Saturday, 10 November 2007

Changing Attitude's challenge to Abp Akinola

[...] Among our well-researched arguments, that many Anglicans are coming to realise, are that historically, the powers of the church itself distorted the truth of the gospel from its original meaning and both interpreted and translated it to oppress gay people and women instead of including us as equals. It is Archbishop Akinola who wants to maintain that corruption rather than seek to establish the genuine truth in its original meaning. Therefore he is himself guilty of the accusations that Martin Luther aimed at the church so long ago.

Archbishop Akinola disingenuously uses the phrase ‘other Godly bishops’, as if those who disagree with his point of view are necessarily ungodly. This is an insulting and arrogant way to refer to bishops who are genuinely seeking biblical truth through prayer, listening to the experiences of those who the church currently condemns, and close re-examination of scripture in the original languages. He seems to imply that no change to the current doctrine is possible, yet a mortal community such as the Anglican Communion can and does make grave mistakes. It is an honourable organisation that is willing to question itself and acknowledge its errors. If the Anglican Communion had followed Archbishop Akinola’s approach, it would never have relented on its endorsement of slavery that was previously based on an overly-simplistic interpretation of scripture and disregard of other people’s experiences.

Changing Attitude Nigeria insists that the same approach to re-examination of the church’s attitude to slavery – that we are sure Akinola would have approved of – must be applied to the debate around the acceptance of committed Christians, who are faithful and committed members of the Anglican Church, who were born destined to be attracted to the same sex. Therefore there is no justifiable reason for the Lambeth conference not to go ahead as planned, and for all the bishops all over the world including those from the global south group to attend. Read more
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Giles Fraser: Anglicanism can't survive in one piece

[...] Thus far the Archbishop of Canterbury has maintained the traditional Anglican via media with impeccable impartiality, trying to hold things together with a generous policy of being kinder to his enemies than his friends. But the truth is, the only people who now believe that Anglicanism can survive the current crisis in one piece are those holed up in Lambeth Palace. Both conservatives and liberals agree that a house divided cannot stand. The battle lines are drawn. Conservative theologians once defended slavery by refusing to accept the Bible as radically inclusive. Similarly, today's conservative theologians are twisting the Bible into bad news for homosexuals rather than good news for all. It's the very opposite of the gospel message of God's generous and inclusive love. Read more
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Williams in Norfolk calls on churches to adapt

[...] “I don't think the parish system is going to collapse - other things are going to grow up around it.

“Especially for young people, it's harder to be a Christian in society than it was when I was a teenager. I grew up almost in the last days of Christendom, where most of my friends belonged to a church and we didn't feel we were swimming against the tide. Now it takes a lot more independence and courage to be a Christian.

“I think it's an exciting period to belong to the church in this country in spite of all the problems. There's energy and depth of commitment that's driving these things forward.

“I feel Christianity remains relevant to people. I believe in a God who doesn't change and whose purpose was revealed in Jesus.”

He paid tribute to the work of the chaplaincy team at the N&N, and said he found his time in the neonatal intensive care unit “very moving”.

And he played down calls by some Christians for him to be more vocal about controversial issues.

“I think sometimes people expect Christian leaders to be people who've always got a loud, straightforward, one-sentence answer to problems. But often witness and challenge don't come best from headlines but from steady witness.

“I've often said I want to speak when I think I've got something useful to say that may make a difference.” Read more
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Guardian: Time for Williams to preach what he believes

[...] Always a loose and unwieldy alliance, the communion has survived since the age of empire only because of the effective acceptance that each church was sovereign in its own land. With the initial encouragement of the religious right in America, however, conservative elements of the communion are trying to impose an infeasible doctrinal unity. Dr Williams has responded to this pressure by seeking compromises. His difficulty is that, as the head of such a loose confederation, he does not have the power to make deals stick, as the freewheeling action of the conservatives is showing.

Dr Williams is a liberal who is instinctively supportive of gay people. His desire to hold the communion together, however, has already led him to support a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and to suggest that Anglican churches should not recognise same-sex unions through public rites. These concessions have not, however, checked the communion's unravelling. The fence on which Dr Williams has been sitting has collapsed. It is time for him to preach what he believes. Read more
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Women priests and their continuing battle

When the Rev Dr Jennifer Cooper was ordained at Bristol Cathedral a month ago, it was a moment of uncomplicated joy. "I was overwhelmed to be surrounded by so many people, sharing in this very powerful moment," she says. "I was finally going to fulfil my calling."

On the surface, few ceremonies could offer more hope to a Church of England fighting for survival than an ordination. It is a sign of new life, at a time when Sunday attendance threatens to dip below a million.

And, since the ordination of women was approved exactly 15 years ago tomorrow, their presence is now taken for granted: more than 2,000 out of 9,500 Anglican clergy are women, as are almost half of trainee priests. And yet no issue has divided the Church so violently in recent times as that of women priests. Read more
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Observer 2006: Welcome to the world of polyamory

[...] In the end, this new wrinkle in the sexual revolution seems to have been inevitable. We live in a world of affluence; we are always being encouraged to want more. Advertising and body-fascism and celebrity culture make people feel anxious and needy; the constant pressure on our sense of identity makes us want to reinvent ourselves all the time. There's a lot of pressure; no wonder monogamy is cracking. Read more
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Next stop, polyamory

For some time now, a few voices have been trying to make the point that the sexual revolution of the 60s - inaugurated by our now well-established LG (and now BT) communities - is still in the early days. We have not begun to reach the terminus of where this current is taking us. Individual groups - e.g. the LGBTs - have almost made it to Home Base and are out and proud! Next in line, of course, though, are the polys, the polyamorists, who note and admire the success of the LGBT communities and would like to enjoy a bit of it themselves. I keep coming across the narratives of polys who claim they are not wired for monogamy - it simply does not work for them! - and who then embrace lifestyles involving multiple committed sexual relationships. They claim these do work, though some of the narrative is less than convincing. The really interesting thing about this growing phenomenon is that no one need ‘lose’ - old, tried-and-true relationships are not discarded, just ‘added to’. Some seem able to cope with the jealousy; for others this is just a trendy 2007 variation on the perennial theme of adultery. And the children? Well, they are not really on anyone’s radar; this is most definitely not about them.

The Gay City News, ‘When Three’s No Crowd’, of 25 October 2007, describes NYC’s recent Poly Pride Weekend:

‘But the purpose of the pride weekend went beyond cuddling and coupling. For many, the politics of polyamory are fraught with discord. Justen Bennett-Maccubbin, the mohawked founder of Polyamorous NYC, said that there is sometimes friction between the gay and polyamorous communities.

“Polyamory is just as much an orientation as being gay,” said Bennett-Maccubbin, who started his first polyamorous relationship when he fell in love with a gay couple at 19.

“But a lot of the gay community isn’t down with it. In the last decade, they have made a lot of strides toward acceptance and normalcy, and they don’t necessarily want to be associated with other marginalized groups.” Read more
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" The Great Evangelical Sell-Out": from 12 years ago, Tony Higton looks at the Church of England's stance on homosexuality

[...] Why has homosexuality become the Achilles heel of the Church of England? It is a fulfilment of the warning in Romans 1. In judgment, God is giving over an institution which has upheld rejection of basic beliefs by some bishops and clergy (e.g. about the virgin birth and the empty tomb), to the justification of depravity.

In May the Archbishop of Canterbury [Dr George Carey] addressed the Anglican Evangelical Assembly on the subject of homosexuality. He said, ‘Let me make it quite clear that Issues in Human Sexuality recognises only two options as being in full accord both with the Bible and the church’s tradition, namely heterosexual marriage and celibacy...

‘The House of Bishops will reflect thoughtfully and prayerfully on the responses to the Statement. But we will not be stampeded into changing either its theological position or its pastoral practice. It suits some groups to “talk up” the story that the bishops are preparing to accept parity between marriage and long-term, same-sex relationships or allow ordination of practising homosexuals. That is not so. Such speculation is misleading and causes unwarranted suspicions and anxieties.’

I am sure that many delegates to the assembly went home encouraged, thinking that Dr Carey had ruled out acceptance by the House of Bishops of practising homosexual clergy, but ten years in General Synod has taught me that such statements by bishops are very carefully worded. The archbishop has several speech-writers, all but one of whom are liberals. One has to note what they do not say as well as what they do. It is also important to recognise the evangelical make-up of the audience mentioned above.

IN HIS SPEECH Dr Carey said only that the bishops are not currently ‘preparing to accept parity between marriage and long-term, same-sex relationships or allow ordination of practising homosexuals.’ In other words, they are not planning to authorise a service of blessing for homosexual couples. Nor are they planning to enquire of ordinands’ possible homosexuality; in this way they may avoid giving the impression that they approve of homosexual practice when they ordain homosexuals, thus the statement gives no reassurance whatsoever for the future.

God is merciful and longs to restore the penitent. The problem is that I see no evidence of penitence on the part of the House of Bishops. As a result, there have been scandals, grave financial crises, and division. The writing is on the wall. It is being ignored. Read more
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Chicago proposal to end moratorium on gay consecrations

With the election of a new diocesan bishop on the agenda tomorrow (Nov. 10), clergy and lay delegates to Diocese of Chicago's two-day convention in Wheeling decisively approved a resolution calling on General Convention 2009 to overturn the moratorium on the consecration of partnered homosexual candidates to the episcopacy.

“By approving this resolution we would join a growing list of dioceses who have voted to uphold the canons of our church,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, professor of liturgy at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, prior to debate. “It does not endorse a particular candidate for tomorrow’s election.”

There are eight nominees on the ballot for the election of a bishop. One is a partnered lesbian. The House of Bishops, meeting in New Orleans in late September, affirmed that the bishops would “as a body” honor Resolution B033, which calls on standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise caution before granting consent to the consecration of a partnered homosexual candidate. Read more
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Thursday, 8 November 2007

Teenagers who terrorised and murdered disabled man have sentences reduced

(Ed: Anyone care to try to explain this?)

Two Cheshire teenagers who terrorized a vulnerable man before beating him to death and throwing his body in a river, have had their life sentences cut.

Craig Dodd, aged 17, will now serve a minimum of three-and-a-half years in prison and Ryan Palin, 15, three years.

The pair were dubbed as "feral" when they were jailed for life for the manslaughter of Raymond Atherton, 40, in Warrington.

They beat and urinated on Mr Atherton before dumping him in the River Mersey.

Despite the severity of their crime, Lord Justice Rix overturned the life terms and replaced them with sentences of detention for public protection, giving each a minimum tariff to serve before parole can be considered. Read more
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Southern Cone offers safe haven for American dioceses

Dioceses that wish to secede from The Episcopal Church because of disputes over doctrine and discipline will be given an ecclesiastical home in the Church of the Province of the Southern Cone.

Meeting Nov 5-7 at St. Paul’s Church, Valparaíso, Chile, the Southern Cone synod voted to extend the province’s jurisdiction to North America, allowing dioceses and other ecclesial entities to affiliate with the province.

The Provincia Anglicana del Cono Sur de América is comprised of the dioceses of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Northern Argentina. The Diocese of Bolivia already has provided pastoral oversight to several dozen congregations in the United States comprised of former members of The Episcopal Church. In addition, Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone exercises a personal prelature over former members of the Diocese of Recife (Brazil).

Bishop Venables told The Living Church the offer of a provincial home for traditionalist American dioceses merely recognized the existing splits within the church. He said the Southern Cone was not precipitating a crisis or invading The Episcopal Church, but was offering a safe haven within the Anglican Communion for those wishing to flee.

By a supermajority, delegates to the Valparaíso synod voted to permit traditionalist North American dioceses to affiliate with the province. The vote goes a step beyond Bishop Venables’ intervention in Brazil, and marks a major shift in the ecclesial structures of the Anglican Communion. Read more
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Protests at appointment of Joel Edwards to human rights and equality commission

(Ed: The question must be put, "Can traditionalist Christians any longer expect to play a full part as UK citizens.")

[...] Britain's lesbian and gay Christian community community have launched a protest against the appointment of evangelical leader Joel Edwards to be a protector of gay rights.

The appointment of Joel Edwards, head of the Evangelical Alliance, as commissioner to the new human rights and equality "superquango" was also condemned by secularists as a "slap in the face" to the gay community.

The National Secular Society called for an "urgent rethink” of the appointment of Mr Edwards as commissioner to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Evangelical Alliance is among the Christian bodies that have opposed aspects of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The legislation outlaws discrimination against gay people in the area of goods and services.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This appointment must be reversed immediately.

“Mr Edwards comes to the job with a pre-formed agenda that is based on a literalist reading of the Bible. How on earth is he going to look objectively at gay issues when he has made a career out of opposing equality for homosexuals?”

The Rev Richard Kirker, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: “I was stunned when Joel told me personally he was to be a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

“Holding such a key role in the organisation charged with supporting gay equality will put him at loggerheads with many in his own fundamentalist constituency. I am delighted he now seems to have “seen the light” and can embrace and support all the recent pro-gay legislation without exception, and with a clear conscience. I can only hope his late conversion to equality is genuine, deep-rooted and sincere." Read article
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Finnish Lutheran pastor prosecuted for refusing to take service with woman pastor

A Finnish district court prosecutor recently charged a member of the Finland state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELCF), with criminal discrimination for refusing to work with a female pastor. Two other church leaders have also been charged for not interfering to prevent the alleged violation.
Related articles and links

"The government has nothing to do with religion and wants to stay out of the discussion," said Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, who was president at IsoKirja College in Finland. "This case has nothing to do with religion; it has everything to do with a perceived lack of equality."

The case could set a precedent for similar cases concerning discrimination against homosexuals. The ELCF is still discussing whether homosexual pastors can serve in the church and whether pastors may bless homosexual couples.

Finland's laws prohibit any discrimination either in the workplace or in public based on race, language, age, family ties, health, religion, political orientation, work, sexual orientation, or gender. This is the first time that an ELCF controversy has involved state law enforcement. The case will be taken to trial November 16. Read more
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Chelmsford General Synod members sign letter of support for Bp Bob Duncan

EVANGELICAL and Anglo-Catholic members of General Synod have pledged their support to the Bishop of Pittsburgh in his dispute with the US Presiding Bishop over the proposed secession of his diocese from The Episcopal Church.

In a letter published in today’s edition of The Church of England Newspaper, over 40 members of General Synod, along with a number of leaders of Forward and Faith and the Church Society, stated they were ‘outraged’ by the threats of litigation against Pittsburgh by the ‘current leadership’ of the Episcopal Church, who ‘appear to be unitarian and universalist in theology, and coercively utopian in social practice.’

Last week, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori warned Bishop Duncan that she would file a presentment against him, seeking to summon him for trial before the House of Bishops, if he permitted his diocese to change its bylaws.

“I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes,” she wrote.

Citing Martin Luther Bishop Duncan responded: “Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.” Pittsburgh’s synod ignored Bishop Schori’s threat. By a two-thirds vote on Nov 2 it changed its constitution to read that it ‘shall have membership in such Province of the Anglican Communion as is by diocesan Canon specified.’

For the change to take effect giving Pittsburgh the power to quit the US Church the resolution must survive a second reading and pass the next diocesan synod. On Nov 3, Central Florida Bishop John W Howe urged Bishop Schori to ‘stand down’ upon her threat of litigation. Bishop Howe noted that although he had worked with Bishop Duncan to ‘reverse the course of The Episcopal Church with regard to recent decisions regarding human sexuality, I part company with him in his decision to abandon the commitment’ to reform the American church from within. However, he told the presiding bishop he could not ‘support your thinly veiled threat to resort to litigation.’

“Dioceses voluntarily join (accede to) The Episcopal Church. And they can voluntarily determine to separate from (withdraw their accession from) The Episcopal Church,” he said, citing the precedent of the American Civil War.

Bishop Duncan’s Synod supporters applauded his stand, saying they too stood upon the Scriptures as the ‘rule and ultimate standard of faith.’ At least two other dioceses, Forth Worth and San Joaquin, are expected to adopt secession clauses in the coming weeks. Should San Joaquin adopt the secession clause at its December synod, it will be the second reading of the bill for that diocese, and would mark the first American diocesan secession since 1862.

The Editor


Dear Sir,

We write to inform you that we are sending the following letter of support to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh and his fellow Bishops in the Common Cause Council of Bishops following the letter last week to the Bishop of Pittsburgh,

Dear Bishop Duncan and Bishops in Common Cause

Warm greetings from the UK.

We have read the letter from Presiding Bishop Schori to the Bishop of Pittsburgh. We want to assure you, your dioceses and parishes of our prayers and fellowship as you take your stand on our shared Anglican heritage, accepting the Holy Scriptures as the rule and ultimate standard of faith, contrary to those innovators both in the British Isles and in the Americas who wish to give primacy to the demands of contemporary culture.

We are outraged by the threat and implementation of court actions against faithful Anglicans in the United States by the current leadership of The Episcopal Church who appear to be unitarian and universalist in theology, and coercively utopian in social practice.

We are most disturbed that the current plans for the Lambeth Conference are that the leadership of TEC be invited to the Lambeth Conference but not faithful Anglican bishops.

Yours in Christ

46 Members of General Synod from 26 dioceses

Colonel Edward Armitstead (Bath and Wells)
Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester)
Mrs Anneliese Barrell (Exeter)
Fr Paul Benfield (Blackburn)
Mr Tom Benyon (Oxford)
Mr Paul Boyd Lee (Salisbury)
Canon Peter Bruinvels (Guildford)
Mr Gerald Burrows (Blackburn)
Mr Graham Campbell (Chester)
Mr Nigel Chetwood (Gloucester)
Mr John Clark (Lichfield)
Rev John Cook (London)
Mr Tim Cox (Blackburn)
Brigadier Ian Dobbie (Rochester)
Rev John Dunnett (Chelmsford)
Mr Paul Eddy (Winchester)
Mrs Sarah Finch (London)
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford)
Rev Ian Gooding (Derby)
Rev John Hartley (Bradford)
Rev Richard Hibbert (St Albans)
Fr Simon Killwick (Manchester)
Mr Peter LeRoy (Bath and Wells)
Rev Angus Macleay (Rochester)
Dr Peter May (Winchester)
Mr Steve Mitchell (Derby)
Mrs Joanna Monckton (Lichfield)
Mrs Gill Morrison (Peterborough)
Mr Gerry O’Brien (Rochester)
Rev Paul Perkin (Southwark)
Preb Sam Philpott (Exeter)
Mr Andrew Presland (Peterborough)
Rev Colin Randall (Carlisle)
Mr Jonathan Redden (Sheffield)
Mrs Alison Ruoff (London)
Mr Clive Scowen (London)
Mr Ian Smith (York)
Rev Mark Sowerby (Ripon and Leeds)
Mr Michael Streeter (Chichester)
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Oxford)
Dr Chik Kaw Tan (Lichfield)
Rev Rod Thomas (Exeter)
Mr Jacob Vince (Chichester)
Rev David Waller (Chelmsford)
Mrs Ruth Whitworth (Ripon and Leeds)
Sister Anne Williams (Durham)

Rev David Phillips (St Albans) Director, Church Society
Rev Geoffrey Kirk (Southwark) Secretary, Forward in Faith UK
Stephen Parkinson, Director, Forward in Faith
Rev Beaumont Brandie (Chichester) Chair of College of Forward in Faith Deans
Gill James (Birmingham)
Rev Alan Rabjohns, Chair, Credo Cymru.
Canon Nicholas Turner (Bradford) Editor, New Directions
Rev Trevor Walker (Lincoln) Forward in Faith Council
Fr Ross Northing (Oxford) Regional Dean
Fr Len Black (FiF dean for Scotland)

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New law could make gay jokes illegal

The right to crack jokes or be rude about homosexuals could fall victim to new government laws to stamp out "homophobic" behaviour, Rowan Atkinson, the Blackadder star warned yesterday.

Atkinson, who mounted a successful campaign in 2004 to water down legislation aimed at criminalising expressions of religious hatred, has returned to the fray to defend the art of gay leg-pulling.

His concern is that Labour ministers are so obsessed with creating laws to stop people being rude about each other that they are putting in danger the right to free speech and, equally dear to his heart, the comedian's craft.

In a letter to a newspaper he accused ministers of filling their legislative programme with measures that have "serious implications for freedom of speech, humour and creative expression".

Atkinson was referring to measures in the Criminal Justice Bill, currently passing through Parliament, which could mean people who stir up hatred against homosexuals being put in prison for up to seven years.

He said the Government measures, which could be expanded to cover hatred against disabled or transgendered people, seemed to be "infinitely extendable".

"Witness the fact that the Government has invited two additional groups - the disabled and transsexuals - to 'make the case' for the proposed legislation to be extended to them.

"I am sure that they could make a very good case, as indeed could all those who can claim that they cannot help being the way they are. Men, for example, or women. Or people with big ears." Read more
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Nine Primates echo calls for emergency meeting; Akinola defends incursions

Nine Anglican Primates have echoed a call made last month by the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa for an emergency meeting of all the Anglican Communion's 38 Primates and a postponement of the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The nine "Global South" Primates issued a communiqué, dated October 30, in which they supported the conclusion of the CAPA communiqué released following its meeting in Mauritius in early October. The CAPA members said that "a change in direction from our current trajectory is urgently needed" because "we want unity but not unity at any expense."

The communiqué from the "Global South" Primates came at the end of an October 21-30 trip to the People's Republic of China where the nine Anglican leaders said they had "an opportunity to meet and reflect on the present situation facing the Anglican Communion and what we have to do to move forward while remaining grounded in the Word of God and preserving its catholicity and apostolicity."

They encouraged the work of the Global South Economic Empowerment Consultation convened by the steering committee of the "Global South" Primates, and urged the group "to continue to develop programs to help our churches to be increasingly self-supporting."

The nine Primates are all members of the Global South Anglican organization, which includes leaders from Anglican provinces mostly located in the southern hemisphere. Read more
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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Turning of an Atheist: Antony Flew and deism

(Ed: According to the intro, "Unless you are a professional philosopher or a committed atheist, you probably have not heard of Antony Flew." He was my philosophy professor at University and, thanks to his prompting, I took the subject for two years, not the intended one.)

[...] Intellectuals, even more than the rest of us, like to believe that they reach conclusions solely through study and reflection. But like the rest of us, they sometimes choose their opinions to suit their friends rather than the other way around. Which means that Flew is likely to remain a theist, for just as the Christians drew him close, the atheists gave him up for lost. “He once was a great philosopher,” Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist and author of “The God Delusion,” told a Virginia audience last year. “It’s very sad.” Paul Kurtz of Prometheus Books says he thinks Flew is being exploited. “They’re misusing him,” Kurtz says, referring to the Christians. “They’re worried about atheists, and they’re trying to find an atheist to be on their side.”

They found one, and with less difficulty than atheists would have guessed. From the start, the believers’ affection for Antony Flew was not unrequited. When Flew met Christians who claimed to have new, scientific proof of the existence of God, he quickly became again the young graduate student who embarked on a study of the paranormal when all his colleagues were committed to strict rationalism. He may, too, have connected with the child who was raised in his parents’ warm, faithful Methodism. Flew’s colleagues will wonder how he could sign a petition to the prime minister in favor of intelligent design, but it becomes more understandable if the signatory never hated religious belief the way many philosophers do and if he never hated religious people in the least. At a time when belief in God is more polarizing than it has been in years, when all believers are being blamed for religion’s worst excesses, Antony Flew has quietly switched sides, just following the evidence as it has been explained to him, blissfully unaware of what others have at stake. Read more
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Internet spreads terror in Britain

Mohammed Irfan Raja, an otherwise ordinary Essex lad who was convicted of terrorism offences earlier this year, typifies current fears within the Government about the type of recruit al-Qa’eda is now aiming for – and the methods they’re willing to use
Aged just 17 when arrested by anti-terror police, Raja was still at school and left his parents a note declaring his intention to join a terror training camp.

Recruited by a cell in Bradford, the group planned to travel to Pakistan’s lawless Frontier Province having made arrangements with a fixer to facilitate their passage.

Most alarming about Raja’s case was that the entire process of his radicalisation took place through the internet, where he first met the Bradford cell.

The web is providing a unique opportunity for Jihadist sympathisers in the west to actively engage in real campaigns abroad, without ever leaving their home. Read more
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Global South Archbishops call for postponement of Lambeth

The evangelical Archbishops who head the "Global South" grouping have called on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to postpone next year's Lambeth Conference.

Several senior bishops, including the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, have already warned they could boycott the conference, the ten-yearly gathering of Anglican Communion bishops from across the globe, because of the row over gays.

Today nine Primates, including Nigeria's Peter Akinola, Uganda's Luke Orombi and South East Asia's John Chew, said the conference should be postponed until all bishops could meet "in a spirit of true collegiality and unity in the faith." Read more
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GodTube takes religion to internet masses

A Christian website which allows visitors to chat and exchange religious-themed videos is proving to be one of the most surprising successes on the internet.

GodTube, which was recently named America's fastest-growing website, drew more than four million users last month.

Based heavily on secular sites, the Texas-based organisation combines the video clip-sharing principle of YouTube, the social networking feature of Facebook and live webcasting.

Current hits include videos of a Christan rap song called That Book You Got Makes Me So Holy, a squirrel singing I Will Always Love You and a clip of a little girl lisping Psalm 23 from memory that has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times.

Read more

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ABp Akinola's open letter to Primates

[...] When we met in Dar es Salaam, after a great deal of effort, we suggested a way forward that had the support of all those present – including the Presiding Bishop of TEC. The House of Bishops and Executive Committee of The Episcopal Church quickly rejected this proposal on the grounds that it apparently violated their canons. We now have a counter proposal from TEC and yet there is no indication that it will meet the needs of those for whom it is supposedly designed. This endless series of proposals and counter proposals continues with no apparent conclusion in sight. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only acceptable end as far as TEC is concerned is the full capitulation of any who would stand in opposition to their biblically incompatible innovations- this we will never do. There is a way forward - we have written and spoken repeatedly about it – the time for action is now.

I believe that we Primates must meet in the next few months to respond to the crisis that now confronts us. The situation in The Episcopal Church is deteriorating rapidly. Lawsuits are escalating and I have just heard that Bishop Bob Duncan is now threatened with ecclesiastical trial by the Presiding Bishop for his faithful attempts to find a way to protect his faithful members and diocese. Other godly bishops are under the same threat. Their only crime is a desire to continue their Christian pilgrimage as faithful Anglicans. This situation will affect all of us. We dare not let our love for the historic structures of our beloved Communion, important as they are, allow us to destroy its future. We are losing members. We are losing time. We are losing our integrity as an important part of the One, holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. Joel 3:14

Read more

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New statement on Richard Wood's ordination from vicar of Dagenham Parish Church

STATEMENT from Mike Reith, Vicar, Dagenham Parish Church
31st October 2007

Following the promise made in the summer by the Bishop of Chelmsford, The Rt Rev John Gladwin, that he would do everything he could to ensure Richard Wood was ordained to Dagenham Parish Church, we are now disappointed by his decision not to do so.

Richard has met with the Archdeacon of West Ham (3 times), the Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral, and the Bishop himself in the last three months. Each attempted to persuade Richard to change his mind. All have subsequently said how impressed they are with Richard’s gentleness and integrity. They confirm his overall suitability for ordination.

The Bishop himself agrees that Richard has every right to disagree with him over his Patronage and promotion of the pro-gay campaigning group ‘Changing Attitude’.

Furthermore, he acknowledges that it is within his authority to allow our Area Bishop to ordain Richard on his own. The Area Bishop is willing to do this and Richard would be happy to accept.

But the Bishop insists that Richard must take communion with him if he is to be ordained.

He feels Richard’s reluctance to do so means Richard does not accept the structures of the Church of England.

However Richard is unable to receive Communion with the bishop simply because such ‘table fellowship’ is one of the highest expressions of unity between Christians. And Richard cannot be at one with a high profile teacher who promotes what the bible says is wrong, in an area of life that puts people in eternal danger.

The real question is whether a bishop should use his position in the structures of the Church of England to compel Richard to eat with him against his conscience… and to say that Richard is against the structures of the denomination because he cannot be one with the Bishop in his patronage of a campaign, which is against the teaching of biblical truth.

Actually a precedent for Richard’s position was set by a number of international Anglican leaders in 2005, who similarly felt unable to receive Holy Communion with the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church, because he publicly identified himself with the campaign for practicing homosexual leadership in his church.
The Bishop needs to recognise that Richard’s position is not that of a maverick disregarding structures, but one adopted by many of the most senior leaders of the denomination.

We have no doubt that, in due course, Richard will be ordained into the ministry of the Church of England. In the meantime, we intend to use his undoubted gifts as much as we are able to at Dagenham Parish Church and to provide for Richard's upkeep out of our own resources and the generosity of others.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Two seriously good books for you to read free

There are two books available free on the internet which many readers of this blog would enjoy and from which they would profit immensely. They are by the missionary pioneer, Roland Allen and they have great potential relevance for today.

Writing in the early twentieth century, Allen asked why European missionary work in places like Africa and China was so expensive in terms of effort and resources, yet so meagre in its results. Two questions he addressed are reflected in the book titles.

The first was whether the structures of the church were actually inhibiting the effectiveness of missionary work. Hence, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, and the Causes which Hinder It. Allen noted that the New Testament church had no 'missionary' organizations - it was the missionary organization. And St Paul did not plant missions, he planted churches, which were then capable of replicating themselves without St Paul's constant intervention. Hence the second book, Missionary Methods: St Paul's or Ours?

You may think, 'What has European missionary work of a hundred years ago got to do with Anglicanism in this country today?' But try reading Allen's books and substituting 'diocese' for 'missionary organization', 'clergy' for 'missionaries', 'vicarage' for 'mission station' and 'laity' for 'natives', and you will begin to get the point.

For example, the budget for the Diocese of Chelmsford for 2008 is around £19.15m. However, this does not include costs met locally by Parochial Church Councils, which include heating, lighting, cleaning, building repairs and any paid lay assistance. There are two reasons why the latter should be factored in.

First, no business organization can claim that such costs are not part of its running costs, just because these are not incurred at 'head office'.

Secondly, as Robin Gill shows in The 'Empty' Church Revisited, what closes churches in the independent sector is not, in the end, numerical decline or the lack of a minister, but local running costs and repair bills. We are already seeing examples of this in the Anglican church, and they are bound to increase.

There are, apparently, 618 churches in the Diocese, and my guess is they add at least £3m, possibly more, to the overall costs, bringing the total to a ball-park £22m. On any 'normal Sunday', there are 27,650 adults in church, which means they cost £800 each.

Far from spontaneously expanding, we are shrinking numerically, whilst the already-enormous cost of maintaining what we are doing is increasing. As to missionary methods, I cannot discern that we actually have one as a diocese!

Of course, the church does more than bring people to church, but it is people in church on Sunday who provide the committed core of the Christian community and, importantly, who are relied on to pay the bills.

So we need fresh thinking - or, perhaps, some old thinking revisited. I commend Roland Allen to you.

Revd John P Richardson
6 November 2007

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Monday, 5 November 2007

Time to choose: Bp Bob Duncan Addresses the Pittsburgh Diocesan Convention

[...] There are always folks caught in the middle, folks whose loyalties with good reason run in both directions, and there are folks who wish the whole conflict would just “go away.” This is an exceedingly difficult place to be. I know how hard it is, for I have been there too. All of us have, especially as this heartbreaking conflict has unfolded.

To the still undecided or “torn” deputies in this Annual Convention I would offer one thought. The matter finally comes down to an unavoidable choice between cultures. There is the culture of the wider Episcopal Church: theologically innovative, at the edge of mainstream Christianity, secularly attuned, declining, canonically fundamentalist, and ready to sue or depose to obtain its way. By contrast, there is the culture of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: Scripturally centered, critiquing the secular agenda, among the fastest (and few) growing dioceses of the Episcopal Church (relative to population decline), focused on congregational mission, allowing vast freedoms in the form and manner of ministry. Given that we must choose – and I do believe that national actions have now dictated that we must – which is the predominant culture we desire individually and corporately to embrace: national Church or local diocese? Read more
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Britain's anti-semitism part of assault on Western culture

(Ouch! In this article, Melanie Phillips has a go at almost everyone, including the Church of England and John Stott. Worth a read, though, if only to see ourselves as others see us.)

[...] But a subtler reason exists for Britain’s embrace of the new anti-Semitism. After the Second World War, the radical Left set out to destroy the fundamentals of Western morality, but its campaign played out very differently in America and Britain. In America, it resulted in the culture wars, with conservatives, many churches, and sensible liberals launching a vigorous counterattack in defense of Western moral values—and, as it happened, Israel.

Exhausted by two world wars, shattered by the loss of empire, and hollowed out by the failure of the Church of England or a substantial body of intellectuals and elites to hold the line, Britain was uniquely vulnerable to the predations of the Left. The institutions that underpinned truth and morality—the traditional family and an education system that transmitted the national culture—collapsed. Britain’s monolithic intelligentsia soon embraced postmodernism, multiculturalism, victim culture, and a morally inverted hegemony of ideas in which the values of marginalized or transgressive groups replaced the values of the purportedly racist, oppressive West.

Further, people across the political spectrum became increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behavior. This erasing of the line between right and wrong produced a tendency to equate, and then invert, the roles of terrorists and of their victims, and to regard self-defense as aggression and the original violence as understandable and even justified. That attitude is, of course, inherently antagonistic to Israel, which was founded on the determination never to allow another genocide of Jews, to defend itself when attacked, and to destroy those who would destroy it. But for the Left, powerlessness is virtue; better for Jews to die than to kill, because only as dead victims can they be moral.

And this general endorsement of surrender feeds straight into a subterranean but potent resentment simmering in Europe. For over 60 years, a major tendency in European thought has sought to distance itself from moral responsibility for the Holocaust. The only way to do so, however, was somehow to blame the Jews for their own destruction; and that monstrous reasoning was inconceivable while the dominant narrative was of Jews as victims.

Now, however, the Palestinians have handed Europe a rival narrative. The misrepresentation of Israeli self-defense as belligerence, suggesting that Jews are not victims but aggressors, implicitly provides Europeans with the means to blame the destruction of European Jewry on its own misdeeds. As one influential left-wing editor said to me: “The Holocaust meant that for decades the Jews were untouchable. It’s such a relief that Israel means we don’t have to worry about that any more.”

It is no accident that Jews find themselves at the center of Britain’s modern convulsion. Today’s British prejudices rest on a repudiation of truth and a refusal to defend Western moral values. And it was the Jews who first gave the West those moral codes that underpin its civilization and that are now under siege. Read more
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Sunday, 4 November 2007

Jonathan Sacks's solution to family breakdown

[...] He doesn't blame immigration for fracturing British society. "The critical variable is not immigration but integration. America has had to integrate wave upon wave of immigrants and it did so by telling the American story. Very quickly immigrants made the American story their own."

This, he thinks, could be a solution for Britain too. "We need to have occasions to express our island story. We should have a British day when we stop and think about who we are."

The country, he says, needs to rediscover a shared moral purpose. "On many issues there is common ground between Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and traditional British Humanists. It is a voice that tends not to be heard often enough in the media."

Britain's abortion laws are, he thinks, too liberal. "Abortion should be permitted only where it endangers the life of a mother. In Jewish law a foetus is a potential human life and therefore the rights of the foetus can only be overruled by actual human life."

He was shocked by a report which suggested that British children are the unhappiest in the West. "That should be a real wake-up call. Children should be allowed to be children, not turned into premature adults," he says. "They are sexualised, consumerised, their self-worth depends on which brand of sneakers they wear. We need a counter-balance."

Television is also in his view contributing to the moral decline. "Programmes like Big Brother and X Factor are awful, they whittle away at communities by promoting competition rather than co-operation. But things like the website Mumsnet which bring mothers together to swap advice are wonderful."

Children will, he says, only regain their self-respect through strong families. "Marriage is the most important building block in society. We shouldn't stigmatise single parents — if it doesn't work, it doesn't work — but let society do everything to boost marriage." Read more
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Pittsburgh votes to leave The Episcopal Church

By more than a two-to-one vote, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted Friday in favor of separating from the national church because of a theological rift that began with the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003.

The vote sets the stage for what could become a protracted legal battle between the diocese and the Episcopal Church U.S.A., which had warned Pittsburgh’s bishop not to go forward with the vote.

After passionate appeals from both sides of the debate, clergy members and lay people voted 227 to 82 to “realign” the conservative diocese.

If Friday’s vote is approved again in a year, the diocese will begin steps to remove itself from the American church and join with another province in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Read more
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