well. From its site one can read of the UK group’s various branches, partnerships and strategies; it has grown to 600 members and has almost two dozen groups in 23 dioceses (June 07), plus official contacts in over a dozen others. Changing Attitude International boasts of 1000 (plus) members around the globe and four countries now have their own indigenous CA group: Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, and of course, Nigeria. Read more

Cardinals told 'back off from this war with women and state'

It comes round as regularly as spring showers. Every year, and sometimes more often, there is another assault on women's right to abortion. Forty years on from the orginal Abortion Act, in 1967, it is still not possible to relax about this issue. There are plenty of people around even now who want a return to the dark ages when women had no right to choose, or had to resort to the horrors of backstreet abortion.

The latest, and most shocking statements for some time, come, unsurprisingly, from the Catholic church. In recent weeks church leaders have used extreme language and thinking wholly against our constitution and tradition. What they have done is perilous for their religion, never mind for women who have decided to have an abortion. Read more

Disaffected, breakaway bishops plan September meeting

Bishops of seven self-identified Anglican organizations have been invited by Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan to attend a meeting September 25-28, in part to "initiate discussion of the creation of an 'Anglican Union'" such as the one envisioned by the Primates of the Global South when they called for a new "ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA."

Duncan issued the invitation in his role as moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP), also known as the Anglican Communion Network. The gathering is being called the "first-ever Common Cause Council of Bishops." Read more

Hitchens P critiques Hitches C on God's greatness

[...] I liked and enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anybody who is interested in the subject. Like everything Christopher writes, it is often elegant, frequently witty and never stupid or boring.

I also think it is wrong, mostly in the way that it blames faith for so many bad things and gives it no credit for any of the good it may have done.

I think it misunderstands religious people and their aims and desires. And I think it asserts a number of things as true and obvious that are nothing of the sort.

At the heart of this book are two extraordinary, bold statements. One is a declaration of absolute faith, faith that religion has got it wrong, a mental thunderbolt of unbelief.

Christopher describes how at the age of nine he concluded that his teacher’s claim that the world must be designed was wrong. "I simply knew, almost as if I had privileged access to a higher authority, that my teacher had managed to get everything wrong."

At the time of this revelation, he knew nothing of the vast, unending argument between those who maintain that the shape of the world is evidence of design, and those who say the same world is evidence of random, undirected natural selection.

It’s my view that he still doesn’t know all that much about this interesting dispute. Yet at the age of nine, he "simply knew" who had won one of the oldest debates in the history of mankind.

It is astonishing, in one so set against the idea of design or authority in the universe, how often he appeals to mysterious intuitions and "innate" knowledge of this kind, and uses religious language such as "awesome" – in awe of whom or what? Read more

Canadian Anglicans to vote on blessing gay unions

Just weeks before Anglican leaders decide whether their church should bless gay and lesbian unions, one of the few things that appears to be unifying them is a feeling of uncertainty.

The church, which represents some two million Canadians and is the country's third largest religious denomination, has spent almost 30 years trying to figure out how same-sex relationships fit into the Christian faith. As they approach a vote on the issue later this month at the church's General Synod in Winnipeg, many members are wary of the outcome.

``We simply don't know,'' says Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the church's national leader, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. Read more

CofE to impose 'rule book' of beliefs

Church of England bishops have drawn up plans for a "rule book" of beliefs that would expel liberals who refuse to abide by it.

The proposals to introduce Papal-style laws come despite warnings that they could lead to a split in the Church.

The confidential document from the House of Bishops, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, claims that a "narrower definition of Anglican belief" is crucial to prevent the Anglican Communion from becoming embroiled in future disputes over issues such as homosexual clergy. Read more

'Revolutionary' woman 'ordained' RC priest

The woman in the eye of a storm of controversy about ordaining female priests in the Roman Catholic Church doesn't see herself as a fighter.

Marie Evans Bouclin has been bucking the church for years, speaking out against what she calls unjust treatment of women in her religion.

Last Sunday, she went against the teachings of that church and was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. Read more

Carey denies setting Lambeth 'non-invitation' precedent

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, has rebutted inferences that the decision last month not to invite certain bishops to the Lambeth Conference 2008 came about by a precedent he created in 2000.

Lord Carey has rebutted inferences that the decision last month not to invite certain bishops to the Lambeth Conference 2008 came about by a precedent he created in 2000.
According to the Church of England newspaper, Lord Carey denied suggestions by the Rev Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary of the 2008 Conference, that the decision not to invite the AMiA and CANA bishops who have broken away from the Episcopal Church in America was linked to his stance in the year 2000. Read more