Saturday, 11 August 2007

Joel Edwards: I confess, I'm an evangelical

I have a confession to make. I am an evangelical. In fact, not only am I an evangelical, I head an organisation called the Evangelical Alliance. I’m an evangelical with a capital E.

I hesitate to make such a confession for I am painfully aware of the baggage the label carries. Without wanting to blame Americans for all the problems of the world, it is, well, largely their fault. When Keith Allen makes a TV programme on a “Christian” family in America whose main message of the love of Christ appears to be – and I quote – “God hates fags”, then we are, of course, seeing “evangelical Christianity”. Or when a leading US evangelical leader’s “solution” to the fact that President Chávez of Venezuela is somewhat, shall we say, left of centre is to call for his assassination, we all know it is those loony evangelicals at it again. Read more

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Stephen Bates continues attack on Turnbull

(Ed: Weird to see Stephen Bates picking up my comment on Thinking Anglicans yesterday. Must have been desperate for a quote!)

One of the Church of England's most distinguished theological training colleges has been placed on notice that it must improve its academic standards and not succumb to narrow conservative evangelicalism if it is to remain part of Oxford University. Wycliffe Hall, at the centre of a dispute between some staff and its hardline evangelical principal, has been told by the university that it must maintain the values of a liberal education and will be monitored to ensure it does. Complaints of homophobia and misogyny have been levelled at Wycliffe's leadership.

An internal report, drawn up by senior Oxford academics and accepted by the university's governing council, will warn the 130-year-old college of concern about the narrowness of its theological teaching and doubts about whether it is offering students full intellectual development. Read more

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Friday, 10 August 2007

Ministry to gangs and professionals of New York

[...] As a teenager, Tyrone found his identity in a gang named the Neighborhood Gangsters, and his future, like that of so many of his peers, seemed to be a dead-end street. Then one week, he went with a relative to Friday Night Live, a monthly, large-scale outreach hosted by a new, youth-oriented church named Infinity. Tyrone liked the hip-hop music, even though the words were about God. After the music, the pastor, Dimas Salaberrios—who had grown up a few miles away in Jamaica, Queens—spoke with relevance and passion about Jesus Christ.

Tyrone put his faith in Christ that night, but was still uncertain about his future. Quitting a gang could mean a death sentence, but he didn't have to explain this to Salaberrios, who already understood the problem. Salaberrios boldly contacted the gang's leader, asking that Tyrone's family not be punished because of his decision. Today, Tyrone serves on Infinity's security team, is discipled through a fellowship group and is being groomed for leadership by Salaberrios. Read more

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Sydney delays Lambeth response

The bishops of the Diocese of Sydney have told Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that they will not respond to his invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion’s bishops until they learn how The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops responds to the primates’ communiqué.

If the bishops who participated in the consecration of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire attend Lambeth, the bishops of Sydney might not, Archbishop Peter Jensen and his five suffragans said.

Writing to Archbishop Williams on July 30, Sydney’s bishops thanked him for their invitation to the 2008 gathering, saying “it would give us a great deal of joy to be able to join you” in Canterbury. However, “the timing of the invitation has proved difficult,” they explained, because they were first “looking for the response” of the American House of Bishops before giving their final answer. Read more

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Oxford Halls report queries Wycliffe’s liberal principles

PERMANENT Private Halls in Oxford should keep their relationship with the University, a review panel recommends. The Halls, which include the theological colleges Wycliffe Hall and St Stephen’s House, have been questioned about their academic standards, as well as their liberal credentials and management styles.

The University’s control over the Halls should be tightened so that they maintain Oxford’s “liberal” tradition in teaching and ethos, says the Review of the Permanent Private Halls Associated with the University of Oxford , which was sent to the University Council last month.

The seven Halls, four of which are Roman Catholic (St Benet’s Hall, Greyfriars, Blackfriars, and Campion Hall), and one Baptist (Regent’s Park), in addition to the two Anglican foundations, are all “characterised by a religious origin and a Christian ethos”, says the report. Read more

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Changing Attitude leads delegation lobbying against Nigerian venue for Commonwealth games

(Ed: See the Ugley Vicar blog for comment.)

A NIGERIAN BID to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Abuja should be rejected on the grounds of the country’s homophobic oppression of lesbian and gay Nigerians, a delegation told the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Mike Hooper, on Friday. The CGF is due to make its decision in early November.

The delegation was led by Davis MacIyalla, founder and leader of Changing Attitude in Nigeria, who has been on a tour of the United States and the UK as part of the listening process recommended by the Windsor report. “Nigeria’s homophobic oppression is a violation of the Commonwealth Games ethos of equality, humanity, peace, unity, co-operation, and understanding,” Mr MacIyalla said. He expressed fears that Nigeria’s anti-gay Bill, which ran out of legislative time in the country’s parliament, would be revived.

Mr MacIyalla had done “a magnificent job in exposing the victimisation of gay people in Nigeria — a victimisation that is incited and endorsed by the Church of Nigeria and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who was part of the delegation, with the Revd Stephen Coles, Vicar of St Thomas’s, Finsbury Park, in London, and Mike Hersee of Changing Attitude Nigeria, co-author with Mr MacIyalla of a report to the CGF, Abuja’s Bid — Sins of Omission. Read more

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Thursday, 9 August 2007

No room for sexual morality in an honest conversation about Aids

(Ed: Not sure this article at all proves the point made in the headline!)

In 1992, foreign donors phased out Uganda's zero grazing campaign and replaced it with a programme emphasising condom use for "people at high risk" similar to those in the rest of the region. But a few years ago, officials began to worry because although the HIV infection rate had fallen rapidly in the 1990s, the decline had ceased by the end of the decade. But instead of reviving the zero grazing campaign, the officials, with support from the Bush administration, mounted an "abstinence" campaign, which ironically sent a message very similar to the condom ads: only immoral people get Aids. To everyone's horror, the HIV rate in Uganda is beginning to rise again.

People always ask me: "So, fighting Aids requires a social movement. How do you generate a social movement?" Well, one thing that always galvanises people is a common enemy. Too many donor funded Aids programmes have divided people: HIV-positive from HIV-negative, "moral" from "immoral", high-risk from low-risk. Such programmes send the message that the enemy is people with Aids. Ugandans and gay men knew early that the enemy was HIV itself.

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Sunday, 5 August 2007

Edinburgh Fringe satirists aim their fire at Christian right

(Ed: The best motivation I've had yet to write part two of my series on the need for a new right-wing politic.)

We have nothing to fear from al-Qa'ida. Christian fundamentalists are the real extremist threat. That's the message from the writers of a new play being shown at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival.

Cash in Christ, a sing-along play satirising the modern capitalist "mega- church", is arguably one of the most controversial productions in a Fringe with the largest satirical content in living memory.

Other offerings this year include Jihad: The Musical, Tony Blair – The Musical, and others centred on the porn film Debbie Does Dallas, orgasms, Asbos and thoughts of BNP members.

Cash in Christ is so controversial it had to be passed by three lawyers before it could be performed at a festival in Australia. Read more

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Evil deeds should be punished. But what of evil thoughts?

[...] It is recognised, at least by the Church of England, that there may exist celibate homosexuals. In their case, it is supposed to be their sexual practices, not their sexual orientation, that are to be judged. I do not defend this distinction, but I argue simply that, in the name of justice, it be made as well in the case of those who like little boys or little girls. Before one is found guilty, one must be shown to have done something wrong. The rule of law cannot be to run over our dreams and nightmares.

Yet it may be argued that the pictures have been taken of real children, suffering real abuse and unimaginable damage. And this has been done to gratify the tastes of people such as Langham. He is thus exploiting and abusing the children involved by buying the pictures, even if he never imitates the pictures in actions of his own. He is voluntarily creating the market without which these genuinely evil pictures would not be made. There is truth in this. But for the damage to real children to be the basis of an argument to show that looking at child pornography should be a punishable offence, it is necessary first to prove beyond doubt the extent to which the pictures are accurate, not faked. Modern technology is capable of creating a convincing account of something that never happened. Enjoying an obscene story may be deplorable, and show a sinister imagination, even one that is deranged, but it ought not to constitute a legal offence.

There is here a distinction be drawn between morality and law. It is difficult to avoid (nor should one try to avoid) moral condemnation of the attitude towards women and especially towards children manifested in the creation of pornography. And the more forcibly and more widely this condemnation is expressed, the better society will become. Moreover, the law must reflect this moral repugnance. But it must also apply fairly, drawing distinctions between those who have committed crimes and those who have been merely attracted towards them. A man must show guilty intent before he can be convicted and there is a difference between intention and fantasy. Read more

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Meet the vicar's wife set to become the next Domestic Goddess

(Ed: Someone once described me as a 'domestic god' for my skills with roast potatos. Don't suppose I'll get on telly, though.)

She's a vicar's wife with a talent for cooking, so it seems only natural to ask Elisa Beynon whether her Victoria sponge is up to scratch.

"Oh, I can't be bothered with all that," she says, with a brisk wave of her freshly manicured hand.

"I don't like making cakes. I just think you might as well go to your local WI stall and get one there."

It is an unusual admission but then Elisa is not your typical Church of England vicar's wife.

For one thing, she prefers pink champagne to communion wine.

She cooks in high heels rather than a sturdy pair of loafers. And then there's the small matter of what she looks like.

Instead of the shapeless floral print skirt with elasticated waistband one might expect, her petite tanned frame is clothed in a well tailored designer dress, with straps that cross over at the back and a hem that stops just high enough to show off a fantastic pair of legs, tapering into a pair of bright crimson Carvela stilettos.

"I have been to a lot of parties where guests will wave their friends over and say, 'You'll never guess what her husband does,'" she admits.

"But I've got a lot of friends who are vicars' wives and they're all different.

"If you got on the Tube and played spot the vicar's wife, you could never do it." Read more

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Most scientists unbelievers - but science not to blame

The first systematic analysis in decades to examine the religious beliefs and practices of elite academics in the sciences supports the notion that science professors at top universities are less religious than the general population, but attributes this to a number of variables that have little to do with their study of science.

The 2005-07 study, "Religion Among Academic Scientists" (RAAS) was conducted by Elaine Howard Ecklund, assistant professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo and principal investigator.

The study is based on a survey of 1,646 academic scientists at 21 elite research universities and in-depth interviews with 271 of them. Read more

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South Carolina re-elects Mark Lawrence as bishop

The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence was re-elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election since no petitions to add other names to the slate were received by the July 11 deadline.

A majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must now consent to Lawrence's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Lawrence, 56, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, was first elected September 16, 2006 to be South Carolina's 14th bishop.

On March 15, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that election "null and void," saying that a number of the consent responses did not adhere to canonical requirements since Lawrence's election did not receive the consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees. Read more

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