Saturday, 21 July 2007

Guardian Comment: Bring back Sundays

Ed: I had to double-check this was actually in the Guardian.

[...] in mid-2007, I find the idea of a day when everything is "silent and grey", as Morissey sang, quite appealing.

I can imagine Gordon Brown thinking so as well, and I'm not the only one. The Lord's Day Observance Society (LDOS) has just written to our new prime minister, congratulating him on instituting a review of super-casinos, and trusting he'll do something to quell consumerism in other areas, especially on Sundays. I would guess that Mr Brown's own Sundays are very Sunday-ish in the old-fashioned way. I imagine him harrumphing over some large volume, as Sarah sits opposite, darning socks. Something virtuous simmers on the hob; a clock ticks; rain falls against the window. Read more

16% rise in genital herpes amongst teenage girls in one year

Ed: And the reason is in the Department of Health statement: ""We will continue to promote safe sex messages through initiatives such as the Condom Essential Wear campaign, which was launched in November last year."

Sexually-transmitted infections among the young are continuing to rise despite Government efforts to reduce them.

Experts are particularly worried about a significant rise in the number of teenage girls contracting the incurable and unpleasant condition of genital herpes.

Last year, the number of new STI cases rose by 2 per cent compared with 2005, according to the Health Protection Agency.

But cases of genital herpes shot up by 9 per cent to 21,698 cases. Among teenage girls aged between 16 and 19, the rise was even higher at 16 per cent. Read more

Alcohol-fuelled casual sex blamed for rise in infections

Casual sexual behaviour, often fuelled by alcohol, is causing an alarming rise in sexually transmitted infections among teenage girls and young men, the Health Protection Agency said yesterday.

Gay men are also contracting increasing numbers of infections, which suggests the fear of HIV/Aids has decreased and that more people are having unsafe sex.

The overall number of infections went up last year by 2%, from 368,341 to 376,508, which the HPA says may suggest a slowdown in what had appeared to be a rapid rise over the past few years. But there are real concerns about the behaviour of young people and gay men. Among teenage girls aged 16 to 19 the numbers catching genital herpes - an unpleasant sexual infection which is treatable but never completely cured - are up by 16%.

"We are really quite concerned about genital herpes," said Gwenda Hughes of the HPA's centre for infections. "It is a lifelong infection and not curable. It is treatable but people can experience severe recurrences. It is also associated with quite a lot of stigma." Read more

Television is failing gays badly

Ed: Is there an admission in the strap-line of htis story: "mean to change views"?

Series such as Queer as Folk were meant to change views on homosexuality. But as C4 starts a gay season, has anything much changed?

It’s jolly nice of Channel 4 to give gays a mini-season of gay-themed TV to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality (between two men over the age of 21 in private). But it’s also depressing: there are so few gays across the schedules generally,a special season is merited. Yes, there is Graham Norton, controversial kisses on soaps and the occasional drama series such as Queer as Folk ( pictured on previous page). But the mushroom clouds of controversy around the odd gay sex scene obscures the fact that TV still doesn’t do “gay” that well – either in dramas or documentaries. Read more

Taliban threaten to kill 18 abducted South Korean Christians in Afghanistan

Taliban militants threatened yesterday to kill at least 18 kidnapped South Korean Christians, including 15 women, within 24 hours unless Seoul pulls out its 200 troops from Afghanistan, underscoring the militia's use of soft targets to weaken President Hamid Karzai's government.

In the largest-scale abduction of foreigners since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the South Koreans were kidnapped at gunpoint from a bus in Ghazni province's Qarabagh district on Thursday as they traveled on the main highway from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.

"They have got until tomorrow (Saturday) at noon to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, or otherwise we will kill the 18 Koreans," Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told The Associated Press on a satellite phone from an undisclosed location. "Right now they are safe and sound." Read more

Prime Minister's Office in Furore Over Anti-London Mosque Petition

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office was caught up in a row on Friday over plans for a large mosque in London that have drawn vitriolic opposition from far-right campaigners.

A petition posted on the prime minister's Web site,, calling for the mosque's construction to be blocked, attracted more than 275,000 signatures before the window to sign up closed late on Wednesday.

While the number of signatories suggests strong opposition, the petition has drawn accusations of racism and Islamophobia from civil liberties groups and Muslim Web sites. The mosque's backers also point out the petition exaggerates the facts. Read more

The hostility of Caribbean children to African classmates

[...] At primary school, the fact my name sounded different, and that English was not my parent's first language, made my brothers and me a target for unprovoked teasing from some of our West Indian classmates. We expected it from white pupils, from whom we also received it. But, sadly, instead of our cultural attributes being viewed as enriching, they were used by some of our fellow black pupils to fuel an ignorant depiction of Africa as one large jungle, where people spoke a funny language and roamed about naked with the animals. We should have been united in the fact that our skin colour often meant our white counterparts treated us less favourably. But instead, having parents from the Caribbean meant you were cool and accepted, while having African parents was seen as something to be ashamed of. Read more

Why is Robert Putnam so optimistic we can all get along?

[...] What fascinates him is tracking where the new forms of social capital are developing and why they are successful. One of his key areas of interest is religion - religious affiliations account for half of all US social capital. He cites US megachurches which, typically, attract tens of thousands of members, as "the most interesting social invention of late 20th century."

He identifies the secret of their success: "They have very low barriers to entry - the doors are open, there are folding chairs out on the patio - they make it very easy to surf by. You can leave easily. But then they ramp people up to a huge commitment - at some megachurches, half of all members are tithing [giving a tenth of their income]. How do they get from the low to the high commitment? By a honeycomb structure of thousands of small groups: they have the mountain bikers for God group, the volleyball players for God, the breast cancer survivors for God, the spouses of the breast cancer survivors for God, and so on.

"The intense tie is not to the theology but in the emotional commitment to others in their small group. Most of these people are seeking meaning in their lives but they are also seeking friends. The small groups spend two hours a week together - doing the volleyball or the mountain biking and praying; they become your closest friends," he says.

"These churches form in places of high mobility - people live there for six weeks and the church provides the community connection. When you lose your job, they'll tide you over, when your wife gets ill, they'll bring the chicken soup."

Putnam believes that this low entry/ honeycomb structure could be successfully copied to reinvigorate many other organisations, from trade unions to scouts' clubs and rotary clubs. Read more

Trinity Wall Street to convene partnership of Anglican bishops

Ed: AKA The Empire Strikes Back, see this link here.

Trinity Wall Street is convening a group of bishops from Anglican Communion provinces in Africa and their companions in the Episcopal Church "for a consultation to strengthen relationships, develop mission partnerships, and to discover new opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel," according to a Trinity news release.

Hosted by Iglesia Episcopal Reformada de España, "Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times" will be held in El Escorial, Spain July 21 through July 26.

The consultation will be rooted in prayer and breaking bread together; using different liturgies from the provinces of the Anglican Communion to enrich the experience of the participants, the release said.

"Mission flourishes best through collaboration," said the Rev. Canon James G. Callaway, Jr., deputy for faith formation and development at Trinity Church. "This gathering provides an opportunity for people of shared faith and mutual responsibility to come together to further develop partnerships that address important needs in the world." Read more

Global South Primates vow to continue violating Episcopal Church boundaries

At the end of a three-day meeting in London, the steering committee of a group of Anglican Communion primates from the Global South has issued a statement warning that they will continue to violate the boundaries of the Episcopal Church and exercise authority over dissident congregations.

In a statement dated July 18, the group claimed they had "no choice" but to exercise oversight for dissident Episcopalians in place of their American bishops, because the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops failed to embrace a "pastoral scheme" that would have provided dissident dioceses with an alternative to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The scheme was proposed at the February meeting of the Primates in Dar es Salaam.

The Global South Primates Steering Committee consists of archbishops Peter J. Akinola (Nigeria) as president, Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Drexel Gomez (West Indies), Bernard Malango (Central Africa), and Gregory Venables (Southern Cone), and bishops John Chew (Singapore) and Mouneer Anis (Egypt). Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda) also participated in the London meeting.

There are a total of 38 Primates in the Anglican Communion.

Both the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth Conferences, the 2004 Windsor Report, and the 2005 Primates Meeting Communiqué from Dromantine all stated that boundary crossings contradict ancient precedent in the Christian Church and are unacceptable behavior in the Anglican Communion, as did the Dar es Salaam statement. Read more

Archdeacon Michael Fox retires

Ed: Shame about the spelling mistake, but it explains why a clergyman of Elwin Cockett's status is sometimes known as "the Charles".

ST MARGARET'S church hosted the farewell service for The Archdeacon of West Ham, The Venerable Michael Fox.

The service took place on July 4 and the church was packed full of friends and colleagues who had gathered to say goodbye as he ended his 41 year career.

Mr Fox has become a very well known figure in the area and guests at the event included The Bishop of Barking, The Rt Rev David Hawkins, The Mayor, Cllr Fred Barns, and The Mayor of Havering, Cllr Georgina Galpin.

For many the surprise highlight of the service was a presentation of a signed West Ham shirt emblazoned with a '41' in honour of Michael's 41 year of ministry in East London and Essex, and presented by the new Chaplin of West Ham, The Rev Elwin Cockett. Read more

Statement from the Global South Steering Committee: This is a critical time

10. We remain committed to the convictions expressed in the CAPA report “The Road to Lambeth” and urge immediate reconsideration of the current Lambeth plans. It is impossible for us to see how, without discipline in the Communion and without the reconciliation that we urge, we can participate in the proposed conference; to be present but unable to participate in sacramental fellowship would all the more painfully demonstrate our brokenness. The polarization surrounding the Lambeth meeting has been exacerbated because we are also unable to take part in an event from which a number of our own bishops have been arbitrarily excluded while those whose actions have precipitated our current crisis are included.

11. We have received requests from around the Communion to call a gathering of Anglican Communion leaders. We expect to call a Fourth Global South Encounter to bring together faithful Anglican leaders across the Communion to renew our focus on the apostolic faith and our common mission.

12. This is a critical time for the Anglican Communion and one that will shape our future for many years to come. We are praying for all those in leadership that the decisions made and the actions taken will bring glory to God and encouragement to all God’s people. We are hopeful for the future because our confidence is not in ourselves but in Jesus the Christ who gave his life that we might have life. (see John 10:10) Read more

Changing face of Anglican Mission

The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) is to start emphasising more strongly its Anglican heritage and its ongoing commitment to the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Part of the exercise involves rolling out a new ‘extended name’. The mission agency will now be known as ‘USPG: Anglicans in World Mission’.

Bishop Michael Doe, USPG General Secretary, explained: “USPG is not a user-friendly name. Even when you know what the letters stand for, some would still say they are none the wiser!

“For example, the word ‘propagation’ might suggest a purely evangelistic view of mission, whereas we take the more holistic view that mission must be expressed in both words and actions. Read more

More on the acquisition of Third Way by the Church Times

Third Way magazine, a Christian current affairs, culture and commentary magazine, has joined the publishing group which puts out the leading independent Church of England weekly paper, the Church Times. But it intends to retain its radical edge.

G. J. Palmer & Sons, the company that publishes the Church Times, and which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hymns Ancient & Modern, said this week that it had acquired Third Way from the Third Way Trust, which founded the magazine in 1977.

Third Way began its life as an initiative to encourage a maturing of social thought and responsibility in the evangelical Christian world, under the influence of the global Lausanne Covenant of 1974.

It is widely regarded as having been highly successful in that venture. Read more

Friday, 20 July 2007

Drink most to blame for violent offences

Violent crime is overwhelmingly fuelled by drink rather than drugs, with nearly half of all incidents linked to alcohol, according to the British Crime Survey published yesterday. Just 17% of violent offences are committed by people who have been using drugs, the figures show.

The annual crime statistics released by the Home Office reveal an apparent 5% rise in violent crime, 10% rise in vandalism and a 3% increase in robbery in 2006/07. But the increases are matched by continuing falls in burglary, car crime and sex offences. Read more

'No' should mean no, parents told

[...] Those who work with children believe that a generation of parents have forgotten how to say no, with the result that as their children grow up they lack the self-control needed to negotiate adult life successfully.

“Children need to have the experience of an adult saying no,” says Jane Cassidy of the Association of Child Psychotherapists and joint chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Division of the Tavistock Society. “If you always give in, they don’t learn that somebody can stay firm, so when they become young teenagers and adults they don’t have the capability to say no to themselves when they are under peer pressure in terms of drugs, delinquency or sex.” The problem, teachers, psychologists and parents agree, is that when it comes to discipline, parents are hopelessly ill-disciplined. They tell their children that they should not do something or cannot have something that they want, but cave in to the child’s protests. Read more

Evangelical magazine merges with Liberal newspaper

THIRD WAY, a Christian arts and current-affairs magazine, has joined the Church Times stable.

G. J. Palmer & Sons, the company that publishes the Church Times, announced this week that it had acquired Third Way from the Third Way Trust, which founded the magazine in 1977.

Paul Handley, the Church Times editor, said this week: “I’ve admired Third Way for many years. I like the way it has managed to keep its radical edge, and I think it has the potential to become a much more significant magazine.”

Third Way was launched in January 1977 at a time when Evangelicals were beginning to discover the imperative of social responsibility, which, with some notable exceptions, it had long neglected. Read more

British ‘hegemony’ over, says Ugandan Archbishop

BRITISH DOMINANCE of the Anglican Communion is a thing of the past, says the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi. The “younger Churches” will shape what it means to be Anglican, the Archbishop writes in a lengthy essay, “What is Anglicanism?” for the American journal First Things.

Contemporary Anglicans are in danger of confusing doctrine and discipline, he writes. The “long season of British hegemony is over”, and Anglican Churches around the world have ended “the assumption that Anglican belief and practice must be clothed in historic British culture”. Read more

Thursday, 19 July 2007

British Constitution still very offensive to Catholics

Ed: And now you can see why ...

She’s on her way. Mrs. Liz Windsor aka Queen Elizabeth II, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Lord High Admiral, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith, Head of the Commonwealth, Paramount Chief of Fiji and Monarch of all she surveys. On an official visit – much to the delight of President Mary McAleese (the uncrowned Queen of Ireland) who’s been pushing the line that the times are now propitious for a tootle around her old domain.

But, of course, they aren’t. Six of our counties remain under her control and are part of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And let’s not forget either that she gave an OBE to Col. Derek Wilford, officer commanding the parachute regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry, for permitting his troops kill 14 unarmed civilians. Read more

Essex Chronicle: Pro-gay Bishop is shunned

Ed: This one is worth it just for the picture of John Gladwin and the fact that you can switch between that and the rather blurry one of Richard Wood. Click one of the arrows above the photo - the faster the funnier.

A Trainee priest could not be ordained because he refused to take communion with the pro-gay Bishop of Chelmsford.Curate Richard Wood was due to attend the ceremony with the Rt Rev John Gladwin at Chelmsford Cathedral.

Mr Wood said he had no objection to being ordained by the bishop but drew the line at taking communion as they had opposing theological views on homosexuality.

Last year Bishop Gladwin became one of four new patrons of the gay rights group Changing Attitude which supports the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in the Church of England. Read more

Some implications of the Hereford judgement

[...] So what the court basically said was this - the Bishop was entitled to treat Reaney, though a lay employee, in the same manner that clergy are treated in the House of Bishops’ 1991 statement “Issues in Human Sexuality”. The argument from the tribunal seems to have been that Bishop Priddis applied the Bishop’s advice in IiHS incorrectly. This itself however is an important legal precedent. What the tribunal seems to have ruled is that the church is entitled to ignore the provisions of the Sexual Orientation Regulations if they conflict with church doctrine or established pastoral practice based on doctrine.

Read Peter Ould's blog here.

Barking and Dagenham Recorder: Curate at centre of gay row

Richard Wood
Richard Wood
THE ordination of a Dagenham curate has been put on hold after he refused to receive communion in a row over homosexuality.

Richard Wood, 35, was due to take up his post as curate of Dagenham Parish Church in Crown Street.

But the ordination came to an abrupt end when the lay curate indicated his reluctance to share his communion with the Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Rev John Gladwin.

Mr Wood felt unable to take part in the personal ceremony with the bishop, who is said to support a group campaigning for the inclusion of homosexuals in the church. Read more

(Ed: Link here to Changing Attitude and what they believe. John Gladwin is listed as a patron here.)

Passers-by stole grandmother's purse as she lay dying in the street

After being knocked to the ground by a car, Audrey Ford lay motionless in the street.

Two men who approached her should have acted as Good Samaritans and tried to help the fatally injured pensioner.

Instead, they stole the 70-year-old grandmother's purse.

Inside was £40 in cash, a house key, her bank cards, a bus pass and, most precious of all, a photograph of her two grandchildren.

Last night, Mrs Ford's son Graham said: 'Sadly, we now live in a world without principles. This simply would never have happened when my mother was young.

'Back then the community cared about one another. Today, all people care about is making a quick buck, regardless.' Read more

Veiled protest as race-hate Muslims are jailed

Scary pictures in this item from the Daily Mail.

Do we have to treat Muslims as Muslims?

[...] A truly radical approach would be for the State to stop treating British citizens who happen to be Muslims mainly as Muslims. In other words, why does the Government still deem their religious affiliation the most important thing about them in the public space? A prime minister from Scotland – a country that has largely left behind its sectarian past – can surely understand that. Read more

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Barking and Dagenham Post: Curate forced to play a waiting game

DAGENHAM Parish Church's new curate-in-waiting has been barred from taking up his post after refusing to share communion with the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Richard Wood's ordination ceremony was abandoned as he disagreed with Rt Revd John Gladwin's liberal views on homosexuality.

Church law dating back to 1662 states that no clergyman can be ordained without receiving communion from the serving bishop. Read more

Blog reactions to Richard Wood's situation

See here for the Fulcrum (Open Evangelical) response.

See here for the 'Ship of Fools' (unconscious irony) response.

See here for the Thinking Anglicans (aka, given their US contributors, Thinning Anglicans) response.

See here for Anglican Mainstream (where ironically the least sympathetic to Richard is a blogger nicknamed Mainstreamer) response.

Other links will follow as this unfolds. The big question so far seems to be whether Article XXVI is binding (i.e. given that the unworthiness of ministers hinders not the effect of the Sacrament you must receive communion from any given minister whether you wish to or not), or permissive (i.e. given that the unworthiness of ministers hinders not the effect of the Sacrament you may, with a clean conscience, receive communion if there is no other choice available). The Liberal view (irony again) seems to be that it means you must.

Bishop of Hereford loses employment discrimination case

See here.

Lost confidence in Chelmsford

The failure of Richard Wood to be ordained as a curate to serve Dagenham Parish Church is simply the latest in a number of tense situations arising out of the position of the Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, on human sexuality. Read more

Wish you were here? Hizb-ut-Tahrir's plans for a new caliphate

[...] Hizb ut-Tahrir's main goal is to establish a theocratic state - an Islamic caliphate. Whatever the historical merits (or not) of this now-defunct system of government, it is difficult to see how anyone could seriously regard its return as a step forward in the 21st century.

Some idea of what life would be like under Hizb's new caliphate can be gleaned from its draft constitution. Although the constitution says all citizens "shall be treated equally regardless of religion, race, colour or any other matter" (article 6), the rest of the document proposes a system of institutionalised discrimination, particularly in relation to non-Muslims and women.


Non-Muslims living under the caliphate would be subject to a special poll tax (article 140) and, although they would be entitled to become members of the consultative council (equivalent to a parliament), their role would be "confined to their voicing of complaints in respect to unjust acts performed by the rulers and/or the misapplication of Islam upon them" (article 103).

Citizens born or brought up as Muslims would not be allowed to abandon their faith. "Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtadd) from Islam are to be executed" (article 7c). Read more

So what IS driving parish mergers?

Ed: This from Dorset, but it has echoes of Chelmsford. Answers on a postcard, please.

[...] As part of an emerging strategy for the future deployment of clergy in the deanery it is proposed to sever the 50-year-old ties with Highcliffe and transfer Hinton church into a new combined parish with the adjoining benefice of St Luke's at Burton and St Michael and All Angels at Sopley.

In the meantime Hinton will continue to be ministered by Vicar of Highcliffe the Rev Garry Taylor who has been at St Mark's parish church since Easter 2004.

Writing in the current parish magazine, Mr Taylor said: "The process will take some time to complete and all are concerned that the result should be as positive for everyone as possible, although every parish in the deanery os going to have to make sacrifices in some way or another.

"It is important to realise that this has not been driven primarily by financial considerations nor by a big shortage in new vocations to the ministry."

"This is a question of using the ministries we have to their full potential." Read more

'Not much substance' behind latest atheist tracts

[...] Mr. Hitchens is by far the most erudite and entertaining of the new new atheists. But his errors and his excesses are shared by the whole lot. And these errors and excesses have pernicious political consequences, amplifying invidious distinctions among fellow citizens and obscuring crucial differences among believers world wide.

Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. At the same time, by treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today's bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America's destruction.

Like philosophy, religion, rightly understood, has a beginning in wonder. The most wonderful of creatures are human beings themselves. Of all the Bible's sublime and sustaining teachings, none is more so than the teaching that explains that humanity is set apart because all human beings--woman as well as man the Bible emphasizes--are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

That a teaching is sublime and sustaining does not make it true. But that, along with its service in laying the moral foundations in the Western world for the belief in the dignity of all men and women--a belief that our new new atheists take for granted and for which they provide no compelling alternative foundation--is reason enough to give the variety of religions a fair hearing. And it is reason enough to respect believers as decent human beings struggling to make sense of a mysterious world. Read more

Ordination spurned in gay row

A Church of England curate is refusing to be ordained by his diocesan bishop because he objects to the bishop's support for a group campaigning for equal rights for homosexuals within the church. A parish website quotes the church's 39 articles, written in the 16th century, to describe the bishop as "evil".

Richard Wood, a church worker in Dagenham, east London, should have been ordained as a curate by the Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, earlier this month, but said he would refuse to take communion from him because the bishop is patron of a group called Changing Attitude, which wants to reform church thinking on homosexuality. A statement written by the Rev Mike Reith, vicar of Dagenham, on the parish website described the bishop as "a lovely bloke" but then quoted the 26th article, approved in 1571, which states: "Sometimes the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments." Read more

The web article referred to in this story may be found here.

An 'Ugley Vicar' blog on this may be found here.

See here for a link to other blog reactions.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

[Church of England] Children's Society: Modern Birtain is pulling families apart

Family life is under threat from rising divorce rates and the longest working hours in Europe, the Children's Society has warned.

The charity says 21st century life is 'pulling families apart' and risking the development and well-being of future generations.

It claims childhoods are being damaged by parental break-ups and growing pressure on mothers to return to work. Read more

Saudis prepare to behead teenage maid

The imminent execution of a teenage maid in Saudi Arabia drew fierce criticism yesterday and provoked condemnation of the kingdom's prolific use of capital punishment.

The case has brought fresh attention to the draconian Saudi criminal justice system which is expected this year to set a new record in its use of the death sentence.

Mohammad Rezina, mother of Rizana Nafeek, with two of her daughters at home in Sri Lanka, Saudis prepare to behead teenage maid
Mohammad Rezina, mother of Rizana Nafeek, with two of her daughters at home in Sri Lanka

Human rights campaigners yesterday urged the authorities not to behead a 19-year-old Sri Lankan maid found guilty of killing a baby in her care.

According to the Saudi authorities, Rizana Nafeek admitted strangling the four-month-old boy while feeding him with a bottle.

But Nafeek, whose job was not meant to include child care, has denied making any such admission. She claims the child had begun to choke before losing consciousness in spite of her desperate efforts to clear his airway. Read more

BULL spared, RING banned under Human Rights rulings

A busy day for religion news today, with two major court decisions both ruling on the application of the Human Right to "manifest" one's religion. Read more

Monday, 16 July 2007

LA Pastoral Letter attacks 'hard line' British Evangelicals, African leadership

[...] Once enthroned, Rowan Williams found himself caught in the web of a plot of international dimensions in which hard-line British evangelicals, ultraconservative American schismatics and an ambitious African Primate, with his band of assenting minions, had joined forces to capture the soul of Anglicanism, at the same time that they advanced their own particular agendas.

Up until the last meeting of the Primates in Dar es Salaam, the Archbishop of Canterbury tried to woo the leaders of the conspiracy by yielding to the majority of their wishes. As was to be expected, the ringleaders took Rowan Williams' acquiescence for weakness, and redoubled their efforts to make him sanction an American schism. Read more

Vicar of Dagenham issues statement on non-ordination of Chelmsford candidate

STATEMENT from Mike Reith, Vicar, Dagenham Parish Church

It is with great regret that we make it known that Richard Wood was not ordained Curate to Dagenham Parish Church on 1st July ’07 as planned.

Richard wanted to be ordained, and was willing to accept the legal authority of the Bishop of Chelmsford and swore canonical obedience to him during his ordination retreat.

However, because of the Bishop’s patronage of the campaigning group ‘Changing Attitude’ (an organisation that campaigns for the inclusion of practicing homosexuals in every area of church life), Richard was not able, on the grounds of conscience, to give assurances that he would personally receive communion with the Bishop after ordination. He was therefore told he was ‘free to go’ from the ordination retreat at 4:00 pm on the day before his ordination.

The Bishop of Chelmsford had earlier been asked by Mike Reith, on Richard’s behalf, to allow him to be ordained by another bishop. The Bishop declined that request.

The Bishop has promised to ordain Richard at the end of September if Richard changes his mind about receiving communion from him. Richard will be paid a Curate’s stipend until then.

The Diocese of Chelmsford has five other bishops, and Richard will gladly be ordained by and receive communion from any one of them. The Bishop therefore has the resources to resolve this issue, if there is a willingness to be flexible and to allow the ordination to proceed with a bishop who is not a supporter of ‘Changing Attitude’.

Given that Richard was recommended, fully trained, and allocated a church in which he was to serve his Curacy, it is hoped that he will be ordained soon. There is no reason why this ordination could not take place without Richard being required to go against his conscience.

A little something for your computer 'wallpaper'

Ed: Courtesy of Christian Today. Right click over the picture with your mouse button, then select your options.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, left, and Latin America's first woman bishop, Obispa Sufraganea Nerva Cot Aguilera, right.

Education is supposed to make you rich, not wealthy

Ed: Which is why I was glad to get out of university chaplaincy.

[...] Education should be wild, exciting, intoxicating. Engineers, medics and lawyers must of necessity modify that view, but only to an extent. These days, more and more tertiary education establishments specialise in courses that look like a short-cut to a sexy job: you can study sport, or journalism, or television, or pop music, even fashion, for God’s sake. I imagine educationists sitting around a table: “Let’s have a course in sports journalism! They’ll love it! They’ll come flocking in! Brilliant idea! Carried unanimously.”

Then some awkward fellow asks: “Yes, but what are we actually going to teach them?” Ugly silence. “Ah, yes . . . now there you may have hit on the one snag in whole thing . . . but never mind, let’s go ahead and do it anyway.”

The error – the heresy – is to think that the entire purpose of education is to get you a better job: that the entire function of an individual life is to make as much money as possible. No one said to me, read Finnegans Wake and you’ll make a bloody fortune; that’s the whole point of reading the damn thing. Read more

Marriage works - why it's best to tie the knot

Marriage works. It keeps relationships together and children benefit hugely from stable two parent families. The evidence is overwhelming. I've never seen it seriously disputed.

It is a serious sociological observation, not a right-wing cliché. Indeed, the first time I was introduced to the idea was an article, Dan Quayle was Right by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, originally printed in The Atlantic Monthly. I was given it by Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute, the intellectual driver of the Clinton-Blair third way.

But it still leaves two questions. Why does it work? And can Government do anything to promote it? I think the answers are linked. Read more

Sunday, 15 July 2007

It's time to move beyond being 'gay'

[...] As part of the Channel 4 season celebrating the 40th anniversary of the bill, Kevin Elyot (he of My Night With Reg) has written a brilliant screenplay, Clapham Junction, that weaves this complicated tapestry with skill and poignancy. Using a murder on the common as a central event, he overlays the lives of a group of people - married, single, bi, straight, gay, young, middle-aged, rich and struggling - into a nightmare of unhappiness. It's an exciting piece of work, but apart from being great telly, it starts to shake off the restrictions imposed by having to call it 'gay'. It isn't gay. And it is only an exploration of sexuality in so far as it just presents these human beings in all their confusions, certainly acknowledging our gay parallel lives, but moving far beyond that in its human understanding.

So how much longer will we have to go on being gay? Well, as long as they bully and kill us for it, we'll have to fight back. But at the same time let's find a freedom beyond the definition. Let sexuality float free of our own stereotypes. Elyot's screenplay is a fitting tribute to 40 years of change. Maybe we're nearing the end of 'the homosexual'. Maybe it was just a phase we were going through.

· Simon Fanshawe is a writer, broadcaster and co-founder of Stonewall Read more

Marriage - the next political 'hot potato'

He was turfed out of the leadership by his own MPs without even being given the opportunity to fight a general election, and it had appeared the short and unlamented era of IDS was long over. Last week, though, the self-styled "quiet man" produced a minor earthquake in British politics. The colossal report from Iain Duncan Smith's Social Justice Commission arrived with 190 recommendations for addressing the problems of social decay: high crime rates, low aspirations, low educational attainment and high dependency on the state.

Central among those recommendations is the idea that the tax and benefits system should be changed to provide incentives for couples to get, and stay, married. The former Conservative leader advocates spending £3.2 billion on a transferable tax allowance for married couples which would reward one partner for staying at home and looking after the children. Most other European countries already have such a scheme.

Gordon Brown's reaction was typical. In his Number 10 study, he scribbled on a pad the various categories of families who would not benefit, reading them out to aides as he wrote: "married couples where both partners work … single parents … widows … long-term couples who have not married … divorcees … women who have been deserted by their partner … elderly couples on the state pension … " Rather than supporting marriage, Labour plans to fight the next election on its familiar territory of means-tested benefits and tax breaks aimed at families with children. "Basically, when we draw up a policy we will ask: 'Does this benefit all kids?' " a senior Labour MP said. "If it doesn't, we won't do it." Read more