Saturday, 16 June 2007

Conservative Evangelicals publish diocesan scoreboard

Following the publication of the Furlong Table, ranking dioceses according to the number of women employed and the number of female 'senior clergy', the Benn Table has now been published ranking dioceses according to the number of their Conservative Evangelical bishops. The results are as follows:

1st: Chichester
Number of Conservative Evangelical Bishops: 1
Change in position since 2000: 0

2nd (equal): Oxford, St.Albans, Ely, Worcester, Leicester, Southwark, Ripon, Durham, Liverpool, Hereford, Peterborough, Salisbury, Wakefield, Truro, Sheffield, Southwell, Norwich, Derby, St.Edms & Ipswich, Chelmsford, Lincoln, Manchester, Gloucester, Bath & Wells, Canterbury, York, London, Newcastle, Coventry, Guildford, Bradford, Lichfield, Chester, Birmingham, Rochester, Carlisle, Exeter, Bristol, Portsmouth, Winchester, Sodor and Man, Blackburn
Number of Conservative Evangelical Bishops: 0
Change in position since 2000: 0

A further table is planned for comparison in 2012, though if Bishop Benn has retired by then it will make for a great improvement, since all the dioceses will move to first (equal).

Canadian Anglican Church confronts the issue of homosexuality

[...] What's at stake in the homosexuality debate, Hird argues, is the authority of the Bible. If liberal Western Christians can simply "pick and choose" to reject biblical passages, Hird said, what's to stop them from dismissing or reinterpreting other teachings in the Bible, particularly those about Jesus being the only way to salvation?

Asked about the regret some leaders feel over the fact some African Anglican leaders aren't focusing on combatting hatred, poverty and disease in Africa, but instead are making pronouncements on homosexuals in far away North America, the B.C. priest acknowledged he could understand the criticism.

"It is sad what's happened," Hird says. "I wouldn't have chosen this conflict." Read more

Scottish children's pipe band abused at English village gala

Ed: first you divide, then you conquer.

A CHILDREN'S pipe band had to receive a police escort after they were subjected to anti-Scottish abuse at a gala day in England.

The Annan Juvenile Pipes and Drums - whose average age is 12 - were abused with taunts, foul language and missiles as they marched through a village in Cumbria, wearing traditional Scottish dress.

Organisers of the march have apologised and condemned those who launched the attack against the children.

Police are treating the incident, in Aspatria, as a race-hate crime. Read more

Women Clergy pressure group publishes diocesan scoreboard

Numbers of women clergy deployed in the dioceses in the Church of England have risen to an average of 25.8 of all clergy in the dioceses. Women now account for 17% of full time stipendiary clergy in the dioceses and for 8% of senior posts, including deans, archdeacons, other cathedral clergy and area deans.

These statistics have been gathered for the second time in five years in the Furlong Table, named in honour of the late Monica Furlong. Furlong, a witty and incisive writer and observer of the Church of England, and also a fearless and tireless campaigner for the ordination of women, suggested to a group of young female ordinands that statistics be gathered to monitor the deployment and promotion of women clergy in the Church of England.

The first Furlong Table was produced in 2000 for GRAS, the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod, by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, Catherine Butt and Leah Vasey-Saunders, all then students at Cranmer Hall theological college in Durham. The updated figures for 2005 have been produced by the Reverend Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, now Chaplain and Solway Fellow of University College, Durham. Read more

Update: See here for the corresponding Benn Table.

Anglican split comes closer as US church rejects demand over gays

The impending division of the worldwide Anglican communion came a step closer yesterday as the rift over the way the church deals with homosexuality descended into acrimony.

The US Episcopal church rejected the demands of the rest of the church, headed by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that it should fall into line by refusing to conduct blessing services for gay couples or elect more gay bishops and allow disaffected conservative US congregations to have their own leadership. Read more

Synod member urges Gay vicar set to 'wed' male partner to honour his celibacy vow

A GAY vicar has been told to 'comply with the teachings of Christ' and abstain from sex when he 'marries' his male partner later this month.

A member of the Church of England's ruling General Synod has urged The Rev Michael Peet, rector of Bow in the East End of London, to remain faithful to his ordination vows.

The Advertiser has discovered that Mr Peet, the rector of the 700-year-old St Mary's at Bow Bridge, is to 'marry' his long term partner Raymond Port in a civil partnership ceremony at the end of the month.

His move has surprised parishioners, with at least one member of his flock deciding to leave his congregation over the partnership.

Anglican bishops issued guidance two years ago allowing clergy to enter into civil partnerships... but only if they pledge the relationship will be celibate. Read more

Friday, 15 June 2007

Ruth Gledhill: Who is the 'nasty party'?

At about the time the Wycliffe Hall story was broken in the Guardian, 'Inclusive Church' Putney vicar Giles Fraser wrote: '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.' One of the aspects I've been enjoying about this story is the holy, inclusive unity it apparently confirms there to be between Giles, scourge of the conservative evangelicals, and 'open evangelical' Fulcrum vicar Graham Kings, of St Mary's Islington. (Does Kings know that in one article on Giles' Inclusive Church website, he is described as 'odious', along with Bishops Wright and Scott-Joynt?) Kings has behind the scenes been defending his chairman, the popular Elaine Storkey, broadcaster and Wycliffe staff member apparently threatened with disciplinary action. But Richard Turnbull, evangelical principal of Wycliffe who has been bearing the brunt of the attacks, the latest being a letter calling for him to resign sent by three past principals, could be forgiven for wondering who really is the 'nasty party' in all of this. Now a fightback is beginning, with a strong open letter of support for Turnbull posted this lunchtime on the AM website. Read more

Open letter in support of Wycliffe Hall, Richard Turnbull

Signed by:

David Banting (St Peters Harold Wood)
Richard Bewes (Former Rector of All Souls Langham Place)
Mark Ashton (St Andrews the Great, Cambridge)
Clive Hawkins (St Marys Basingstoke)
Paul Williams (Christ Church Fulwood, Sheffield)
Andrew Wingfield Digby (St Andrews North Oxford)
Michael Lawson (Archdeacon of Hampstead, former Vicar of Christ Church, Bromley)
Read more

UK teenage crisis 'due to drink and drugs'

Teenagers are in the grip of a sexual health crisis fuelled by a "celebrity culture" that condones alcohol abuse, drug addiction and promiscuity, Government-funded advisers warn today.

A daily diet of celebrities in sexualised poses, taking drugs and getting drunk has led to increasing numbers of children "defining their lifestyle" around drugs, alcohol and sex in their early teens, with Britain now having the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and sexual infections in Europe, they say.

Despite this, Government campaigns have failed to make the link between drugs, alcohol and sexual health - even though many drugs increase sexual desire, leading to more sex and more drinking, the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on sexual Health and HIV reports. Read more

Hollywood hints: abortion will go the way of slavery

[...] We go to the cinema in large part to be inspired; to be reminded that, while we go through our real lives making messy moral compromises and falling way short of our ideals, there are some people, on screen at least, who do the good and moral and honourable thing. And confronted with the awful trauma of an unwanted pregnancy, almost all of the time choosing to have the baby is the good and moral and honourable thing to do.

[...] After years of wondering whether we’ll ever change society’s permissive attitude towards abortion, I’m convinced that we will some day come to view it in the way we now view slavery, a moral abomination that generations simply became inured to by usage and practice.

The big difference, of course, is that abortion is worse than slavery. Not just in the obvious sense that it involves the taking of life rather than liberty. But because our current debate suggests that deep down most of us really know there’s something quite wrong with abortion. Read more

Retired Canadian Primates urge 'yes' vote for same-sex blessings

As Canada's Anglican Church prepares for its historic – and possibly schismatic – decision on blessing homosexual unions, six of its most senior clerics Thursday called for a yes vote that would show “justice, compassion and hope for all God's people.”

The declaration from the half-dozen retired archbishops from across the country reveals a sharp division in the church's hierarchy.

While the archbishops said that blessing the unions of same-sex couples does not touch on the church's “core doctrine,” last month the national House of Bishops issued a pastoral statement saying that the “doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit [same-sex blessings].”

The vote will be taken at the church's general synod, or parliament, meeting next week in Winnipeg.

The archbishops' statement is signed by John Bothwell, Terence Finlay and Percy O'Driscoll, all former metropolitans, or chief bishops, of Ontario; David Crawley and David Somerville, former metropolitans of British Columbia; and Arthur Peters, former metropolitan of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Read more

TEC Executive Council rejects Primates' 'pastoral scheme'

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council told the Anglican Communion June 14 that no governing body other than General Convention can interpret Convention resolutions or agree to deny "future decisions by dioceses or General Convention."

The Council declined to participate in a plan put forward by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in February for dealing with some disaffected Episcopal Church dioceses.

The statement, titled "The Episcopal Church's Commitment to Common Life in Anglican Communion," "strongly affirm[ed] this Church's desire to be in the fullest possible relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers."

The text of the statement and its accompanying resolutions passed with limited debate. Read more

Roundup of news from The Episcopal Church etc

Read here.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Theological college's head is undermining it, say predecessors

The principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Oxford University Anglican evangelical theological college, was under renewed pressure last night after his three immediate predecessors claimed he was undermining its reputation and threatening its survival as an academic institution.

The unprecedented intervention, in the form of a joint letter leaked among members of the evangelical community, represented the latest twist in the crisis that has gripped the 130-year-old permanent private hall, which trains theological students and candidates for ordination in the Church of England, and its conservative evangelical principal, Richard Turnbull, following revelations about his conduct of the college. Read more

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Anglican coalition to force through breakaway in US

A powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel Church for conservatives in America in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, provoking the biggest split in Anglican history, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

According to sources, at least six primates are planning the consecration of a prominent American cleric as a bishop to minister to Americans who have rejected their liberal bishops over the issue of homosexuality.

The move will send shock waves through worldwide Anglicanism and may prove to be a fatal blow to the efforts of Dr Rowan Williams to hold together what he described last month as a "very vulnerable, very fragile" Church.

The initiative is understood to have been co-ordinated by senior African archbishops, including the Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who represent the core of the so-called Global South group of conservative primates.

But the group has a wider base and is also thought to include several relatively moderate primates from outside Africa. Read more

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Marriage works. Accept no substitutes

[...] As yesterday’s leading article pointed out, there has been agitation to recognise “common-law” marriage ever since the Civil Partnerships Act gave decent and proper rights to gay couples. “Such rights,” it said, “were denied to cohabiting heterosexuals on the grounds that they could, at any time, get married. That answer may have been logical, but it failed to still a sense of unfairness.”

Gosh. I never knew that illogical whining could trigger a cumbersome overhauling of the law. I shall start listing my own illogical prejudices today. But this is rubbish! Divorce is now so accessible that anybody who wants the protections of marriage can get them – unless their cohabiting partner doesn’t agree, in which case, caveat emptor. You need not affront your Dawkins principles by going to church, or betray your anarchist instincts by entering a register office. You can now marry in a bingo hall or a Sea Life Centre. A licence costs only £63.50.

Some couples – I know and love many – jointly decide not to marry. Good luck to them. They don’t whimper for new laws; if they are wise they make legal arrangements about property ownership (like becoming tenants-in-common with appropriate shares) and ensure joint responsibility for children. If they are not wise, then by definition they are fools. You cannot frame every law to suit fools, even fools for love. Read more

Death threat to Italian bishop over gay legal rights

The head of Italy's influential bishops' conference has received a second envelope containing bullets and a death threat, following comments he made opposing same-sex unions, news agencies said yesterday.

An envelope containing three bullets arrived on Saturday at the Genoa archdiocese of Monsignor Angelo Bagnasco. A single bullet was sent on April 27. Read more

Katharine Jefferts-Schori interviewed

[...] BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: With our long-development of an anthropology that says that heterosexual male is a normative human being. We've only begun in the last 150 years to really question that.

And I believe that the wrestling with the place of women in leadership, particularly in public leadership, is directly related to the same kind of issue over the position of gay and lesbian people in leadership, in public leadership.

BILL MOYERS: When you look at what the other side says about homosexuality, and the Scriptural tradition, do you grant them anything?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. That has been the traditional way of seeing things. It was also why Galileo got in so much trouble [Ed: but see here.] The traditional way of seeing things was that the sun went around the Earth, not the other way around. If you expect things to be in a certain way, it's hard to see data that ask you to see the world in a very different way.

BILL MOYERS: So you would concede that as people like you want to modernize the Canon, the tradition and the Scripture, the traditionalists who look back and say, "This is our sacred tradition," would not want to come along on that journey.

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. But, I would take them back into that tradition to see within it far more complexity than they've been willing to admit.

BILL MOYERS: But can there be compromise and conciliation within the church when the positions are so fixed and the feelings are so strong?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think if we're willing to hold our positions a little more lightly. To say, "Yes, this is where we come to as a conclusion out of faithfulness. We understand you may come to a different conclusion, also out of faithfulness. Perhaps we don't have to decide one way or the other immediately." If we're willing to live in that place of a little more humility, yes, we can live together.

BILL MOYERS: But isn't this what liberals say? We would like to talk and have a dialogue and listen. But do you get that coming back from this? I mean, the Bishop of Uganda would not meet with you. Now, you would be willing to meet and listen, but he won't. How can there then be any kind of reconciliation?

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, the larger structure of the communion did make that a possibility. He was at the table in Tanzania in February with me. We had one or two conversations. And clearly we disagree about matters of sexuality. But we do hold some other things in common. here.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Search is under way for the next man to lead England’s Catholics

The Pope has begun taking soundings in England and Wales for a successor to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who is expected to retire in 2009, The Times has learnt.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will offer his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI in August when he turns 75, as he is required to do by Canon Law.

The Pope is expected to turn it down, as is the norm for an Archbishop in good health who is in good favour in Rome. But sources have told The Times that the Cardinal is then expected to offer it again a year later, upon which it is likely to be accepted, giving a retirement date of February 2009. Read more

Unmarried couples get equal rights on ‘divorce'

Cohabiting partners who split up are to get similar rights to divorcing couples under plans to be outlined next month, The Times has learnt.

Unmarried women and men will be able to make claims against their partners to demand lump-sum payments, a share of property, regular maintenance or a share of the partner’s pension when they separate. They will also be able to claim against their partners for loss of earnings if they gave up a career to look after children.

The reforms are to be published by the Law Commission, the Government’s law reform body.It is expected to drop any proposal for a time stipulation, so that only couples who had lived together for, say, two years, could bring a claim; or any bar on childless couples. Read more

Anglican Church is 'fragile' over gay split

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has described the worldwide Anglican Church as "very vulnerable and very fragile" and admitted that he was hopeful rather than optimistic that he can avert a schism over the issue of homosexuality.

In an interview with Time magazine at the start of a three-month break from work, Dr Williams said he did not want to be pressured by conservatives or liberals over who should come to next year's Lambeth Conference, the gathering of Anglican bishops in Canterbury.

The Archbishop has angered both sides by refusing to invite either Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop, or Martyn Minns, a bishop who is the leader of a breakaway movement for American conservatives who reject the authority of liberal leaders.

But Dr Williams said that those who boycotted the conference would "lose" by staying away. Read more

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Brown to give up Prime Minister's power to pick Church leaders

Ed: As blogged about here lst month.

Gordon Brown is preparing to give up the prime minister's historic right to choose the Archbishop of Canterbury - and other Church of England bishops.

The move to grant "operational independence" to the Church will represent one of the biggest changes to its relationship with the state for centuries. It is just one of a swathe of "royal prerogative" powers, held by the prime minister, which Mr Brown is planning to do away with once he takes over at Number 10 later this month.

In a move he has already announced, he will also give up his prerogative power to declare war without the consent of parliament. Military action, such as the invasion of Iraq, will in future have to be approved in advance by MPs.

Mr Brown, whose father was a minister in the Church of Scotland, is determined that the Church of England will make up its own mind on who should succeed Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of 70 million Anglicans worldwide. He was appointed in 2002.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that the prime minister-in-waiting has asked officials and senior politicians with close links to the Church to investigate the best way that he can renounce the "power of patronage". Read more