Friday, 5 October 2007

Should Creationism be taken seriously by teachers?

Radio 4 ran this feature earlier today.
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Teachers 'fear evolution lessons'

The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London's Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

This could leave pupils with gaps in their scientific knowledge, he says.

Prof Reiss says the rise of creationism is partly down to the large increase in Muslim pupils in UK schools. Read more
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Observations of Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis on the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans

(Ed: "The issue of homosexuality and the blessing of same-sex marriages is just a tiny part of the direction that TEC is moving in. Their views of the scriptures, salvation and Jesus Christ, His divinity and uniqueness, are very different from the majority views of the Anglican Communion." Now which bishops this side of the water have been saying that isn't so?)

I am very grateful for the warm welcome from and hospitality of the Presiding Bishop and other Bishops from The Episcopal Church in America (TEC). I was invited to participate in the House of Bishops (HOB) meeting as well as the Joint Standing Committee, as a member of the Primates Standing Committee. It was a wonderful and unique opportunity to be able to listen to the TEC Bishops in New Orleans and learn about the Church in America. I was also very grateful for the opportunity I was given to address the HOB.

During the HOB meetings I observed the following:

Membership in the Anglican Communion

The majority of Bishops are keen to maintain their membership with in the Anglican Communion. ”We need the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Communion needs us”. Some Bishops also expressed their appreciation of the companionship relations and mission work between TEC Dioceses and other Dioceses within the Anglican Communion.

Values of significance within TEC

Ensuring social justice for all members of the society This would be expressed by the full participation of practicing homosexuals of all aspects of the ministry of the church, including ordained ministry. This also guarantees that gay and lesbian couple have their unions blessed in the church.

Alleviating poverty through implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Autonomy. While they value their membership within the Anglican Communion, they are absolutely clear that TEC is an autonomous church and should not receive instruction from any other body or church, like the Primates Meeting.

Inclusiveness. The American Bishops spoke about inclusiveness as an utmost necessity within church life. Everybody, regardless of life style or sexual orientation or belief should enjoy full participation in church life. Though they stress this value, the orthodox Bishops within TEC feel marginalized and excluded.

TEC adopted a different direction from the Anglican Communion

The issue of homosexuality and the blessing of same-sex marriages is just a tiny part of the direction that TEC is moving in. Their views of the scriptures, salvation and Jesus Christ, His divinity and uniqueness, are very different from the majority views of the Anglican Communion. They strongly believe that this new direction is prophetic and will lead to reformation within the Church. For this reason they cannot wait for the rest of the Communion because they are taking the lead towards this new direction. Several bishops are very critical of the idea of a Covenant; this is why it was not mentioned in their response to the Primates. The Archbishop of Canterbury graciously addressed the House of Bishops and shared that he believed that the heart of the issue is about the understanding of ecclesiology and Catholicity. He also shared with them that it is a Bishop’s responsibility to serve the common discernment of the whole Church. It was surprising for me to observe the angry response of several Bishops to these remarks. Perhaps this is because the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out the very reason for the crisis we are in. This reason is the spirit of individualism within the American Church. Such individualism is manifested by their disregard for the rest of the Communion and ecumenical partners.

Resolution B033 of the General Convention in 2006 states that they will ”exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the Communion”, (which they clarified to include non-celibate homosexuals). In spite of this, Gene Robinson is welcomed and supported by the HOB. It is a source of pride for the majority of bishops that they were able to go ahead of all the churches and consecrate a bishop who is an active gay. Moreover they asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to find a way for Gene Robinson to participate at Lambeth 2008. This clearly expresses their determination to continue to travel in this ‘new direction’.

Outside Intervention within TEC

The House of Bishops expressed their rejection of the interventions by Primates from other Provinces. However they did not accept the Primates recommendation of a Pastoral Scheme. Instead they came up with an internal plan for ”Episcopal visitors” which is unlikely to solve deep disputes between Dioceses and parishes and TEC. Of course it is impossible to imagine that TEC could both be a party in the dispute as well as a judge of it.


In conclusion, I believe that TEC did not and will not change its position in regard to the issues that tear apart the fabric of the Communion. They tried to use very ambiguous language to show that they responded positively to the Windsor Report and well as the Primates recommendation. However, I see that they are determined to go their own way. I am afraid that TEC’s position may lead to more intervention and further fragmentation within the Communion. They describe their position as a new Reformation, but they forgot that the reformation led to a split!

At a time like this we need clarity and firmness to resolve this crisis. Without this the Communion will fragment because every church will take the actions she likes. I do pray for Archbishop Rowan Williams at this time, so that the Lord may give him wisdom and the love in this difficult time.

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Thursday, 4 October 2007

White Anglicans accused of pressuring African churches on anti-gay agenda

Lesbian and gay Christians in the UK have criticised primarily white conservative Christians for pressurising African Anglican leaders to back them, and have said that the US Episcopal Church's compromise in saying it will not ordain gay people or bless partnerships at the moment is likely to backfire.

The response comes after a press release from the conservative Church Society network in England, effectively telling African Anglican churches meeting in Mauritius over the next few days to take a series of measures to outlaw Western churches who take a different view to them.

The bishops will be meeting under the banner of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) which includes the provinces of Burundi, Congo, Central Africa, Egypt, Indian Ocean, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Southern Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and West Africa. CAPA is chaired by Archbishop Peter Akinola - an outspoken opponent of recognising lesbian and gay people.

Church Society says it wants African bishops to declare that the US House of Bishops has "abandoned orthodox Christianity", refuse to recognise their orders, refuse fellowship with them, boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference 2008 and call for its suspension, and "require the withdrawal of The US Episcopal Church as a body from the Primates Meetings, The Anglican Consultative Council and future Lambeth Conferences." Read more

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Bishop of Willesden alleges 'injustice' at Wycliffe Hall

In an increasingly heated discussion on the Fulcrum 'Open Evangelical' website, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has alleged that the recent losses of staff at Wycliffe Hall theological college involved injustice, and possible illegality, on the part of the management.

'The point at issue,' he writes in one post, 'is whether it was done properly and fairly, and with due regard for legal process. And whether it was done pastorally, carefully, and with due regard for Christian principles. I would suggest that the answer is "no" in both cases.'

Earlier, he had written, 'Of course I'm very angry about this, because these are friends of mine who have been shafted.'

Most recently, he challenges the college management to respond in the public arena: 'If they can explain and justify their actions against the background of all the criticisms contained in the press reports, the letters from former staff, the broadcast interviews on Radio 4 and Radio Ulster and the resignation letter from the member of Council, then we shall be getting somewhere.'

Believing he has firm grounds for his criticisms, Bishop Broadbent has made clear his own preferred course of action: 'If I had the money,' he wrote, 'I'd take them to an industrial tribunal to seek to prove that due process was not followed.'

Revd John P Richardson
4 October 2007

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Wednesday, 3 October 2007

President Bishop of Jerusalem objects to Joint Standing Committee assessment of TEC House of Bishop's response to Dar es Salam requests

(Ed: The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion have now submitted their Report on The Episcopal Church House of Bishops of Meeting in New Orleans. However, not all the members of the JSC were present when the report was compiled. One of the absentees was The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, whose objections to the contents of the report are below.)

Assessment of the response the House of Bishops of TEC to the Windsor Report and Dar El Salam recommendation

First, I would like to thank the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in America (TEC) for her kind invitation and for the great hospitality we enjoyed while we were in New Orleans. I am also grateful for the opportunity I was given to address the House of Bishops (HOB).

It is very unfortunate that not all the members of the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) were present when a response to the HOB of TEC was drafted. The lack of discussion and interaction will not produce a report that expresses the view of the whole committee.

The response of the House of Bishops of TEC represents a superficial shift from their previous position; the fact remains that their position since 2003 has not changed. The House of Bishops has not responded positively to either the Windsor Report or the Dar El Salam Primates recommendation.

Therefore I strongly disagree with the report of the JSC which states that "We believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them, and on which clarifications were sought by the 30th of September, and given the necessary assurance sought of them." The reasons for my disagreement are as follows:

On Public Rites for Blessing of Same-sex Unions

The statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans did not meet the request of Windsor Report that the "Bishops must declare a moratorium on all such public rites". It also failed to meet the request of the Primates at Dar El Salam that the Bishops should "make an unequivocal common covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any rites of blessing for same-sex unions in their Diocese."

They did not declare a moratorium on authorization public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions. Instead the House of Bishops pledged not to authorize any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions. I understand moratorium as "cessation of activity". In the explanatory discussion they mentioned that "the majority", not all, of Bishops do not make allowances for the blessings of same-sex unions. This means that a number of Bishops will continue to make allowances for the blessing of same-sex unions. I see this as an equivocal and unclear response.

While the House of Bishop's response means that 'authorization' of the rites will not take place, but it also stated that some will continue to ''explore and experience liturgies celebrating the blessing of same-sex unions''. The exploration of liturgies celebrating the blessing of same-sex unions, keeps a window to continue such blessings under another title!! This unashamedly disregards the standard teaching of the Anglican Communion which is still torn over this issue.

On the elections non-celibate gay and lesbian persons to the Episcopate

Those who read the whole response of the House of Bishops of TEC, not only parts of it, would find the following.

The House of Bishops clarified Resolution B033 of the General Convention 2006 in such a way that "non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included in the restraint". But in the same response we find them saying "We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church." What does this mean? This statement contradicts their explanation of B033 which put a restraint on electing and consecrating non-celibate gay and lesbian persons to the Episcopate Order, as it restricts them from full participation in the church.

The request of the House of Bishops to the Archbishop of Canterbury to explore ways for Gene Robinson to fully participate in Lambeth Conference demonstrates clearly that they see that the manner of life of Gene Robinson, as a non-celibate gay, does not present a challenge to the wider church and will not lead to further strains on the Communion. This again contradicts their clarification of General Convention Resolution B033 that it does indeed refer "to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons".

On the Pastoral Scheme

In regard to the recommendation of Dar El Salam Primates Meeting, for the establishment of a Pastoral Council "to act on behalf of the Primates in consultation with the Episcopal Church", the House of Bishops did not respond positively. Their excuse was that such a pastoral scheme would compromise the authority of the Presiding Bishop, and place the autonomy of the Episcopal Church at risk.

The House of Bishops came up with another internal plan that allows the Presiding Bishop to appoint Episcopal visitors for Dioceses that 'request' alternative oversight. This is completely different from the Pastoral scheme recommended by Dar El Salam. The composition of the recommended pastoral scheme has the ability to stop the interventions of outside Provinces because it represents TEC, the Primates, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Suspending all Legal Actions

The Primates in Dar El Salam urged the representatives of TEC and of those congregations in property disputes with TEC to suspend all legal actions against each other. The House of Bishops did not address this issue.


The House of Bishops did not respond meet the recommendation of Windsor Report and the Dar El Salam Primates Meeting Communiqué. Instead they used ambiguous language and contradicted themselves within their own response.

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Member of the Primates Standing Committee

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This Saturday: Where is God in the Bad Times - 7th Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference

Book Now!

The problem of suffering affects us all. It is also a challenge to our evangelism. Radio broadcaster John Humphrys asked three key religious leaders the same question: "Why does God allow suffering?" and each time he received an answer that left him dissatisfied. The result is his new book, In God we Doubt.

The seventh Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference takes a look at the problem of suffering through the experience of Job asking, as he did, "Where is God in the bad times?"

Christopher Ash, Director of the Cornhill Training Course, will be the main speaker, whilst Deborah Kelly of Grace Church, Wanstead, will speak from her own study of Wisdom Literature and her experience of faith and suffering in ministry.

To book, contact Lynn Marston ( The cost for the day is £15 (3 people £40, 5 people £60).

Saturday October 6th 2007
Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford

Programme from 9.30am to 3.30pm

Arrivals and registration
Job 1-3: The Darkness of Grief
Job 4-27: The Agony of Trust
Praise and Prayer
Job 28: Perplexed without Despair
Video presentation
Job 38-42: The God who is God
Application of CABC
Prayer and Praise
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Church of England launches campaign to counter steep decline in baptisms

he Church of England has launched a campaign to make baptisms more popular after it was revealed that the number has halved in 15 years.

Fewer than one in six of all infants is now baptised and in major cities the number has fallen to one in ten.

A book of guidance is being sent to clergy asking them to modernise their approach. One suggestion is that they make cohabiting couples feel more welcome, with a view to encouraging them to become regular churchgoers.

The guide says: "For some families today, the baptism of a child represents an opportunity for the first public acknowledgement of the parents' relationship. Churches can use this as an opportunity to promote marriage."

Just over 15 per cent of babies were christened into the CofE in 2005. The total of 93,000 Anglican baptisms was just over half the 184,000 as recently as 1990, they revealed. Read more
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Lichfield Diocese 'success' for Back to Church Sunday

Early responses from churches that took part in Back to Church Sunday in the Diocese of Lichfield last weekend suggest that the event has been a “huge success”.

Around 35,000 personal invitations were sent out to neighbours and former churchgoers and this was backed up with a radio and road-side poster advertising campaign.

St Mary’s Church in Kinnerley, near Oswestry, held their Back to Church Sunday a week early and 45 out of the 80 people present had responded to the invitation to return to church.

Similar results were found across the diocesan area, which takes in Staffordshire, the northern half of Shropshire, Walsall, Wolverhampton and half of Sandwell.

The six parishes of Badger, Beckbury, Kemberton, Ryton, Stockton and Sutton Maddock in Shropshire held a Back to Church Harvest Festival which attracted 90 - more than double the attendance at the same service in 2006. Some 35 of those present were invited guests. Read more
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Bishop of Chelmsford urges Christians to back Climate Change bill

CHRISTIANS have been urged to unite in the campaign to ensure that the forthcoming Climate Change Bill is ‘as strong and effective as possible’.

The call came from the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, who is chair of Christian Aud. Speaking at a service yesterday in St Paul’s Cathedral, he said: “Increasing numbers are waking up to the damage we are doing to this world and its most vulnerable people. The carbon on our footprint is dealing in death for millions least able to bear the cost. The selfish plundering of the world’s resources is driving the poorest and most vulnerable deeper into poverty and injustice.”

The Bishop was addressing those who had taken part in Christian Aid’s ‘Cut the Carbon’ march which lasted 80 days and covered more than 1,000 miles. Read more
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Back to Church Sunday at Chadwell Heath

We had about 40 returnees at Saint Chad's, Chadwell Heath on B2CS which also included, like you, some folk who've never been before! Our evangelism team were 'out and about' on the High Road on the previous two Saturday's giving out invitations and the congregation joined in by inviting folk, personally, and by making B2CS the focus of our prayers at our Tuesday evenings prayer for revival meetings. Interestingly, some folk came Sunday 23rd, but not on the 30th (that would bump our numbers up by another ten!).

We didn't have any difficulties putting together a welcome team - we've put a lot of effort into this in recent years and had already implemented many of the B2CS suggestions. Special events such as this are always good in bringing folk together with an outward focus rather than an internal perspective. Most people commented how much they enjoyed, and were touched by, the service (I had, unusually, no negative feedback - though they may yet come!) even though we had a technological breakdown when the PowerPoint projector 'blew' just as the service started. Fortunately, I'd already printed off some special service sheets and had enough to go round. However, it meant my talk was without the 'gimmick' (or visual aid) of PP which left me feeling a little 'bare.' However, I think folk just listened a bit more attentively - certainly no complaints that the sermon was boring (as if). I spoke on 'What kind of God are you looking for' based on Psalm 145 and Luke 4:18-19. Yes, I know the suggestion was to preach on a parable or similar, however, my points were: the God of the Past, the God of the Present and the God of the Future - it seemed to connect with folk.

We gave everyone a 'goodie bag' as they left church which included fair trade chocolate, a church welcome pack, a free book (John Piper's 'the Passion of the Christ') a church newsletter and a copy of the diocesan 'The Month' newspaper (someone may like to know what is going on in the Diocese) amongst other things. We usually serve coffee after the service, anyway. However, the MU provided some cakes and most 'returnees' stayed at the end to chat. Our service finished at 12.00 but I didn't 'lock up' until 1.20pm, so people weren't in a rush to go.

Of course, we'll wait to see just how many folk will continue to join with us in the coming weeks, however, if evangelism is all about sowing seeds then we believe many were sowed yesterday. But whatever happens, I'd say B2CS was a really positive experience for us.

Revd Paul Carr
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No money and pressure from Celtic Primates influence ABC’s decision on Primates’ Meeting

Reactions to the US House of Bishops New Orleans statement amongst the Primates have broken along factional lines, with conservatives denouncing the statement as insubstantial and dishonest, while liberals have praised its candor and modesty.

The divergent views of the adequacy of the US response to the Primates request for clarification of American church practices towards gay bishops and blessings further complicates the Archbishop of Canterbury’s hopes of forestalling a schism within the Communion.

Straightened finances and fears of a boycott by the primates of Wales, Ireland and Scotland to an emergency primates’ meeting to discuss the American response to the primates’ Dar es Salaam communique, has led to Dr. Williams telephoning the Communion’s primates to try to find a common mind. Read more

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'Mother Church of Georgia' Aligns with Province of Uganda

The rector and vestry of Christ Church, Savannah, Ga., announced Sept. 30 that they have voted to leave The Episcopal Church, placing the parish under the pastoral care of the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, a missionary Bishop from the Anglican Province of Uganda.

“This is a sober moment for us, but our first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s word revealed to us in the Holy Bible,” said Steve Dantin, senior warden. “In February 2007, The Episcopal Church (TEC) received a final call from the Anglican Communion to return to the central tenets of Christianity, and TEC failed to comply with the request by the September 30 deadline. Therefore TEC has abandoned the communion previously existing between TEC (including the Diocese of Georgia) and Christ Church.”

A release distributed by the parish leadership notes that the vote to disassociate follows a seven-year period of discernment and prayer.

Christ Church was founded in 1733 at roughly the same time as the Colony of Georgia. The parish lists more than 500 baptized members in good standing. It is considered the ‘mother church’ of Georgia, predating the existence of The Episcopal Church by more than 50 years. Read more
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Sunday, 30 September 2007

Back to Church Sunday: How was it for you?

So Back to Church Sunday has been and gone. How was it for you?

We certainly had some 'Back to's' and even some 'never been's' (not in my time, anyway) at both the congregations for which I am responsible. This was due entirely to the efforts of the congregations at both. (All I did was wave my arms around a bit.)

Obviously, we've now got to decide what to do as a 'follow up'.

Probably the most striking thing was the age profile at St Peter's Ugley - a congregation which, when I arrived had an average age of about 72, and this morning was probably nearer 42.

Personally, I wish there had been more official support and encouragement from Diocesan Central. However, it would be great to post some stories from around the Diocese. If you e-mail in, I'll put them here.

Revd John Richardson

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REFORM refutes Telegraph article

An article in the Sunday Telegraph has made a number of allegations about the response of Reform to statement from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church and a letter that has gone to the Archbishop of Canterbury. These include that Reform "says it will bring in foreign archbishops to ordain priests in dioceses where incumbent bishops refuse to disassociate themselves from the American church".

However, Rod Thomas, Chairman-elect of Reform, denies that any such 'ultimatum' has gone to the Archbishop, or that anything has been said in a letter to him other than to seek clarification about the Communion service he is apparently to conduct, being organized by the 'Clergy Consultation'.

Meanwhile, the only response Reform has made to TEC's statement is here.

Rod Thomas has stated that there are "other innaccuracies" in the report, and that he made no reference to last year's Southwark ordinations..

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