Friday, 16 November 2007

Pope gets radical, woos Anglicans

Two and a half years after the name "Josephum" came booming down from the balcony of St Peter's, making liberal Catholics weep with rage, Pope Benedict XVI is revealing his programme of reform. And it is breathtakingly ambitious.

The 80-year-old Pontiff is planning a purification of the Roman liturgy in which decades of trendy innovations will be swept away. This recovery of the sacred is intended to draw Catholics closer to the Orthodox and ultimately to heal the 1,000 year Great Schism. But it is also designed to attract vast numbers of conservative Anglicans, who will be offered the protection of the Holy Father if they covert en masse.

The liberal cardinals don't like the sound of it at all.

Ever since the shock of Benedict's election, they have been waiting for him to show his hand. Now that he has, the resistance has begun in earnest - and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, is in the thick of it. Read more
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Canadian Pro-life site takes dim view of CofE statistics

[...] Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent at the London Times wrote, “The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice. It also leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.”

Some writers are pointing to the weakening of the Church of England as a warning sign for British sovereignty and independence. As the officially established church, the Church of England plays a significant role in Britain’s political and social make-up and has an impact on its distinctiveness from its European neighbours.

Joel Hilliker, writing in the Trumpet, says that the religious erosion of Britain has eroded British national identity. “Secularism has Britain by the throat,” he writes.

“The percentage of practicing Christians there is in the single digits. The Church of England has lost moral authority, loosening its standards on issues such as the ordination of women as priests, premarital cohabitation and homosexuality.”

With the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), an organisation with 400,000 members formally requesting “full, corporate and sacramental union” with the Roman Catholic Church, and many Anglicans seeking union with Rome individually, the Protestant Hilliker writes, “What is left in this nation is a spiritual vacuum — a vacuum that provides the Church of Rome the perfect opportunity to move in. For as Britain has become more liberal, Roman Catholicism has grown more conservative, increasingly presenting itself as a rock of stability in an uncertain world.” Read more
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Thursday, 15 November 2007

Swedish Christian web editor wins appeal against two-month prison sentence over anti-gay comments on website

(Ed: More important for me than for some of you, no doubt. As Ricky Tomlinson's Jim Royle might have said, "Free speech in Europe? My *rse!")

A Christian website editor who was sentenced to two months in prison for inciting hatred against homosexuals has been cleared by the Supreme Court in Sweden.

Leif Liljeström, who had already had his sentence cut to one month by the Court of Appeal, was cleared after the court ruled that he may not have been aware that anti-gay comments posted by visitors to his website, Bibeltemplet or The Bible Temple, consituted incitement to hatred.

Mr Liljeström, aged 50, was told of today's Supreme Court's decision by news agency TT.

"Has the verdict arrived? A not guilty verdict? That's very good to hear. I actually had a feeling that it would turn out like this. I did what Christians do and asked God. I then got a feeling that it was going to work out well," he said.

Mr Liljeström told the court that he had thought long and hard about removing the offending posts before eventually allowing them to remain on the site where they could serve to generate further discussion.

One of the more extreme comments was posted by a visitor to a discussion forum thread entitled "Sodomy". The commenter stated that "men who cannot summon up the energy to abstain from intercourse with other men should be sentenced to death and hanged from posts in the town square." Although he did not remove it, Leifström did in fact criticise this statement and several others on the site's discussion forum.

According to the first court to hear the case, Stenungsund District Court, as website administrator he was guilty of "incitement against a group of people" for statements he himself had written, and for crime against "the law on electronic bulletin boards" for guest-messages which he neglected to delete.

The administrator, Leif Liljeström, told the court that his purpose is to preach the gospel and win people for Jesus, and that the truth was needed to awake people. Read more
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Under achievers will be poor, male and white

(Ed: And compare here.)

[...] There is a pattern to these conversations. Parents who are themselves poorly educated and low achievers seem unable to provide structure or boundaries. Admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do, but the prevailing culture seems to be a moral vacuum in which responsibility lies elsewhere. Neither do these parents understand how to negotiate the school system, or have experience of making progress. Their own negative experiences have left them feeling unmotivated, their children pick up on that and, once they start to fail, they become accustomed to failure, says Steve Belcher, an outreach development worker at the Birmingham branch of Fairbridge, the charity that has helped Adam and Lee to understand that they have a future.

[...] The other thread that runs through this debate is the use of words such as excitement and fun. School is failing them because it isn’t exciting. Naughty stuff – many lads use these coy words to refer to crime – may be a matter of economic necessity, but sometimes it is done for a thrill. Where does that come from? Neil Ezard, assistant head in education at Aycliffe, is one of many professionals who note that these boys learn language from screens rather than from people, and that accustoms them to instant gratification.

“The role model in their own homes is usually grandma or mum or auntie. The male role model – the key element in forming a young boy’s impression of who they’re supposed to be – can come from a hero in a video game or an action adventure, which tends to be violent and which tends not to include good relationships with women. So the only thing that they value is fun and excitement associated with their role model. Some of the things they do are because of a lack of understanding that what they do to other people is real and has a devastating effect on their lives. You do despair.” Over the past decade Camila Batmanghelidjh has offered support to vulnerable children and young people through the charity she founded, Kids Company. “The biggest barrier to learning is the emotional state in which you come to the classroom, and that depends on whether you have had a robust attachment figure in your life,” she says. “If you don’t have that, a great deal of energy goes on just piecing yourself together every day, let alone navigating a learning task.”

Batmanghelidjh refers to all failing children. Yet we know that girls consistently do better at school than boys. Why? It is generally accepted that girls are more likely to have female role models within their families, and that they are more suited than edgy rumbustious boys to an education system that rewards diligence. But what about specific ethnic groups? For all the white boys’ lack of education they have acute antennae about perceptions of racism, which makes them uneasy discussing this, though Dom observes that “the majority of white people will be alcoholics and there won’t be many black or Asian alcoholics.”

Lee suspects that the respect for adults that has evaporated from many white families is alive in their black counterparts. “I think black people have more respect for their parents because they have to, their parents are probably stricter. Asian communities are strong because of religion.” Read more

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Anti-hatred laws threaten to be anti-justice

At one stage during my childhood I took a bit of a shine to the word "hate". I enjoyed the sense of oomph that went with it, and I began to throw it around like candy at a pantomime.

Every time I declared that I hated someone, however, my grandmother would intervene with the phrase: "You don't hate them, you only dislike them." At the time I thought she was being pedantic: now, I can see that she was quite right.

As mature adults we are all agreed that hatred is a terrible thing, destructive to the holder and the object alike. Our Government is so eager to emphasise that hatred is wrong, indeed, that it has created a special category of crime called "hate crime", whose exponents will be punished more heavily than other criminals (presumably the ones who love us). The most recent proposal is that those who "incite hatred" against homosexuals could be guilty of a criminal offence punishable by up to seven years in jail.

It is on this heavily-mined territory that the Government and I part company. That is not because I am any fan of those who like to sneer at gay people, either by fulminating against the perceived depravity of their sexual activities or slipping constantly into dreary faux-effeminate mockery: such people tend to be bores and creeps.

But it should not be a criminal offence to be a bore or a creep, since otherwise British jails would be at bursting point and beyond. Read more

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Chelmsford Diocese launches campaign to keep Church Urban Fund investing in communities

2008 will see a major fund-raising drive to raise £500,000 for the Church Urban Fund from Chelmsford Diocese. Since 1987 CUF has given more than 191 grants totalling nearly £2.5 million to projects and organisations in Essex and East London. The Fund supports faith-based social action projects in their mission to be good news.

CUF tackles deprivation at the grass roots, attracts external funds and helps projects to be self-sustaining. As well as this it helps to keep the Church’s mission remain relevant to local communities.

But funds raised 20 years ago are due to be exhausted around now. So CUF is being re-launched as part of a national strategy. The approach is to create a structure that liberates and empowers deaneries and parishes to create local projects with full support from the centre. Deanery champions will be organising local fundraising initiatives and events throughout 2008. Read more
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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Meet the real life Vicar of Dibley

It’s just as well women can multi-task. Jenny Hill’s occupation is certainly a varied one. Her incredibly long days can see her organising a baptism, making a funeral visit and then conducting a marriage interview.

And when it comes to Sunday lunch – she manages to get back home just in time to do the gravy.

Reverend Jenny Hill’s life could almost be as hectic as the Vicar of Dibley’s.

But the 57-year-old Rural Dean of Walsall is no actress – she balances her vocation and family in the real world.

Rev Hill, who was ordained 10 years ago, is one of the many females to have joined the church over the years.

New figures have revealed that more women than men were ordained as clergy in the Church of England last year for the first time since the introduction of female priests. The Church of England said it ordained 478 new clergy in 2006. Of those, 244 were women and 234 men.

The majority of the women were ordained to non-stipendiary or unpaid posts, such as working as assistant priests.

Rev Hill, who is also minister at St Mark’s Church, in Green Lane, Shelfield, says she is delighted that more and more women are entering the Church. Read more

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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tips for welcoming the polyamorous to church

Ed: This is not a spoof - at least I don't think it is! Polyamorous people are those with more than one 'partner'.)

  • Say “partner or partners” instead of “couple.”
  • Support multiple-person commitment ceremonies.
  • Ask a poly person about his or her life. Ask about the person’s partner(s) as a way of affirming the importance of those relationships.
  • Speak up if someone reveals an irrational fear of polyamory. Be aware of subtle and institutional forms of discrimination against polyamorous people.
  • If polyamory brings up strong negative emotions for you, gently explore those feelings by talking with someone you trust.’ Read more

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CofE latest statistics: Giving up, numbers down

[...] “Church members continue to give generously to charitable causes compared with the population at large. Average giving to the church is around 3% of average incomes, still somewhere short of the 5% of disposable income recommended by the General Synod since 1978.

“The 5% aim was based on the Christian tradition of tithing or giving away 10% of income and the recommendation was to give half of that to the Church in thanks for God's gifts and half to other charitable works.”

The total income of Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) in 2005, the figures show, rose to £792 million. Total expenditure rose to £779 million, of which more than £50 million was devoted to charitable giving by the PCCs to other charities and mission organisations, 8% of their recurring expenditure of £568 million.

The statistics also show increases in the number of clergy being trained and numbers being ordained. The Church recommended 594 future clergy for ordination training in 2005, the greatest number for more than a decade and maintaining the upward trend since the mid-90s. In 1994, 408 candidates were recommended for training.

The Church ordained 478 new clergy in 2006, a drop on the 505 ordained in 2005, the highest number since 2002, but more than the 469 in 2004.

Overall, more women (244) than men (234) were ordained in 2006, though the majority of these were ordained to non-stipendiary ministry. Of those ordained to full-time stipendiary ministry, 128 were men and 95 were women.

At the end of 2006, there were 20,354 ministers licensed by Church of England dioceses, including clergy, readers and Church Army officers: one minister for every 2,500 people in England.

“The nation continues to enjoy the spiritual ministry of an increasing variety of Church of England ministers, many of whom contribute to the health of their local community in a voluntary capacity,” observed Revd Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics.

The total does not include some 1,600 chaplains to prisons, hospitals, the armed forces and in education, nor around 6,600 retired ministers with permission to officiate.

Attendance figures for 2005 were provisionally issued in January and have not changed. Regular Sunday attendance fell by 2%, while weekly and monthly attendance fell by 1% or less. This follows two years in which the numbers increased or held steady.

Meanwhile, Christmas Eve/Christmas Day attendance increased by 6%, the number of children and young people attending at least monthly increased by 1% and more than half the parishes reported running or planning a ‘fresh expression of church’. Read more

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Chelmsford Synod divided and undecided on upholding Lambeth Resolution 1.10

Against the advice of Canon Theologian Andrew Knowles, the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod decided on Saturday 10th November not to vote on a motion from Braintree Deanery urging the bishops to uphold Lambeth Resolution 1.10.

A procedural motion to move on without voting was passed by 65 votes to 60 on a second count.

The same Synod saw a number of questions put to Bishop John Gladwin about his patronage of the campaign group Changing Attitude, and the effect this was having on the Diocese.

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ID registration already a UK requirement

[...] The discussion on Any Questions? was predicated upon a mistaken belief that this law has still to be passed and could yet be abandoned by Gordon Brown.

But it has been on the Statute Book for a year.

It is true that another Act will be needed to make ID cards a universal requirement.

However, from next year, they will be compulsory for all non-UK nationals staying longer than three months and, from the following year, they will be automatically issued to UK citizens on renewal of a passport.

When one group has them, ID registration must either be extended to everyone or scrapped, otherwise we would have two classes of citizen.

From 2009, if you want a passport, you will be entered on to the ID register.

There is no choice. It will not, however, be a legal requirement to carry the ID card or to show it to a police officer in the street. Until such time as registration is made mandatory for everybody - which will not be in this parliament - the principal penalty for refusing to co-operate is that you will not be able to travel abroad. Read more
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Britain breeding 'lost generation' says Ian Duncan-Smith

Britain is in danger of creating a "lost generation" of wayward teenagers responsible for soaring levels of gun crime and drug and alcohol abuse, a Tory-backed group claims today.

In a stark warning about the extent of the "broken society", it says a toxic combination of family breakdown and school failure is creating a violent and anti-social youth culture.

The Commission for Social Justice will today launch an inquiry into the epidemic of gang and youth crime that threatens to turn inner cities into no-go areas.

It will study New York's success in reducing crime and the impact of a zero tolerance approach to law enforcement.

The commission, chaired by the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, released shocking statistics:

• every year an estimated 70,000 school-aged offenders enter the youth justice system;

• 18- to 20-year-olds constitute 42 per cent of all first-time offenders;

• three quarters of male offenders between 18 and 21 re-offend within two years;

• the most likely person to have a knife is a boy of 14-19.

• four out of 10 muggings are committed by under-16s.

• the total of young offenders in custody has been above 2,500 every month since April 2000 and 1,504 of those in custody now are 16 or younger.
Read more
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Why do we have so many children with an empty hole where their hearts should be?

[...] Why do so many young people entering adulthood possess only a void where their emotions should be? If we are witnessing, as we appear to be, some of kind of quiet apocalypse – a generation blighted by inability to empathise or understand other people’s feelings – then the very least we should do is to discover the reasons.

The answer is straightforward. The overwhelming cause is that so many children grow up with drug or alcohol addicted parents. It wouldn’t surprise me if all the teenagers involved in some of the worst incidents we hear of had addict parents. If youngsters spend their formative years reliant on a parent who is in the mastery of addiction, then it’s simple – they grow up devoid of love and tenderness. Their parents are rarely present mentally (even if they are physically) because their brains are addled. The children have no concept of compassion, because they have never been shown any. They grow up ignored. Read more
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Sunday, 11 November 2007

Lesbian fails to win post as bishop

The Episcopal diocese of Chicago Saturday passed over an openly gay woman as its next bishop.

The Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of the cathedral in Cleveland, was one of eight candidates -- three of them women -- for the post, The New York Times reported. Delegates to the diocesan convention approved the Rev. Jeffrey Lee, rector of St. Thomas Church in Medina, Wash., for the position.

Homosexuality is a divisive issue in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion, the worldwide confederation of churches descended from the Church of England. The consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a committed relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire has threatened to split the church.

Bishop William Persell said he did not believe Saturday's vote was a rejection of homosexuals or women. He said about one-third of the clergy in the Chicago diocese are women and there are many openly gay priests.

But some members of the diocese appeared relieved by Lee's selection. Joan Barr Smith, a non-delegate from Evanston, told the Times "we dodged that bullet." Read more
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TEAR Fund: 42% of Britons pray

People feel that prayer changes their lives and over 40% engage in the activity, research has revealed.

A survey of 1,000 UK adults shows that 42% pray to God, with around one in six praying every day and one in four praying at least once a week.

After praying, 38% reported feeling "peaceful and content", 30% were strengthened and 57% said it changed what happened in their lives.

Even people with no religion reported praying, with 12% praying sometimes.

Praying made 30% of people feel strengthened, 22% said they felt close to God, 21% said they felt reassured and safe and 19% said they felt happy and joyful. Read more
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Anti-abortion GP faces inquiry over claims of giving partisan advice to patients

A family doctor who is a leading campaigner against abortion is facing an inquiry by the General Medical Council after allegations that she breached ethical guidelines by trying to dissuade patients from having a termination.

The medical regulator is looking into the conduct of Tamie Downes, a West Country GP, whom critics accuse of trying to promote her anti-abortion views while patients are confused about their pregnancy.

The inquiry has arisen after the GMC received a complaint, believed to be from a practising doctor involved in the pro-choice movement, about an interview with Downes in the Daily Mail earlier this year. In it she described how she talked to the women who come to her to discuss having an abortion about having the baby instead. Read more

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