Saturday, 22 December 2007

Spot the Essex clergyman in historic painting

Ed: Can anyone help with this? "However there is one elusive model and that is the priest at the window. He is described as a 'clergyman from Essex' and I have tried to identify this character through the Church of England Diocese of Chelmsford but with no success."

A Painting depicting one of the most famous episodes in the history of a Mearns town is set to be restored to its former glory.

Volunteers at an Aberdeenshire church are raising funds to pay for the £2,000 restoration of the 1865 work by George Washington Brownlow, Baptism from a Stonehaven Jail.

The painting, which hangs in the town's Tollbooth museum, is owned by the Bishop of Brechin, the Rev John Mantle.

It depicts a turbulent time in the history of the Scottish Episcopal Church, following the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and shows a clergy-man behind bars baptising a bairn.

George Masson, a member of St Ternan's Episcopal Church, Muchalls, is now leading a fundraising drive to raise the money needed to pay a professional to conserve the piece.

He said: "It is a wonderful painting and the difference when the expert did one tiny area was amazing.

"The colours are very vibrant and it would be nice to see it restored to the way it should be.

"It is a very important work and at one time or another every episcopal church in Scotland will have displayed a copy."

As part of the project Mr Masson is also hoping to conduct further research into those depicted in the painting.

He added: "Most - if not all - of the locals Brownlow used for his models in the painting have been identified.

"In fact I know of at least three descendants, myself included, of people in the painting.

"However there is one elusive model and that is the priest at the window.

"He is described as a 'clergyman from Essex' and I have tried to identify this character through the Church of England Diocese of Chelmsford but with no success."

Mr Masson is hoping Press and Journal readers may hold the answers and is appealing for anyone with information about the painting to contact him on 01224 733583 or by e-mailing Read more
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See of Canterbury to be replaced by Lagos or Singapore?

[...] It is theoretically possible for the Anglican Communion of Churches to engage in prayerful negotiation over a period of time and then decide that the time has come, in God’s providential guiding of the Anglican Way, for the central and unifying See to be elsewhere—e.g. Lagos or Singapore—and for the Church of England, which gave its name (Ecclesia Anglicana) to the Anglican Communion , to be demoted to one of the ordinary members of the 38 current Churches, rather than its first member.

If this is what the Global South and their American supporters desire, then it would surely be good for them to stay for the time being within the traditional patterns and procedures, and, within this context initiate the discussions to test out how many Provinces favor this radical change. Their present criticisms and threats to boycott Lambeth 2008 are surely not the way for godly and reasonable church leaders to deal with an institution of 1410 years of existence.

Unity in truth and Truth in unity is what the Anglican Communion has stood for historically, even though this has been an ideal, and rarely an attainment.

This ideal needs to stay in place, all Bishops invited to Lambeth Conference in July 2008 should plan to attend, submitting to the historical vocation of the See of Canterbury to issue invitations and to be the president.

Once there, the Bishops of the Global South can ensure that any moves to seek to change the primacy of Canterbury can begin in charity, missionary concern and in prayerfulness. Read more
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Richard Starkey: Prince Charles can save the nation, when the Church of England can't

[...] "is it now time for the monarchy to throw over the Church of England?" he asks, thrillingly, in his programme. "After all, the sometime national church, despite the splendours of its architectural inheritance, is now in fact weak, divided, and fast shrinking into a mere sect. If religion still has strength in this country, it lies elsewhere, in evangelical Christianity and radical Islam, and neither is very promising material for royal ceremony."

To compound this, says Starkey, "the notion of public service has effectively been abandoned. Every political party now buys into business values, and into the notion that by definition business must run things more efficiently."

What's left, he argues, is a moral vacuum - and a position for Prince Charles to step into, if he so wishes. Read more

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Friday, 21 December 2007

This Government has relentlessly undermined the rule of law by its vague legislation and constant meddling

[...] This erosion of the rule of law is not the avoidable consequence of poorly drafted legislation. It is impossible to state clearly what constitutes a hateful remark, a hostile environment or neglectful parenting. If the Government wishes to rule out such things, it can only pass vague laws and delegate the power to interpret them to its agents.

It must replace the rule of law with “the rule of men”. Knowing whether your actions make you liable for punishment is not a matter of reading the legislation but of predicting the sensibilities of the authorities.

And not just towards your actions but towards you. Despite their risky assertions, polemical atheists and evangelical preachers have little to fear from the religious hatred law because the authorities who wield it at their discretion have different targets in mind, such as BNP politicians and Islamic radicals. Justice may be blind but the Home Secretary is not.

The second erosion of the rule of law comes from the Government's open contempt for the idea that the law defines the scope of the Government's interest in you, that you can be on the wrong side of the Government only by being on the wrong side of the law. For example, it is not illegal to have fat children. Yet we know that the Government disapproves of parents who do, since it sends them letters pointing out their children's obesity. “We've got our eye on you,” they insinuate. To which a free man should respond: “If I have committed a crime, arrest me; otherwise, leave me alone.”

But this generation of Labour politicians cannot leave us alone. For they are convinced that they have attained a new level of moral insight and feel duty-bound to improve us. There is no topic on which the Government does not have some recommendation for how we should behave: from what we say about homosexuals, to what we eat, to how we raise our children. They admonish and cajole and “educate” and hint at impending penalties for those who do not fall into line. Read more

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Schori Appoints Three Bishops to Seek Lambeth Invitation for Bishop Robinson

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has appointed three bishops to “consult” with the Archbishop of Canterbury about extending an invitation for Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to attend the Lambeth Conference next summer in England.
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern Indiana, one of the three appointed by Bishop Jefferts Schori, confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail message which he said was sent to all members of the House of Bishops on Dec. 19.
“I’ve been asked to be part of a private conversation, and before that conversation even begins, I think it is best not to discuss details in the media,” Bishop Little said, adding that he personally remains committed to the Windsor Report and its recommendations. Read more

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Theological training threatened by cuts

(Ed: According to the article, these cuts will not affect trainee imams.)

THE UPTURN in young ordinands coming forward for training in the Church of England could be checked, after a government move to redistribute £100 million to finance more first degrees.

The Higher Education Funding Council has been forced to find £100-million-a-year cuts by the Treasury. On 7 December, it announced that it plans to save the bulk of this by not funding second qualifications that are equivalent to, or less than, a person’s existing qualification. Most theological qualifications come into this category.

The cuts, due to be implemented next autumn, would leave the Church up to £1.5 million a year short, experts warned this week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said on Monday that he was very worried about the cuts and had already received representations about them. But he did not yet know the full extent of the likely impact on the Church. The cost to the Church was likely to be about £2500 per candidate. Read more
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Thursday, 20 December 2007

Three (Christmas) Cheers for Rowan Williams

There are some really terrible headlines in the papers at the moment about what Rowan Williams 'said' about the Christmas story:

"It’s all a Christmas tall story" The Times
"Three Wise Men are just a legend, says Archbishop of Canterbury" The Daily Mail
"Archbishop says nativity 'a legend'" Daily Telegraph

I'm sure there's plenty more around like this. The only problem is, none of it is true. Instead, one 'journalist' seems to have fed on another. (So no surprise there, then.)

The story is based on a lengthy interview with Simon Mayo on Radio 5 live. You can hear the whole of it, which is very wide-ranging, here. You can read a transcript of the relevant bit of the Archbishop's conversation here. And you can see the bit where he overlaps with Ricky Gervais on Youtube here.

You'll notice the Archbishop uses the word 'legend' as follows (Simon Mayo is describing an archetypal Christmas card - manger, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, star, three kings, snow):

SM And the wise men with the gold, frankincense, and Myrrh - with one of the wise men normally being black and the other two being white, for some reason?

ABC Well Matthew's gospel doesn't tell us that there were three of them, doesn't tell us they were kings, doesn't tell us where they came from, it says they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire. That's all we're really told so, yes, 'the three kings with the one from Africa' - that's legend; it works quite well as legend.

SM But would they have been there?

ABC Not with the shepherds, they wouldn't. So if you've got shepherds on one side and three kings on the other, there's a bit of conflation going on.

Notice the difference? Matthew doesn't tell us the 'legendary' bits. Matthew does say 'they're astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire.' If you're still not convinced, listen to the whole interview. Earlier, we get this critical question:

SM It comes round every year that we're not being Christian enough or people don't know where Bethlehem is, people have never heard of Mary and so on, so this is a sort of an almost a tradition of Christmas, isn't it really. But I wonder, if people have got a traditional religious Christmas card in front of them, I just want to go through it, Archbishop, to find out how much of it you think is true and crucial to the believing in Christmas. So start with … the baby Jesus in a manger; historically and factually true?

ABC I should think so ...

And from a man not given to dogmatic statements, read in the context of everything else he says in the interview, I'll take that as a 'Yes'.

So credit where it's due, and three cheers for RW!

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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Goddess at Her Church

In the 'you couldn't make this up if you tried' category, I offer this video from Her Church, the Ebenezer Lutheran Church. Thanks to Peter Ould's blog for the tip-off.

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Monday, 17 December 2007

Changing Attitude responds to Rowan Williams' Advent letter

Ed: Read in conjunction with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent letter, this is precisely why many of us in Chelmsford feel it is wrong for our Diocesan Bishop to be a patron of Changing Attitude. Listen, yes - we are listening here. Be a patron, no.

... It is impossible for the church to welcome LGBT people until there is a change in the discipline of the church and the interpretation of the Bible. Read more

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Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter Offers Little Hope for Orthodox Episcopalian

The Archbishop of Canterbury believes that tensions between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the wider Communion - an ongoing crisis for more than four years - have been sufficiently answered by The Episcopal Church and "it would be unrealistic and ungrateful to expect more from TEC in terms of clarification."

In his yearly Advent letter to the Anglican Communion, Dr. Williams said that "whatever our individual perspectives, I think we need to honor the intentions and the hard work done by the bishops of TEC. For many of them, this has been a very costly and demanding experience, testing both heart and conscience. But now we need to determine a way forward."

His words offer little hope for orthodox Episcopalians who are leaving weekly by the thousands, with dozens of parishes and one diocese, possibly three or more, ready to depart the denomination for ecclesiastical safety in African and Latin American provinces. Read more
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Why atheists are so angry

If you haven't seen my “God v. Atheism” debate with philosopher Daniel Dennett, you can view it at You should read the comments in response to the debate both on my AOL blog as well as on the atheist site From the atheists you hear statements like this: "D'Souza is a goddamned idiot." "Odious little toad." "D'Souza is full of s**t." "A smug, joyless twit." "Total moron." "Little turd." "Two-faced liar." Etc, etc. Now admittedly the topic of God v. atheism can be an emotional one, but you will find no comparable invective on the Christian side. Why then are so many atheists so angry?

One reason I think is that they are God-haters. Atheists often like to portray themselves as "unbelievers" but this is not strictly accurate. If they were mere unbelievers they would simply live their lives as if God did not exist. I don't believe in unicorns, but then I haven't written any books called The End of Unicorns, Unicorns are Not Great, or The Unicorn Delusion. Clearly the atheists go beyond disbelief; they are on the warpath against God. And you can hear their bitterness not only in their book titles but also in their mean-spirited invective.

Here is a second reason the atheists sound so angry. They are not used to having their sophistries exposed. For the past three years the new atheists have had a virtually free ride. Dawkins and Hitchens make outrageous claims ("religion poisons everything") and media pundits like Lou Dobbs and Tim Russert fawn all over them. But in the past few months I've been meeting the leading atheist spokesmen in open debate, and challenging them on the basis of the same reason and science and evidence that they say vindicates their claims. Read more
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Anglican Church continues to divide

Churches in California and Canada have decided to split from the Anglican Communion due to disagreement over how the church should minister to homosexuals and doctrinal matters.

The Diocese of San Joaquin and churches in British Columbia will instead align with the Argentinean Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the Anglican Communion which serves 77 million members world-wide.

The AP reports that Saturday, the Diocese of San Joaquin voted to split from the Episcopal Church because of their disagreements over the Bible and homosexuality.

The homosexual issue is not a key issue. It is a concern, but it is not the central concern,” said Reverend Van McCalister a spokesman for the diocese.

McCalister says that some in the diocese have been disgruntled for decades over the authority of scripture and the relationship to the historical church. ”Some folks have been concerned since 1955 when Bishop Pike said he no longer believed in the doctrine of the trinity, no longer believed in the resurrection, or the virgin birth, and the church was unwilling to discipline him,” said McCalister.

On Saturday, clergy and lay members from the diocese voted 173-22 to remove all references to the national church from the diocese’s constitution. Read more
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Greg Venables welcomes San Joaquin back into full fellowship in the Anglican Communion

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our one and only Lord and Savior. By an overwhelming majority of nearly 90% (173 to 22), our Annual Convention voted Saturday, December 8th, to uphold the authority of Holy Scripture and thereby preserve our place in the worldwide Anglican Communion and with the See of Canterbury by realigning our Anglican identity through the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas under the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, Archbishop and Primate.

This historic and momentous decision by our Annual Convention was the culmination of The Episcopal Church’s failure to heed the repeated calls for repentance issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and for the cessation of false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Scripture.

However, we are no longer operating under the looming shadow of this institutional apostasy because our Annual Convention wisely and prayerfully accepted the gracious invitation for sanctuary from the Southern Cone. Under a plan developed with their House of Bishops and ultimately discussed between Archbishop Venables and a number of other Primates and Bishops we were offered hope by the Southern Cone. I wish to emphasize that Convention’s action is not a schism over secondary issues but a realignment necessitated by false teaching as well as unbiblical sacramental actions that continue to take place in The Episcopal Church. As our new Archbishop so succinctly put it: “Christianity is specific, definable and unchanging. We are not at liberty to deconstruct or rewrite it. If Jesus was the Son of God yesterday then so He is today and will be forever.” After our Annual Convention voted to accept the invitation from the Southern Cone, the first words to the Diocese of San Joaquin from our new Archbishop were these: Read more
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Canada's thought police pursue author

Celebrated author Mark Steyn has been summoned to appear before two Canadian judicial panels on charges linked to his book “America Alone."

The book, a No. 1 bestseller in Canada, argues that Western nations are succumbing to an Islamist imperialist threat. The fact that charges based on it are proceeding apace proves his point.

Steyn, who won the 2006 Eric Breindel Journalism Award (co-sponsored by The Post and its parent, News Corp), writes for dozens of publications on several continents. After the Canadian general-interest magazine Maclean's reprinted a chapter from the book, five Muslim law-school students, acting through the auspices of the Canadian Islamic Congress, demanded that the magazine be punished for spreading “hatred and contempt" for Muslims.

The plaintiffs allege that Maclean's advocated, among other things, the notion that Islamic culture is incompatible with Canada's liberalized, Western civilization. They insist such a notion is untrue and, in effect, want opinions like that banned from publication. Read more
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