Saturday, 26 January 2008

Virginia Bishop notes moves towards gay ordinations, blessings, attacks churches for 'stinginess'

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Peter J. Lee rebuked fellow Episcopalians yesterday for stinginess, saying the nation's largest Episcopal diocese is financially strapped because of the "continuing inability or unwillingness" of its churches to contribute.

Speaking at the annual diocesan council meeting at the Hyatt Regency Reston, he also revealed that the diocese has spent $2 million to date on a lawsuit involving 11 churches that left the diocese a year ago over differences in theology and the 2003 consecration of the openly homosexual New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

The diocese officially does not ordain homosexual clergy, although a resolution is on the table for today's meeting that would change that policy.

It also does not conduct "blessing" ceremonies for same-sex unions. However, a diocesan committee report, issued yesterday, said there was an "emerging consensus" among committee members to eventually allow such blessings.

"Scripture addresses lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect and the holy love" among homosexuals, the report said. A new commission will "identify practical steps" on how the diocese can minister to homosexual couples, it said. Read more
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RCs warned Dutch Dominican proposals on lay celebration could cause schism

A leading Catholic religious order has said its Dutch branch risks a split within the Church with its recommendation to allow lay people to celebrate mass to overcome a growing shortage of clerics.

The proposal 'risks not only worsening the polarisation within the Dutch Church but also encouraging schism,' said a report for the Dominicans, an order that has produced many prominent theologians since its founding in 1216.

The Dutch Dominicans, who sent a booklet entitled 'Church and Ministry' to all Dutch Catholic parishes last August proposing that an ordinary person could lead the service if there was no priest available, deny wanting to create a schism.

They say they will also distribute the report criticising the idea, commissioned by Dominican headquarters in Rome and written by French Dominican Father Herve Legrand, to all Dutch Catholic parishes to further debate over the issue. Read more
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Frail vicar hauled before Church court

[...] Mr Faulks, Rector of the united benefice, was accused of "conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders" after he failed to account for three years of profits for the magazine, amounting to little more than £500 a year.

The tribunal heard that Mr Faulks and his wife Ann wrote, published, distributed and canvassed advertising for the magazine with no help from members of the parochial church council, even though they had been invited by the Rector to get involved. Mr Faulks even paid for equipment on his own credit card.

But when he failed to produce accounts for three years, Mr Faulks, who has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and is still unwell, found himself suspected of dishonesty and facing all the might of the Church's new "justice" system, which takes place entirely in private until the end, when the findings are made public.

The tribunal, only the second of its kind to have sat after the new clergy discipline measures superseded the old consistory courts, met at the headquarters of the worldwide Anglican Communion in West London under the chairmanship of Judge David Turner, a circuit judge in Chelmsford and chancellor of the Chester diocese.

Judge Turner and the panel found Mr Faulks had been "culpably inefficient" and had failed repeatedly to keep proper accounts, but gave him merely a conditional discharge, meaning he can return to work as Rector. He had been suspended from one of the parishes, Haselbech, while the case was ongoing.

Mr Faulks told the tribunal that his ill health had been used by some individuals in the parish to bully him. He claimed Haselbech parochial church council had conducted what felt like a "vendetta" against him, with the aim of trying to force him to resign. Read more

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Clergy without degrees not suitable as bishops or deans

Ed: Well, it's not the actual headline, or indeed the story, but it is the response of Anglican officialdom to new government proposals to charge full fees to students taking a second degree of the same or lower level than their first - which would indeed include a lot of trainee clergy. However, the 'case against' presented by the director of the Ministry Division overlooks the fact that the Church of England has been downgrading theological training from degree level for decades, encouraging people onto part-time courses and precisely the two year foundation degrees it now apparently says are not suitable for the "brightest and best". Just as a 'for instance', how many ordinands study Greek, let alone Hebrew, to any level of competence?

[...] Christopher Lowson, director of the Ministry Division of the Church of England, said that the withdrawal of university funding for students taking a second degree that was equivalent to or a lower qualification level than their first degree (known as ELQ degrees) would push up fees paid by students.

Those taking a second degree in theology pay tuition fees of £3,000 a year but these could rise to levels paid by overseas students of about £11,000 a year, he said.

As the Church pays the tuition fees for ordinands, it would have to meet the extra costs in full.

While the Church accepted that a less expensive two-year foundation degree might be acceptable for some ordinands, it would not be suitable for the brightest and best.

“Most people who become senior bishops or deans have studied theology at degree level. If you are going to lead the Church and negotiate with other faiths, you need a greater understanding of your own faith and how it has developed,” he said. Canon Martin Seeley, principal of Westcott House theological college, part of the Cambridge Theological Federation, gave warning that the move could lead to the closure of leading theological institutions.

“At a time when the social and public expectations of, and demands on, the clergy of any faith or tradition are increasing because of the social fabric, we need more than ever before to have people who are trained well,” he said. Read more
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Friday, 25 January 2008

Letters to the Church Times about Wycliffe Hall

A number of letters to the Church Times about Wycliffe Hall may be read online here.
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Catholic opinion on Rowan Williams, the Church and 'secret communions'

Ed: Rome gets it right (and it is so tempting to add, "While Wright gets it wrong."

Part of the problem with Dr. Williams approach to schism is the way in which he is trying to be the only point of unity between the factions in tension. As long as each faction of the church can have relationship with him, he feels unity can be achieved.The problem is much greater than just a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury as a person. While the Anglican Communion qualifies its members by their relationship with Canterbury, that relationship has been historically built upon the faithfulness of Canterbury to Christian faith as it has been understood within Protestant Anglicanism.

It is this fundamental understanding of the Christian faith which is said to be incarnate within the honorary position of the Archbishop and Lambeth Palace. Over the past quarter to half-century the battle for the fundamentals of this expression of faith has been in contention.

Most recently issues like women’s ordination and human sexuality have become the foci for battles within local parishes and dioceses in many Anglican jurisdictions. In America, the consecration of an openly gay bishop, which included participation by his partner, brought the matter of sexuality - and homosexuality in particular - to the forefront.

On the one hand, the Anglican Communion has been dealing with the Episcopal Church U.S.A., the official branch of Anglicanism is the United States, in a punitive way concerning this issue, the words and actions of their senior bishop seem to run at cross purposes.

Dom Gregory Dix, the famous Anglican theologian, stated in his essay on the Episcopate in the early church that a bishop has a two-fold responsibility, to stand for God to the church and to stand for the church to God. Both of these dynamics position the bishop as the active and accountable concerning the orthodoxy of his jurisdiction.

All too often bishops have been seen - and probably have viewed themselves - as church officials whose responsibilities are temporal rather than spiritual. Former Bishop of Oxford, The Right Reverend Dr. Kenneth Kirk, offered that observation in writing “The Apostolic Ministry.”

It would seem that the Church of England may find itself working so hard to appease its spurious factions that she loses sight of why the Church exists in the first place. Some may argue that this is already the case in at least a portion of the Communion.

Of this, or any church, a bishop is called to be the defender of the faith, whose work it is to bring the faithful into a proper relationship with Jesus Christ and to be a teacher of that faith, as it has been passed down from our Lord and His Apostles in Scripture and tradition.

In the Anglican Order for Holy Communion, 1948, the following invitation was given prior to offering the General Confession: “You that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins and offences committed to Almighty God, and be in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, and heartily to follow the commandments of God, and to walk from henceforth in his holy ways; draw near, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort, make your humble Confession to Almighty God, and to his holy Church, here gathered together in his Name, meekly kneeling upon your knees.”

It would seem that now is a good time for the Communion to reflect upon the words of their own liturgy, to repent and return to the work of faith. Read more

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Our India, their Britain - Why Gordon Brown appeared so deadly earnest

Ed: I think I'm going to cut out this article by an Indian journalist and frame it.
[...] It may sound hideous in the context of post-colonial correctness but it is undeniable that India’s perceptions of Britons were couched in terms of admiration, reverence, awe and a tinge of fear. This was as true for Anglophiles as they were for those who suffered and fought for freedom. Of course, there was a flip side too. The white man was felt to be lacking in personal hygiene and his food habits were completely suspect. Nevertheless, on balance, the sahib came out of the encounter as someone who had earned the right to forge an empire. It, therefore, followed that if Indians were to usurp that right they would have to imbibe the virtues of hard work, forbearance, team spirit, enterprise and sacrifice. A minority of Indians also wanted fair play and decency to be tagged to the attributes of good character.

The Britain of the Indian imagination, like the characters of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, probably died in the muddy mess of Flanders, Ypres and the Somme, but lingered on in the colonies for longer. However, till the permissive Sixties turned all sense of propriety upside down, Britain maintained the pretence of a “Great” prefix. Since then, there has been a systematic dismantling — all in the name of democratization — of the values and institutions Indians had learnt to admire. What replaced it was a popular culture centred on shirking, irreverence, promiscuity and loutishness. Britain earned a reputation for being the home of football hooligans and lager louts. The gentleman became an object of derision.

The translation of this moral decline into public policy was equally devastating. First, Britain became a nanny state, with the State intruding into facets of life that should have been left to either personal choice or common sense. Second, the response to the traditional over-emphasis on class was a spurious form of egalitarianism that manifested itself in high taxation, lowering of school standards and the benign neglect of cricket.

Finally, Britain turned its back on its own glorious inheritance and chose to shun power for piety. The complete collapse of old-style Labour Party socialism left a void which was soon occupied by sanctimonious environmentalism, democratic evangelism and moral equivalence masquerading as multiculturalism. Margaret Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Tony Blair tried to turn the clock back, but unsuccessfully. The BBC World Service’s strange news sense (it treats Royal escapades as frivolous and unworthy) and its disavowal of the Received Pronunciation (RP) is a consequence. Why blame the BBC? Other pillars of the erstwhile establishment — the Church of England and the Conservative Party — are victims of this wimpishness. Read more
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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

'Bully' vicar to be sacked

Ed: As this shows, the Church of England had procedures in place which can deal effectively with bullying when it occurs. Given the constant allegations of bullying being made on the internet and elsewhere against Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, the Principal of Wycliffe Hall theological college, is it not time someone who believes they can justify these claims made a formal complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure?

The Vicar at the centre of allegations of bullying and indimidation is to be sacked by the Church of England, according to a ruling today.

A rare church tribunal was "unanimous" that there had been a breakdown of pastoral relations after Rev Tom Ambrose, 60, Vicar of St Mary and St Michael in Trumpington, was accused of being a "bully and a liar" and of spitting at one of his church wardens.

Although the hearing took place last September, the tribunal's unanimous findings were only published today and the full 37-page judgement will not be released until the appeals process is exhausted.

In last year's hearing, Dr Ambrose was accused of bringing his once “thriving parish” to breaking point. Church wardens resigned, volunteers left and Dr Ambrose ignored the parochial church council, the hearing was told. Read more
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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Children as young as four involved in house-breaking and petty assault.

Parents are being urged to take better control after figures revealed children as young as four were involved in house-breaking and petty assault.

The statistics come in a Freedom of Information request released by Grampian Police.

Last year's figures across Scotland showed children as young as two were caught engaged in criminal activities.

The Scottish Government said the root causes of crimes needed to be tackled, including deprivation.

The figures compiled by Grampian Police show that during a single year nearly 10,000 crimes were committed by children under 18.

Perhaps the most striking group were those aged under eight - where 49 offences were committed. Read more
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Minutes of meeting between GAFCON organizers and Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem

Minutes of two separate meetings between the organizers of GAFCON and the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem may be found here on the Thinking Anglicans website. (I don't know their source.)

I have now blogged on this here.

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Another day of internet abuse

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Ed: And this is why the above policy is in place:

my point is that Craig Murray - until recently a diplomat employed by the Foreign Office - certainly didn't give vent to this stuff to my face when he had the opportunity, nor, I think, would he ever have said anything so abusive when being interviewed on radio or television or in writing for a newspaper. It could only have been done in the particular atmosphere of the web.

Actually it got worse. Mr Murray's readers then added comments in which I was further accused, along with others, of being a “Jewish racist of the deepest and most awful sort” and of possessing a “Weltanschauung of Jewish supremacy”. Mr Murray's response was “Well, yes up to a point”, before reminding the more excitable and probably libellous posters that they shouldn't forget that were some good Jews too.

Now suppose, that I were to write an article for this paper in which I began by telling readers that Craig Murray was not just wrong and oddly ill-informed, but that he was also - let's say - a chinless, adulterous, anti-Semitic clown whose vanity and incontinence had led to him damaging those very causes that he claimed to care for so much. My editors wouldn't have stood for it, and the readers would have thought less of me for it. Yet in several of the more lionised and supposedly political websites that influence some of our journalists, this is exactly the level of debate.

One reason for this libellous intemperance is the odd anonymity conferred by the internet, and the peculiar sense of indemnity it seems to offer. It is almost as if Mr Murray doesn't quite realise that his abusiveness will be seen as abuse. It's a psychology that means that we should be careful before we assume that we know what this or that internet eruption actually signifies. Read more

Monday, 21 January 2008

The beast is Islamism, not 'an ideology'

[...] the patronising attitude that somehow naming Islamism will result in loss of Muslim support is based on the premise that "the Muslim community" is what the game-players of sectarian politics define it to be.

Brits of all backgrounds deserve higher standards and greater transparency from the government. We are not stupid. We can distinguish between Islam the religion, and Islamism the political ideology. A Labour government should know better. I am acutely aware that, at home, candour can mean upsetting those who play the separatist, Muslim representation game. And abroad, the government risks the ire of the mighty Saudi petrol attendants. But being held hostage by these interests, and thus muzzled from explaining "The Ideology" to key stakeholders in public life means that in the long term the security threat will only increase.

It is Qutbite Islamism, combined with extreme Wahhabism that produced jihadism. Al-Qaida is only one symptom of this deadly combination.

Like most non-Muslims, Muslims are unaware of the difference between Islam and Islamism. Rather than assume that "they won't get it", and spend millions of taxpayers' money on foreign wars and domestic surveillance programmes, the government should be transparent and help raise awareness of the true nature of "The Ideology".

Without clearly defining the problem, we can't even begin to unravel it. Little wonder, then, that the terrorist threat level remains severe. It's still not too late. In democracies, governments should be transparent when dealing with terrorism. Read more

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Rowan Williams launches Lambeth 2008: "Equipping Bishops for Mission"

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams today launched the official programme for Lambeth Conference 2008 Equipping Bishops for Mission at Lambeth Palace. Joining Dr Williams on the panel were Archbishop Ellison Pogo (Archbishop of Melanesia and Chairman of the Design Group) and Archbishop Ian Ernest (Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean). Mrs Jane Williams outlined the plans for the Spouses’ Conference which is being held alongside the bishops’ conference. Jane Williams was joined by Margaret Sentamu. 30 bishops from 17 provinces around the Anglican Communion also joined the press conference.

The texts of both presentations are available below. Read more
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Why punish parents for doing the right thing?

[...] it is now illegal - a criminal offence - for a primary school head to conduct an interview of any kind with the parents of applying pupils or to request any information from them which might, in any way, indicate their class background or provide clues about their own educational achievements.

What exactly does this mean, and what measures would be required to see to it that the law was strictly enforced? Are heads forbidden to engage in conversation with prospective parents when they come to school open days? (After all, the social connotations of British speech being what they are, a five-minute chat could tell an experienced head a great deal about a family.) Perhaps open days should be held in strict Trappist silence and visitors provided with all-enveloping overalls at the door to conceal any identifiable distinctions in sartorial taste. Or should parents who attend such events be automatically suspect since only the more educationally ambitious would be inclined to do so? How ridiculous - and how morally repugnant - are we prepared to get over this? Read more
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Gays reject equality promoter, Dr Joel Edwards

Gay activists will tomorrow condemn the appointment of openly-Christian leader in the UK to the country's main equality commission and demand his resignation.

In a ten-page dossier to be published on its website, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement calls for the head of the Evangelical Alliance, Dr Joel Edwards, to stand down as a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The commission, chaired by Trevor Phillips, was set up last October under the Equality Act 2006. Dr Edwards was appointed one of 14 members in November as having "exceptional experience in the field of equality and human rights." The commission's role is to achieve "a fairer, more inclusive Britain" by promoting equality and human rights across society and providing back-up for discrimination legislation. The commission will also investigate the root causes of inequality in our society. Read more
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The 'dark side' of our social reforms

I supported the Homosexual Reform Act back in the 1960s on the grounds that it is not right to criminalise people on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

But the many people who believed that homosexuality should be decriminalised never intended that this should create the proselytising Gay Liberation Movement. The Act decreed that homosexual acts should be “between consenting adults in private” Between means involving two; adult meant 21; and private means behind locked doors. But now the love which once dare not speak its name, shrieks at us in high camp from decorated floats along the high street.

Similarly with abortion law reform, the public was told by its supporters that legalised abortion would abolish the damage to women's health at the hands of the back street abortions. No one at the time thought that a humane Act designed to remove an identifiable evil would lead to abortion on demand, abortion in fact as merely another form of contraception. So now 200,000 embryos every year are ripped, untimely, from the womb just because people fear that a child would interfere with their lifestyle.

The new social morality introduced via these various “reforms” has its dark side. Even the progressive Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported in 1998 that broken families have a higher risk of nine varieties of deprivation: poverty and poor housing; being poorer when they are adults; behaviour problems; performing less well at school; needing medical treatment; leaving school/home when young; becoming sexually active, pregnant or a parent at an early age; depressive symptoms; high levels of smoking, drinking and drug use.

You might think that, noticing the social benefits of marriage, any government would do all in its power to strengthen the institution. But when, as chancellor, Gordon Brown was presented with these infelicities, he refused to arrange the tax system so that it discriminated in favour of marriage as a proven social good: “I mean practical, sustained help, whenever and wherever families need it, in whatever circumstances they find themselves; not by making ideological judgements but seeking always to find the best way to support every child.” Read more
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How the tax system punishes couples for being married

Married couples are being brutally punished by Labour's tax and benefit system, according to research to be published tomorrow.

Experts say that couples where one partner works and the other stays at home are the worst affected, paying a far higher proportion of their incomes to the taxman than in almost any other civilised country.

Britain is almost alone in failing to reward couples that stay together, according to the first international study of its kind.

A one-earner couple on average earnings of £30,800 a year pays 40 per cent more tax in Britain than in comparable members of the OECD group of developed nations.

And, compared to European Union states, the average family is paying 25 per cent more tax.

The study, carried out for Care, a Christian charity that tackles poverty, concludes that single people with no children do far better than families. Read more
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38 per cent of Synod back gay clergy

ALMOST 40 per cent of General Synod members believe gay clergy should be allowed sexual partners, the results of the inaugural Church of England Newspaper survey have found. A total of 38 per cent of those that took part in the poll said this should be permitted, while 53 per cent opposed such a move, and nine per cent said they did not know what course of action should be taken.

The results highlight the polarised nature of the issue in the Church of England which is already threatening to divide the worldwide Anglican Communion. Tim Hind, pictured, a lay Synod member for the Diocese of Bath and Wells, was one of the 38 per cent who said yes, and said he felt Scripture was unclear on the issue. He added: “I happen to differ from the House of Bishops statement in this respect, I think we need to concentrate really hard on spreading the good news of the gospel and not agonising over the things people do. “It’s more to do with individuals’ relationships with God and each other, and if two people are in a loving relationship that’s the most important thing. “It’s natural as it’s the way God has made people.” Read more
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