Saturday, 27 October 2007

What about the poor girl down at the clinic?

(Ed: The trouble with this article is that it just puts one form of sentiment in the place of another.)

Those remarkable 4D neonatal scans are inescapable this week, as the Commons Science and Technology Committee pores over our 40-year-old abortion law. What moral weight these images carry, how powerfully they load the question: what kind of monstrous woman could terminate at eight weeks, when a foetus can kick and straighten its limbs, let alone at 24 when it can yawn, thumb-suck and “walk” within the womb. Besides, as any parent will recall, even at six weeks a baby’s heartbeat flickers on a scan, like a star signalling from a distant galaxy.

Against these arresting images, arguing for the retention of the 24-week limit feels like making the case for clubbing seal pups or drowning kittens. As if any one of the 2,600 British women who every year have an abortion after 20 weeks needs any reminder that she killed her unborn baby.

Our mental screen-savers are so overloaded with baby snaps we feel nothing for these desperate women, their often hideous circumstances and their grim decisions. Read more
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Anglican debate reignites over women bishops

DIVISIONS in the Anglican Church over women bishops were reignited yesterday when conservatives from opposite ends of the spectrum set up an organisation to protect dissidents.

More than a quarter of the 247 delegates to the Anglican general synod in Canberra held a hastily organised late-night meeting and set up a group to represent opponents of women bishops.

Liberals thought the battle for women bishops was over when the church's highest court ruled last month that they were legal, but debate will now start again.

The new group, the Association for Apostolic Ministry, is headed by Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, the church's leading evangelical, and Ballarat Bishop Michael Hough, chief spokesman for the high-church group known as Anglo-Catholics. Read more

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Friday, 26 October 2007

Third of primates 'under threat'

Had me worried for a minute. See here.

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Thursday, 25 October 2007

Universities told how to use Christianity to sack staff

(Ed: This, apparently from the TES, might qualify as 'tendentious headline of the year'. Christian Today runs it under 'Faith-based universities told to clarify 'Christian ethos' to employees.')

Universities with Church of England foundations have been told to emphasise their Christian credentials to make it easier to dismiss staff who don’t share those values, reports The Times Higher Education Supplement.

Universities have been advised by the Council of Church Colleges and Universities (CCCU) to mention their 'Christian ethos' in employment contracts so that staff who “openly flout” their ideals can be said to be in breach of contract.

Senior staff, chaplains and teachers of theology are most likely to be affected.

The news follows concerns already raised by The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which has called for significant changes in employment policy relating to faith schools, which allows church schools in particular to discriminate on the basis of faith.

It also follows hot debate earlier this year after two universities with Church of England foundations asked staff, in their articles of governance, not to undermine their Christian ethos. Read more
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California call to permit rites of same-sex blessing 'honors spirit of Windsor Report'

(Ed: Now I know we are living in 'fantasy fairy land'.)

Delegates to the annual convention of the Diocese of California approved overwhelmingly a resolution calling on Bishop Marc Handley Andrus to permit trial use of three rites as resources for formalizing the blessing of same-gender unions. Convention met Oct. 19-20 at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

The trial liturgies, which were developed by a task force approved by convention two years ago, were published in the convention delegate journal. The journal is available in electronic form on the diocesan website.

“I think the resolution properly augments my pastoral goal of caring alike for all of the people of the diocese, not reinforcing damaging distinctions,” Bishop Andrus said in his address. “I also think, at the same time, that the resolution writers have honored the spirit of the Windsor Report and subsequent requests from the primates of the Communion to not develop ‘public rites’.” Read more
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Irish Traditional Anglican Communion parishes plan move to Rome

Three Church of Ireland parishes have asked to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church The Irish Catholic newspaper reports this week.

The parishes, in counties Down, Tyrone and Laois are members of the 'traditional rite' within the Church of Ireland.

The Irish Catholic newspaper, has learnt that the members of these parishes, along with traditional Anglicans from twelve other countries, have signed a letter to the Vatican seeking "full, corporate, sacramental union" with the Catholic Church under the authority of the Pope. The dramatic move would see the entire parish communities received in to the Catholic Church.

While only a few hundred Anglicans in Ireland will be affected, the move, if approved by the Vatican, would see 400,000 Anglicans worldwide admitted into the Catholic Church, the paper reports. Read more

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Responding to the American House of Bishops - Archbishop Peter Jensen

[...] These are complex issues. You can get a sense of what I am saying by reading both the whole of the HOB statement and Bishop Mouneer’s dissenting opinion. If it is true that the Americans have failed to deliver, you can see why this is the case. We are confronted with two great passions for a gospel. It is hardly an answer at all to the Primates: it’s really, passionately all about a gospel of inclusion. Most don’t regret what they have done – not for a moment. This is a missionary faith. Far from retreating, they hope that all will come to agree with them and they are making arrangements for this to happen.

Then read the pain and passion of Mouneer – who lives out the life of a Christian in Egypt and the Middle East, in places of difficulty such as we can only half imagine. Do you see why he is so impatient by his constant experience of what he must see as double-speech and fudging? He does not think that the Americans have given a straight answer at all. To him, the American position is the opposite of the Bible which gives him his faith. At its heart this is a contest over the authority and reading of scripture. Read more
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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Christian couple forced to quit fostering after refusing to tell kids its 'good to be gay'

As devoted foster parents, Vincent and Pauline Matherick have provided a stable family home for almost 30 vulnerable children.

But the couple's latest foster son is being taken away from them by social workers because they have refused to promote homosexuality.

They say that to do so would go against their Christian faith.

The 11-year-old boy, who has been in their care for two years, will be placed in a council hostel this week and the Mathericks will be given no more children to look after.

The devastated couple, who have three grown up children of their own, first became foster parents in 2001 and have since cared for 28 children at their home in Chard, Somerset.

Earlier this year, Somerset County Council's social services department asked them to sign a contract to implement Labour's new Sexual Orientation Regulations, part of the Equality Act 2006, which make discrimination on the grounds of sexuality illegal.

Officials told the couple they would be required to discuss same-sex relationships with children as young as 11 and tell them that gay partnerships were just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.

They could also be required to take teenagers to gay association meetings.

When the Mathericks objected, they were told they would be taken off the register of foster parents if they refused to comply with the new rules.

The Mathericks have decided to resign rather than face the humiliation of being expelled. Read more
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Anglican Gay Row Intensifies with Second Canadian Blessings Request

The Montreal branch of the Anglican Church of Canada has urged its bishop to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions, becoming the second in the church body to make the request.

Days after the Diocese of Ottawa voted to ask its bishop to allow clergy to bless "duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples," the Montreal Diocese approved a similar motion on Friday, raising another red flag to conservative branches in the global Anglican Communion.

Some Anglicans in the diocese may not be happy with the decision, said Montreal bishop Barry Clarke, who concurred with the vote.

"But at least we can say we are out there and we can say that's where we stand," he said, according to the Anglican Journal. Read more

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Bishop reveals himself to diocese through podcast

Suffolk's new Church of England bishop has announced that he will create Podcasts to introduce himself to his diocese.

The 10th Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, who will be confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury later this year, has started a weekly podcast for the diocese.

Bishop Stock will release the weekly podcast, starting Tuesday 23 October, and will continue them for a month until his enthronement on 20 November.

A spokesman for the diocese has said that the podcasts are a way for the bishop to introduce himself to the diocese before parishioners get the opportunity to meet him in person, and will give insight into his life and philosophy, the BBC reports. Read more

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New blog invites discussion on the next Bishop of Sheffield

Not the usual way of doing things, but a new blog set up by a Sheffield clergyman is inviting discussion and comment on the appointment of the next bishop for that diocese, since the present bishop has announced his retirement.

Visit the blog here.

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Lambeth 1930: Global discipline belongs to the Provinces

(Ed: This important piece by Roger Beckwith should be read alongside the letter from ABp Rowan Williams to Bp John Howe. Roger Beckwith's longer treatment may be found here and here as pdf documents. His essay, 'The Church of England: what it is and what it stands for', may be downloaded here.)

[...] Paragraph 8 here is of critical significance. After having fully recognised in paragraphs 4 and 7 the autonomy of the regional provinces (on which ECUSA today so much insists), and after having balanced it in paragraphs 4 and 5 by stressing the common faith and order which binds the provinces together (much in the manner of the Windsor Report), paragraph 8 adds three crucial corollaries: (i) it would be possible, though the committee hopes it would never happen, for a province so to emphasise its autonomy as to cause serious damage to common faith and order; (ii) if this happened, the Lambeth Conference could give advice, but could not take disciplinary action (and the same would apply to the other Instruments of Unity); and (iii) ‘formal action would belong to the several Churches of the Anglican Communion individually.’

Applying this to our present situation, the Lambeth Conference in 1998 passed by a very large majority resolution 1.10, opposing the ordination of practising homosexuals and the blessing of homosexual unions; the American and Canadian Churches appeared to defy this advice; the Primates Meeting several times reiterated the advice, and set a deadline for changing course and conforming to it; in the meantime, a number of individual Churches exercised their right of ‘formal action’ and excommunicated ( or declared themselves in impaired communion with ) ECUSA; having done so, they rightly regarded the Lambeth resolution against crossing boundaries as irrelevant, and (in the patristic manner) made separate Episcopal provision for orthodox adherents in areas dominated by heresy; and for this they were unjustly condemned by the Windsor Report, in language stronger than it uses for the heretics themselves, and the bishops they appointed have not been invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, though the erring American (and Canadian) bishops have. Read more

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New Reform chairman calls for 'courageous action'

Reform members must prepare for “courageous action” as the Church of England becomes driven by an increasingly liberal agenda said Rod Thomas, the new Reform chairman today.

Speaking at Reform’s national conference in London, he called on the network’s 1,700 strong membership to work together in three key areas:

* More commitment to existing structures – eg working in General Synod to maintain local ownership of church assets rather than giving greater diocesan control

* More courageous action – eg irregular ordinations where regular diocesan options have been refused or where relationships are impaired

* More costly encouragement – eg recognising that poorer parishes who wish to distance themselves from diocesan bishops may face a greater financial burden and therefore need more widespread support

Revd Thomas urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to recall invitations to next year’s Lambeth Conference issued to US bishops who continue to push a “same-sex agenda”, warning that “failure to do this will seal the division of the Communion, end all idea of a covenant, leave the Archbishop’s role in tatters and rapidly spread fractures through the Church of England.”

He spoke of Reform’s plan to work in partnership with other evangelical groups to find solutions for continuing gospel ministry in England, as the Common Cause Partnership is doing in the US. “As the formal church institutions and councils become paralysed or dysfunctional we must get more serious about devoting time and money to the reforms we seek. But the good news is that there has never been a better time to do this. Evangelicals are becoming clearer about the issues that have to be fought and more determined to do the fighting.

“We must provide tangible encouragement for those in the forefront of the struggle; we must stay focused on the theology underpinning our efforts; and we must rely on the power of prayer and God’s mercy to help us persevere to the end.”

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ABp Williams: Bishop and Diocese matter more than 'national church'

(Ed: A letter from ABp Rowan Williams to Bp John Howe of Central Florida is causing considerable comment for raising, as it does, the nature of the identity of the Anglican Church. Several of the parishes in the Diocese are discussing leaving The Episcopal Church - see here. Since Bp Howe was given permission to share the letter with his clergy, the full text has been widely distributed. The part causing most comment is this: "I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’.")

14 October 2007
Dear John

I’ve just received your message, which weighs very heavily on my heart, as it must - though far more so - on yours. At this stage, I can say only two things. The first is that I have committed myself very clearly to awaiting the views of the Primates before making any statement purporting to settle the question of The Episcopal Church’s status, and I can’t easily short-circuit that procedure. The second is that your Rectors need to recognize that this process is currently in train and that a separatist decision from them at this point would be irresponsible and potentially confusing. However, without forestalling what the Primates might say, I would repeat what I’ve said several times before - that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such. Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing - which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned.

Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision.

Do feel free to pass on these observations to your priests. I should feel a great deal happier, I must say, if those who are most eloquent for a traditionalist view in the United States showed a fuller understanding of the need to regard the Bishop and the Diocese as the primary locus of ecclesial identity rather than the abstract reality of the ‘national church’. I think that if more thought in these terms there might be more understanding of why priests in a diocese such as yours ought to maintain their loyalty to their sacramental communion with you as Bishop. But at the emotional level I can understand something of the frustration they doubtless experience, just as you must.

With continuing prayers and love,


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Sunday, 21 October 2007

C of E child abuse 'ignored for decades'

Child abuse has gone unchecked in the Church of England for decades amid a cover up by bishops, secret papers have revealed.

Information that could have prevented abuse has been "lost or damaged", concerns about individuals have been ignored and allegations have not been recorded. It means that the Church has no idea how many paedophiles are in its midst.

Lawyers warned last night that the Church faces a crisis as catastrophic as the one that engulfed the Roman Catholic Church and cost it millions of pounds in damages.

Richard Scorer, a solicitor who has specialised in child abuse cases, said that the Church of England's mistakes amounted to "an appalling, shocking level of negligence" that is likely to leave it open to claims from victims who have been too afraid to speak out in the past. The Church is to launch an urgent investigation on an unprecedented scale. Read more

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Babies aborted for minor disabilities

MORE than 50 babies with club feet were aborted in just one area of England in a three-year period, according to new statistics.

Thirty-seven babies with cleft lips or palates and 26 with extra or webbed fingers or toes were also aborted.

The data have raised concerns about abortions being carried out for minor disabilities that could be cured by surgery.

Abortions are allowed up to birth in Britain in cases of serious handicap, but the law does not define what conditions should be considered grave enough to allow a termination late in the pregnancy. That is left to the discretion of doctors.

The Commons science and technology committee is carrying out an inquiry into whether the law should be made more specific.

Some parents, doctors and campaign groups are worried by what they see as a tendency to stretch the definition of serious handicap.

In 2003 Joanna Jepson, a Church of England curate, instigated a legal challenge against West Mercia police for failing to prosecute doctors who carried out an abortion on a baby with a cleft palate at 28 weeks’ gestation. The challenge failed but raised public concerns over terminations for minor disabilities.

However, the latest figures — released by the South West Congenital Anomaly Register — show that dozens of abortions are still carried out after the condition is discovered. Read more

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British women treat abortion as the easy option, claims angry Archbishop

The British public is in danger of losing its 'moral focus' on abortion and treating the procedure as normal, rather than a last resort, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.

With the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act less than a week away, Dr Rowan Williams uses an article in today's Observer to claim that people are close to slipping to a new 'default position' on the issue.

'There has been an obvious weakening of the feeling that abortion is a last resort in cases of extreme danger or distress,' Williams writes, noting that 'nearly 200,000 abortions a year in England and Wales tell their own story'. Instead, the leader of the Church of England claims the growing belief that 'abortion is essentially a matter of individual decision' means it is no longer 'the kind of major moral choice that should involve a sharing of perspective and judgment'. Read more

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