Saturday, 18 August 2007

Murdered biker was a devout Christian

The Hell’s Angel biker shot dead on the M40 last Sunday had been a Christian who used to hold Bible classes and prayer meetings and dreamt of being a missionary.

As his girlfriend, Rebecca Smith, 25, spoke of the void left in her life by his murder, it emerged that he had been a born-again Christian when he lived in Canada. Gerry Tobin, 35, was killed with a shot to the back of the head as he drove his Harley-Davidson in Warwickshire. It remains unclear whether he was killed after angering someone from a rival gang or was targeted because he was wearing the Hell’s Angels insignia.

Born in Britain, he moved to Canada with his family at a young age and married a school sweetheart who shared his religious convictions. Mr Tobin and his wife, Kara, would raise eyebrows as they drove to church in Calgary on a Harley-Davidson. Read more

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Friday, 17 August 2007

Adelaide Dean: Spong is a reductionist who only pulls things apart

The Anglican Dean, Dr. Steven Ogden, from St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide said that although Bishop John Spong was not ban from visiting Anglican churches in Adelaide, but nevertheless he was a ‘reductionist’ who pulled things apart but do not help people restore the pieces back together.

Bishop Spong, an American Episcopalian retired-bishop who is a supporter of female and gay priests, has attracted controversy in his trip to Australia to promote his latest book, entitled ‘Jesus for the Non-Religious.’
Talking to the Advertiser, a newspaper publication, Dean Ogden went further and said that Bishop Spong’s theories were not new and was a repeat of an 18th century religious scholar’s thinking.

"Spong is a reductionist, who pulls things to bits, but he doesn't help people put it back together again," he said. “… Spong's theories were ‘not new’. Eighteenth century religious scholar Reimarus said 200 years ago there was no such thing as miracles and no such thing as the resurrection.” Read more

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Wycliffe Hall tops Oxford Permanent Private Halls table

A 'League Table' for Oxford's Permanent Private Halls shows that Wycliffe came top in undergraduate degree classifications last year, despite criticisms of academic standards aired in the secular and church press.

Meanwhile, Wycliffe has issued a press statement responding to a recent article in the Guardian. It begins,

The Guardian’s news article (11th August 2007) concerning Wycliffe Hall contains material inaccuracy. The report both distorts the University of Oxford’s Review of Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) and repeats previously unsubstantiated material derived from anonymous documents circulated to the media. It attributes comments to the Principal he simply did not say.

The Press Office of the University has issued a statement which states that, “the article implies that a report about PPHs generally is directed specifically at Wycliffe Hall. This is incorrect.”

The excellence of the academic standards at Wycliffe Hall are amply demonstrated by the first place achieved by the Hall in the 2007 Norrington Tables for PPHs, results which when compared to the other colleges, gave Wycliffe a higher score than several well known names such as Corpus Christi, Oriel, Exeter, St Hugh’s and St Catherine’s.

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Thursday, 16 August 2007

The unpalatable influence on youth crime

[...] Most of us do not commit crimes, because we think it's wrong to do so: we acquire the conscience that helps us separate right from wrong during childhood.

If early upbringing fails, then crime tends to become more likely. As one government survey found, 27 per cent of prison inmates had been in care and 47 per cent had run away from home as a child, suggesting a strong link between crime and family instability.

Home Office studies have also repeatedly found that having only one parent, or having step-parents, increases the risk of crime. If there were less family breakdown, there would be less crime.

We have become squeamish about linking crime to family breakdown, because it is said to make a scapegoat of lone parents or to be too judgmental about lifestyle choices.

Whatever these qualms, there is no getting away from the fact that children are more likely to stay away from crime and to lead fuller lives if both their biological parents are committed to their well-being during the two decades it takes to grow up. Read more

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Anglican Archbishop of Dublin takes liberal view of cohabitation before marriage

In an extensive interview in the current issue of the Dublin-based magazine, Hot Press, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, has said that "the ideal - and right place - is for sex within marriage", but added that he "certainly would not condemn anybody in a loving relationship". Asked if the Anglican Church considered pre-marital sex as a sin, Dr Neill said: "I think that making hard and fast statements about listing things as sins would be less common nowadays.

This story here, but full story only by subscription to Hot Press, Dublin.

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Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Netherlands Bishop: Call God Allah

The Bishop of Breda, Tiny Muskens, wants people to start calling God Allah. He says the Netherlands should look to Indonesia, where the Christian churches already pray to Allah. It is also common in the Arab world: Christian and Muslim Arabs use the words God and Allah interchangeably.

Speaking on the Dutch TV programme Network on Monday evening, Bishop Muskens (pictured) says it could take another 100 years but eventually the name Allah will be used by Dutch churches. And that will promote rapprochement between the two religions. Read more

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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Frank Field MP: If PM doesn't fly Union flag, the separatists win

[...] A realignment will be much easier for voters in Wales and Scotland. Here, a significant proportion of the electorate see their main identity coming from their separate status as countries, and not from being British. Greater integration in Europe is for them the easiest way they can separate themselves from the Union. They wish to become sovereign powers in a greater Europe.

What then will there be left of the Union? For the English, the question of the great institutions that have bound the United Kingdom together, and particularly the monarchy, will be issues they will find hardest to solve. The new EU treaty will put a European President on offer for those parts of the realm wishing to separate themselves from England. As constituent parts of the United Kingdom move to independence, will they want to find a new role for the monarchy in their affairs? If the answer is no, how do the English safeguard an institution that has been so clearly part of their identity?

Immigration will give a further twist to this debate on identity. It has been mainly to England that the great waves of post-war immigration have come. Until recently, British governments of both parties tried to limit the scale of immigration, accepting that there could come a point where the sheer weight of numbers threatens the identity of the host country. Maastricht dismantled these controls, by insisting on the free movement of labour as well as capital. The free movement of labour meant little, initially, as the living standards of countries before the EU enlargement were at least in striking distance of each other.

That became far from true with the enlargement of the EU eastwards. Living standards, one tenth of ours, have resulted in the largest influx of immigrants into our country in our history, and within the matter of a few years.

Most of these new arrivals share the same understanding that comes from once being part of Christendom. Not so for many of the earlier waves of Commonwealth immigrants who eagerly came to Britain to work and prosper. They were met by a political elite who were too busy or careless to define what it was to be British. A significant proportion of these earlier arrivals were never told how to sign up to be British, let alone what a British identity entails. A nation's identity and citizenship are closely interwoven. It is on this front that the Government must act on how to run being English and British at one and the same time. Read more

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Robert Gagnon questions whether Calvin would put unity first

In a new Presbyterian Coalition paper, “Let Us Rise Up and Build (Neh. 2:18): A Plan for Reformation in the Presbyterian Church (USA),” which I commend as a continuing effort to bring renewal to the PCUSA, Calvin is cited on the question of unity and the case of Corinth:

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book IV, Chapter 1), recites the long history of doctrinal and moral corruption in Israel and the church. He refers to the church in Corinth, where “it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one species of sin but a multitude; and these not trivial errors, but some of them execrable crimes” (section 14). Calvin notes that “Paul, instead of giving them [the Corinthian Christians] over to destruction, mercifully extricated them” (section 27). The reformer concludes, “Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal” (section 17). Our hope is that “the Lord is daily smoothing its [the Church’s] wrinkles, and wiping away its spots” (section 2). (p. 5 n. 1)

These references buttress the assertion on p. 2 that “the church always stands in need of reformation” and justify staying in the denomination despite its problems. The comment is made on p. 4: “Even individuals and congregations that move to another Reformed body will soon discover that that body, too, stands in need of biblical reformation.” In short, these remarks suggest that affirmation of homosexual unions in the PCUSA would not be grounds for leaving the PCUSA.

In response:

  1. It is not clear to me that Calvin intended to say, in the quotations given above, that believers should remain in a denominational structure indefinitely that blessed incestuous unions between a man and his mother or stepmother, among church officers no less, and did so as part of the doctrine of the church. Indeed, it strikes me as historically bizarre to suggest that Calvin would long have remained in such a denomination as prospects dimmed for turning the denomination around. The only question, it seems to me, is whether Calvin would have tried to have recalcitrant offenders burned at the stake or not. The same question would have applied, indeed more so, to the case of homosexual offenders. (Here, of course, I do not wish to condone burning at the stake but merely suggest that the intensity of Calvin’s opposition would have been greater, not lesser, than ours.)

Read more

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Sydney Archbishop Jensen 'bans' John Shelby Spong

A ROW has erupted within the Anglican Church over a visit to Australia by an American cleric who has being accused of modernising Christ to the point of stripping him of all divinity.

Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen has taken the extraordinary step of banning John Shelby Spong, a fellow member of the Anglican communion who arrives in Sydney this morning, from churches in his diocese.

By contrast, Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall has invited Bishop Spong, a leader of the church's liberal wing, to deliver two sermons in Brisbane's St John's Cathedral.

The retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, Bishop Spong will also give a public lecture at St Aidan's Anglican Girls School in Brisbane. Read more

See also these articles from the Diocesan newspaper, Southern Cross engaging with Spong, here and here

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Monday, 13 August 2007

Should Pakistani ex-pats govern in Pakitsan?

Ed: A question you might think of no relevance to Chelmsford Anglicans until you read the arguments in this article from Pakistan:

[...] Without questioning their good intentions or patriotism therefore it remains legitimate to ask: should expatriates govern?

In answering this question, the case of dual citizens is perhaps the most simple. In most cases, acquiring a second citizenship requires taking an oath of citizenship. In the United Kingdom, for example, citizenship requires the applicant to take the following Oath (for Muslims, on the Quran):

"I, [name], [swear by Almighty God] [do solemnly and truly declare and affirm] that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors, according to law."

In law, one can be "faithful" to more than one subsidiary lord, but can owe "allegiance" to only one master, who has no superior, and "true" faith or allegiance cannot be shared. This follows from the well-established legal maxim that "no man can serve two masters" (the Bible, Matthew 6:24). What is more, every naturalised British citizen swears "to be faithful and bear true allegiance" not to the state or nation, but personally to "Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors."

This has important consequences. The Queen is not only the Head of State, and "Head of the Armed Forces," but is also "Defender of the [Christian] Faith," among her other roles. In this capacity, she appoints archbishops and bishops, who also take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. In its Articles, the Church of England describes the monarch as "being by God's Ordinance [shari`ah] … Defender of the Faith and ... Supreme Governor of the Church of England." On coronation, the British sovereign swears to maintain the Church of England. While custom, law, and judicial precedent restrain the British monarch's multiple roles as head of church, state, and armed forces, this does not alter the fact that even today her position is similar in many ways to that of the "Rightly Guided Caliphs" of early Muslims.

Every naturalised British citizen then swears to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, personally, in all of her roles. While this may not rest heavily on those engaged in commerce, industry, finance, or philanthropy no one who aspires to political activity, public service or office can afford to be cynical and make light of solemn oaths. Can anyone who swears personal allegiance to the head of the Anglican Church, the British armed forces and the state, serve the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan without fear, favour, or demands of competing attachments? More importantly, how can such a person also take an oath to "bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan" and "preserve the Islamic Ideology" as is required by the constitution, of every high public official? Read more

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Male ordinations plummet in CofE

Ed: The actual title of this piece is "Half of all vicars will be women 'by 2025'" - but look at the reason why, and check these pictures again!

When Dawn French was appointed Vicar of Dibley in the BBC comedy 13 years ago, women priests in real life were a rarity.

Today, almost half of newly-ordained priests are female and by the year 2025 they will form half of all Church of England clergy according to a study.

While traditionalists still struggle to accept the role of women, some parishes would not have survived without them, says Christian Research.

The group, which analyses church statistics, says that between 1990 and 2015 the number of women priests will have doubled to 2,200 while the number of male clergy will have almost halved to just over 4,500.

This year, 47 per cent of new priests have been female.

In the Bath and Wells diocese, 13 out of the 16 priests ordained have been women.

In Wakefield, it is 10 out of 14. Read more

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Please read this

Ed: Please read all this article. If there is a 'something' these days that should concern Christians as much as social issues in Wilberforce's day, it is surely the issues identified here (read the whole article, though).

There’s no getting round the figure of the absent father. It’s a factor that keeps coming up, not just here in inner London, but in very different parts of the country where teachers, education authorities and an almost countless array of agencies are trying to help some deeply troubled youths to help themselves. People observe that in the Damilola Taylor and Stephen Lawrence murder cases, almost all the suspects came from fatherless homes. The other constant refrain is a more general sense that no one seems to care any more. It’s not new, but it’s more specific than it used to be. In Leeds, Gary Nixon, team leader of EOTAS (Education Other Than at School) admits he is aware of “sounding like an old fellow” when he says that things like neighbourly support, the role of the Auntie figure, respect for authority in all its guises have all sunk dramatically in the past 20 years. But he also says that in his long experience in social work and education, it is the young people themselves who now want a return to older values.

Whatever the causes of the problems which institutions like the academy are trying to tackle, few doubt that they are both pressing and expensive. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice policy group estimates that the financial cost to the British taxpayer of family breakdown, educational failure and drug and alcohol addiction is just over £100 billion; in other words the same as our expenditure on the National Health Service. Read more

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Confessions of a BBC liberal

[...] We in the BBC were acutely detribalised; we were in a tribal institution, but we were not of it. Nor did we have any geographical tribe; we lived in commuter suburbs, we knew very few of our neighbours and took not the slightest interest in local government. In fact we looked down on it. Councillors were self-important nobodies and mayors were a pompous joke.

We belonged instead to a dispersed “metropolitan media arts graduate” tribe. We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the royal family, the defence budget – it’s a wonder we ever got home.

The second factor that shaped our media liberal attitudes was a sense of exclusion. We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual elite, full of ideas about how the country should be run. Being naive in the way institutions actually work, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge of the country.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world.

We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. We also had an almost complete ignorance of market economics. That ignorance is still there. Say “Tesco” to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, “Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers.” The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers does not register on their radar.

The third factor arises from the nature of mass media. The Tonight programme had a nightly audience of about 8m. It was much easier to keep their attention by telling them they were being deceived or exploited by big institutions than by saying what a good job the government and the banks and the oil companies were doing. Read more

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Amnesty to defy Catholic church over rape victims' abortion rights

Amnesty International is set to defy the Vatican and risk the wrath of Catholics around the world over its decision to back abortion for rape victims.

Leaders of the international human rights group meeting in Mexico are expected to reaffirm the policy adopted by its executive board in April after two years of soul-searching within the organisation.

The decision, which will also cover women whose health is at risk from giving birth, follows the use of mass rape as a political weapon in the conflict in Darfur. But Amnesty has infuriated the Vatican by expanding its definition of human rights to include access to abortion, prompting leading Catholics to accuse the organisation of having "betrayed its mission". Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has threatened that unless Amnesty's policy is reversed, the Vatican will call upon Catholics worldwide to boycott the organisation. Read more

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Richard Dawkins, TV evangelist

[...] Until now, atheism has never held much interest for sociologists of religion such as myself. The numbers of people identifying themselves as atheists in surveys have been a small fraction of the population, and atheist organisations have had relatively little impact on the wider cultural landscape. But this could be changing. The high public profile (and sales) of recent books by Dawkins, Richard Dennett, AC Grayling, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens suggests growing numbers of people may be being drawn to identifying themselves in opposition to religion.

Dawkins's declared interest in making atheism more publicly acceptable - exemplified by the sale of 'A for atheism' T-shirts on his website - demonstrates that this phenomenon is not simply about philosophical debates concerning the existence of God. The sheer ferocity of many of the atheist critiques of religion also suggests that we are not in the territory of reasoned debate, but witnessing the birth pangs of a new, anti-religious cultural identity.

We are now seeing a concerted effort being made to validate an atheist cultural identity through media and consumer products, just as evangelicals have already used these resources to consolidate their form of Christian identity in the modern world. Read more

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A priest who made sense of religion

(Ed: An interesting slice of old Chelmsford life.)

Father Andrew wrote passion plays that Baylis used to stage at the Old Vic, but it is for his letters that he will be remembered. First published in 1948, The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, published by Mowbray and edited by Kathleen Burne, went into many editions.

I sometimes think that if a fire broke out in my house, and I could take only one book, it would be this. When one has felt most inclined to chuck religion, for all the usual reasons, this is the book that has made a total break impossible. It is a record of "the real thing".

"I went to my poor consumptive man this afternoon, and did what I often do with a sick man, lay down on the bed beside him and read him the chapters of St Luke which bear upon the passion of our divine Lord. After I had read a few verses he fell asleep, so I stopped reading, and a little while after I fell asleep, too." Dostoevsky could have written this scene.

Or, to one who was losing their faith: "Don't call it religion. If your faith just means going to Mass on Sundays and making that an end, you will get tired as you would get tired of any occupation; but call it 'Love'."

Or: "Belief has to do with a very great deal besides intellectual assent and emotional experience. Read more

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Sunday, 12 August 2007

Anglican decline continues despite 'record' ordinations

VICARS in Bolton may be asked to oversee groups of churches due to a decline in the number of full-time staff.

All the deaneries in the Manchester Diocese are currently carrying out a pastoral review which has resulted in the suggestion that a number of churches be linked under the control of a single clergyman.

This would mean that, rather than being based at one church, teams of clergy would oversee groups of churches.

This year there was a record number of ordinations in the Manchester Diocese but many were part-time and the number of full-time clergy is declining. Read more

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