Saturday, 2 February 2008

Porter sacked by hospital, questioned by police, after 'row' over prayer room crucifix

Ed: And another one for 'PC' Plod, it would seem.

A hospital porter has been sacked after a row over a crucifix being covered up in a prayer room used by Muslims.

Joseph Protano, 54, was suspended four days after the incident last month at a children's hospital - and has since been dismissed.

The row centres on a prayer room available to staff and visitors of all faiths, which contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.

Mr Protano, a Roman Catholic who has worked two years at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Pendlebury, entered the room when three Muslims were using it - two patients and a doctor.

An argument broke out after he asked them to remove a cloth covering the crucifix and statue and to turn a picture of the Virgin Mary face up.

He has now been dismissed for gross misconduct but he intends to appeal. Read more
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Philadelphia Cathedral invites pilgrims to its Buddhist Mandala

We may not all be able to go to Mecca, or Jerusalem, or Rome, or the Ganges, but if we want to go on pilgrimage, we can all get to our Cathedral on 38th Street.

A pilgrimage is a physical journey to a sacred place, an endeavor symbolic of the spiritual journey to the life beyond that which we can see, or hear, or touch. Cathedrals have traditionally been centers of pilgrimage because they are sacred places which recall us to the heavenly realities of God.

In January 2008 we invite you to make a pilgrimage of your own to our cathedral in Philadelphia, with the special intention of peace. Peace in a broken and violent world, peace on the streets of our city where on average one person is murdered every day.

To assist us in this pilgrimage of peace, a Buddhist teacher from Tibet, Losang Samten, will be in the cathedral every weekday 13 – 27 January, to construct a mandala, a traditional Buddhist art form which is also a prayer. The mandala will then remain in place until Feb 3.

A mandala is a representation of the universe, made up of millions of grains of sand, and upon completion is ceremonially broken up and returned to the river and thence to the sea, to remind us of the transience of all things. Read more

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Sydney will not attend Lambeth 2008

Statement from Archbishop Peter Jensen - speaking after the service of ordination of 48 deacons at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney -

‘With regret, the Archbishop and Bishops of the Diocese of Sydney have decided not to attend the Lambeth Conference in July. They remain fully committed to the Anglican Communion, to which they continue to belong, but sense that attending the Conference at this time will not help heal its divisions. They continue to pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference.’

Statement here.

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Ed: Sorry, couldn't do the end notes.


and the Anglican Orthodoxy

The Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll
Vice Chancellor, Uganda Christian University
Mukono, Uganda

It is a daunting task to be asked to define orthodoxy. Endnote Such a task has occupied the minds of great theologians and councils throughout Christian history, and I consider myself hardly up to the task. However, in looking to the future of Global Anglicanism, it is necessary to put one’s hand to the plough and begin a furrow. The need to define or describe Anglican orthodoxy today has an urgency about it, because of the actions of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and other Provinces of the Communion in blessing homosexuality against the clear teaching of Scripture, the historic Church and the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference 1998. Although this issue has dominated discussions, it is clear that it is symptomatic of a larger abandonment of biblical teaching and authority on fundamental matters of the faith. The fact that Bishop John Spong, a man who has denied virtually every article of the Christian faith, continues a bishop in good standing in TEC, while orthodox bishops are threatened with deposition for their witness speaks for itself.

Global Anglican Orthodoxy: A Blueprint

I have chosen to adapt an essay I wrote in 2006 titled “The Global Anglican Communion: A Blueprint.”Endnote This essay sought to outline the essential elements necessary to an orthodox Anglican Communion Covenant which would serve both to correct the errors present in the Communion and to guide the Communion into the future.

The blueprint follows the framework of the Lambeth Quadrilateral. This formulary emerged from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Chicago in 1886 and was intended as an ecumenical statement among the many American denominations and was adopted by the young Lambeth Conference in 1888 as an expression of what we now call Anglicanism. Endnote In my view, it can continue to inform a worldwide fellowship of Anglicans and at the same time offer an ecumenical platform from which to seek unity with other Christian churches. Although the Quadrilateral is not a sufficient statement of Christian doctrine, it does contain the theological DNA which can guide us in articulating our ecclesial identity, along with the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. Together these formularies offer a kind of “branding” for Anglican bodies in their various social contexts. Finally, let me suggest for strategic and tactical reasons that a statement of Anglican orthodoxy keep in close touch with the idea of a Covenant. Strategically the idea of a Covenant is a good one. The Quadrilateral itself was a kind of preamble to Anglican orthodoxy for the emerging Communion. Going back even further, one might suggest that the Articles of Religion were part of an Anglican Covenant before there was a Communion, as Thomas Cranmer intended the Articles to form the basis for an ecumenical consensus among the churches of the Reformation. Endnote

The idea of an Anglican Covenant is also relevant in the present political context of the Communion. Those attending the Global Anglican Future Conference should maintain ties with those orthodox leaders who are working on the Communion Covenant. It seems unlikely that a final Covenant from Canterbury, filtered now through the Anglican Consultative Council, will be sufficiently crisp to deal with the present crisis. However, the opportunity may arise herafter to negotiate an ecumenical Anglican Covenant that will serve as a means of warding off heresy and will chart the future of orthodox Anglicanism.

The Role of Scripture in the Church

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the revealed Word of God (CLQ), containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and standard of faith.

It hardly needs repeating that the foremost objection of the Global South churches to the homosexual agenda is the fact that it is “contrary to Scripture” (Lambeth 1.10) and that this spurning of the Bible as “God’s Word written” has infected the entire structure of authority within the most “progressive” churches of the Anglican Communion. Recovering Anglican orthodoxy must therefore include a restoration of Scripture to its rightful place of authority. I propose the following classic traits of Scripture as benchmarks of a restored biblical orthodoxy.

The Primacy of Scripture. Lambeth 1998 passed Resolutions affirming the primacy, or the primary authority, of Scripture in matters relating to Christian faith and life. Endnote Primacy is not a call for bare submission to a sacred text, as in Islam, but includes several closely associated principles.

· The Word as medium of the Gospel. The Reformation began with a dynamic sense of the recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a verbal revelation, originating in God Himself as the Word (John 1:1-18). Hence the primary medium of communication is “preaching the Gospel” (Romans 10:14).

· The self-authenticating character of Scripture. Although the Bible is an accommodated form of God’s revelation, God “lisping” to us (as Calvin put it), it is self-authenticating and cannot be “proved” by human science or Church edict.

· Scripture as a means of grace. The Word of God presented in Scripture convicts and evokes faith in hearers. The same Spirit that guided the authors testifies in the heart of readers. Endnote

The Unity of Scripture. The Reformation also declared that, despite the differences within and between the Testaments, a fundamental consistency undergirds the various books of the Bible.

· Mystery and unity. As God’s triune nature is a transcendent mystery made known in the fullness of time (1 John 1:1-4), so biblical unity can include paradox and progressive development, without causing confusion in its overall message.

· Hermeneutical center. The center of the Bible is the Gospel of Christ himself. A biblical theology must be evangelical, acknowledging the role of the Old Testament as preparation and of the New Testament as fulfillment, avoiding Old Testament-based legalism or New Testament-based libertinism.

· Harmony of Scripture texts. The principle of “Scripture interpreting Scripture” is found in Cranmer’s Collect which urges ordinary Christians to “mark” i.e., compare, various passages in the Bible. As for the Church, it may not “so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another” (Article XX).

The Clarity of Scripture. The clarity of Scripture was the basis on which the Reformers insisted on a vernacular Bible that could be read and understood by the simplest “ploughboy.”

· Simplicity of Scripture. The Reformers recovered the “plain sense” (sensus literalis) of the Bible.Endnote Simplicity is not anti-intellectual. In fact, it is an invitation to study original languages and historical and social context.

· External and internal clarity. Scripture is transparent, not a secret Gnostic document. External clarity is the way Scripture conveys the Word publicly to all who would come with a seeking heart. Because of the hardness of the human heart, internal clarity is required through the grace of the Holy Spirit. One must “have ears to hear.”

· Exposition. “How can I understand unless I have an interpreter?” (Acts 8:31). Bible reading must be accompanied by expository preaching and teaching. Even mature Christians move “from the truth to the whole truth” through regular Bible study. Endnote

The Sufficiency of Scripture. The idea of the “sufficiency” of Scripture asserts both its unique efficacy and its limited focus.

· The End of Scripture – salvation. Sufficiency looks to the end or telos of Scripture, which is salvation in Christ alone (John 20:31). Any Church which is ashamed of this salvation cannot be using Scripture rightly.

· Appropriation by faith. Just as the Spirit gives inward clarity, so the means by which salvation is grasped is faith alone. Only then does reason interpret Scripture and works of love apply it.

· Trustworthiness of Scripture. Unlike human councils (Article XIX), Scripture cannot err in the sense that it is an infallible guide to salvation and a holy life. In this it diverges both from liberal caricatures and fundamentalist simplifications of fallibility and inerrancy.

In addition to an exposition of the nature of biblical authority, the Global Anglican Communion will need to grapple with the interpretation of Scripture. Again, we should draw on the resources of the Reformation, in its goal of recovering the “plain and canonical” sense of God’s Word, which is accessible for preaching, teaching and mission. At the same time, the contemporary crisis has raised issues of philosophical hermeneutics which must be addressed. The recent work of Kevin Vanhoozer, for instance, opens an avenue for developing a faithful mode of understanding Scripture as “God’s communicative action.”Endnote

Finally, global Anglicanism needs to revisit the so-called Anglican tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. While a tripod of three equal legs is an historical fiction and a theological Trojan horse, there is need for a reaffirmation and redefinition of the consonance of Scripture, tradition and reason, as articulated so pithily by Richard Hooker:

Be it in matter of one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. (Laws V.8.2) Endnote

A renewed study, and in places critique, of Richard Hooker is called for in finding a way forward.

The Church’s Historic Formularies

The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol (LQ); and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

“The voice of the Church,” as Hooker put it, has always been important for an Anglican Christianity that sees itself as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church upholding “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). Endnote Reformation Anglicans tended to look to particular classic periods as sources of authority, such as the first five centuries and four Councils. At the same time, they adopted confessional statements that addressed the new insights of Scripture study and the pressing needs of the day.

The present crisis in Anglicanism provides the opportunity to recover a modest and ecumenical confessionalism that takes into account the Great Tradition of Christian theology and adapts and applies its truths to the contemporary situation. Our Anglican heritage affords us rich resources in the Thirty-Nine Articles and Book of Common Prayer. At the same time, new challenges to orthodoxy have arisen requiring precise analysis and redefinition, such as the nature of marriage and human sexuality, the rise of modern science and technology and the place of other religions in God’s economy of salvation. I speak of modest confessionalism in the sense of a confession that guides without closing off legitimate dialogue and testing from Scripture, and ecumenical confessionalism as presenting an opportunity for the historic churches of West and East to seek together the mind of God as they face off against militant secularism on one flank and militant Islam on the other.

In his recent book How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind,” Prof. Thomas Oden argues that Africa – and he means ancient Alexandria down to present-day sub-Saharan Africa – provides both the best rationale of “right remembering” of the apostles’ teaching but also the best examples of martyrdom, “where ordinary believers were unwilling to release their Scriptures to governing authorities who might debase them.” Endnote

The Church’s Mission and Sacraments

The two Sacraments – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

A review and reform of Anglican doctrine should not omit the nature and role of sacraments. Sacramental theology has to some extent divided orthodox Anglicans, e.g., Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, and one may wonder whether a renewed debate or a papering over of these differences will lead to new life. Undoubtedly renewed discussion of the nature and efficacy of the sacraments is called for among those who agree on biblical essentials.

As a small contribution to such a discussion, I would propose that sacraments should be understood within a theology of mission. The Reformation in general and the Church of England in particular seem to have been deficient in articulating a proper theology of mission. For all their virtues, the Articles of Religion have no single reference to Christ’s Great Commission to evangelize the nations. Endnote Likewise, Articles neglected the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the Established Church often marginalized or expelled movements of “enthusiasm.” Indeed, much of the work of mission societies has been accomplished in spite of rather than with the full support of the mother Church.

In the context of state churches, the sacraments have often been regarded as rights and rites of national identity. This was not true in the apostolic church, nor does it work today (e.g., what does it mean that the Church of England claims 26 million members?). So I propose we take a dynamic approach to the Gospel sacraments, an approach which I believe is found in the Pentecostal teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:38-47). From this preaching I think we can identify the following marks of the missionary church:Endnote

· The Church preaches the Gospel to its own children and to those who are far off - to the churched and unchurched, to the youth of the next generation and to those whom we today call “unreached peoples.”

· It calls people urgently to be saved from the idols of the present age in expectation of the imminent return of Christ.

· Baptism is a response to preaching, and it signs and seals individuals as members of the Body of Christ.

· It expects believers individually and the whole Church corporately to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

· It expects and experiences healing and miracles in its midst.

· It is growing in numbers, often with remarkable leaps forward.

· It is devoted to apostolic doctrine, koinonia, worship and Eucharist.

· It is committed to radical sharing of goods and hospitality.

· It respects authority (the temple) but circumscribes that authority in view of the ascension and reign of Christ.

If the Anglican Communion can orient itself to our Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, perhaps it can also reorient its sacramental heritage to convey the eschatological presence of Christ with his Church. Endnote Another gap in Anglican theology and practice – not unconnected with its lack of missionary zeal, I suspect – is the conviction that Jesus Christ will return, suddenly and imminently, to judge the living and the dead. Endnote As eschatological signs, the sacraments should be seen as incandescent badges of Christian identity: incandescent both in the sense of aglow with the Spirit but also as antagonistic to the world. Global Anglican orthodoxy will need to look not only for faithful administration of Gospel sacraments but for signs of the Spirit and power that accompany it (Mark 16:15-18). Endnote

Anglican Ecclesiology

The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

The present crisis in the Anglican Communion has revealed a constitutional weakness in its doctrine of the Church, its ecclesiology. In response to a blatant attack on the apostolic faith, the worldwide Body and its “Instruments of Unity” have proved unable to enforce straightforward discipline of heretical members. This failure has led many to conclude that Anglicanism is fundamentally flawed, and they have departed for other bodies.

We must start by admitting that global Anglican polity has leaned far too heavily on the benevolent patriarchy of the Established Church and the British Empire. The idea that a rapidly expanding body of Global South churches must be governed from a historic See dominated by a secular Government and a compromised mother church is, to be blunt, a dangerous exercise of nostalgia.

Does this mean that the historic episcopate is itself obsolete. I do not think so. Anglicans can rightly uphold episcopal governance and the value of the historic continuity of its ministry, even as they uphold the priesthood of all believers. For all the failures of bishops, we cannot blame the office; indeed we can argue that a rightly ordered episcopacy has provided stability and faithfulness over the centuries and is often emulated by free-church leaders. The second clause of the Quadrilateral – “locally adapted” – qualifies a rigid view of prelacy and specifically relates it to global mission, “the varying needs of nations and peoples called” into the Church. As an example of the latter, one thinks of the Church of Nigeria’s strategy of sending missionary bishops into under-evangelized portions of its own dioceses, or even of another jurisdiction. Endnote

The primary role of a bishop is that of a willing and apt pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2; 2 Timothy 2:24). Bishops are to be stewards (Titus 1:7), which means they bear the final accountability for the state of the Church. To be sure, episcopal authority is not the same as episcopal totalitarianism – an attitude which many Global South churches need to address. The “household of God” which the bishop oversees (1 Timothy 3:4-5) is a “mixed regime” with subsidiary units – congregations, parishes, dioceses and officers, clergy and lay – which must be represented in its governing structures.

We must rethink the role of bishops and polity at the Communion level. Just as national politics and international politics operate on different levels, so also it is right that national churches have autonomy within an overarching framework an international covenant. Much of the work of the church should be “locally adapted,” although we should acknowledge that the electronic communications revolution has brought these local contexts much closer together than heretofore.

This pattern of episcopal governance can function at the level of worldwide Anglicanism. This will involve reform, though not total rejection, of the current Instruments of Unity, including the following elements:

· A synod of bishops should meet regularly (decennially) and have authority to address matters of doctrine, discipline and mission.

· An executive body of Primates should be authorized to carry out the will of the synod in between meetings.

· A presiding Primate should serve as a focus of unity. Canterbury or another historic see could function as a locus of unity as well. However, such a Primate should be elected by the synod of bishops.

· A secretariat should assist these Instruments, with accountability to all. The current Anglican Consultative Council and Anglican Communion Office have failed to function in this way.

In one sense, this polity is not far removed from the “Instruments of Unity” that have evolved of late in the historic Anglican Communion. The likeness may be deceptive: a diseased body may look like a healthy body, at least in the earlier stages of the illness. I am saying that the fault is not with the outward form of the Anglican Communion but with the doctrinal deviation from its apostolic and Reformation origins. Orthodoxy by its very nature must identify and renounce heresy and discipline false teachers, as a last resort, expel them. Endnote If the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion continues to tolerate heresy in its midst and welcome false teachers to its councils, then the day will come when an orthodox assembly must break communion with Canterbury and set up alternative structures. Since the trend-lines seem to doom the current Communion to endless compromise or worse, the sooner the shadow structures begin take form the better.

Finally, the global Anglican Communion will need to evaluate the role of the churches in relation to the secular realm. This is classic problem of political theology. Traditional patterns, such as the Established churches are obsolete. At the same time, new models proposed by liberation theology have proved ineffective. I think the political theology of Oliver O’Donovan, while not spelling out specific solutions, offers a framework for developing a theology of church and state under the Lordship of the ascended Christ. Endnote

The Spirit and Future of Anglican Orthodoxy

Like any blueprint, the above-mentioned elements of Anglican orthodoxy merely define the principles and structure of a reformed Anglican orthodoxy. Without the structure, it is unlikely that the life of the Communion will long endure. But at the same time, without the Spirit speaking to and working through the churches and their members, such a blueprint will be an empty vessel.

It is not for me to try to capture the wind of the Spirit in a bottle. But I would suggest that Anglican orthodoxy should be:

· Bold in proclamation and clever in apologetics

· Visionary in mission outreach

· Prayerful in all things

· Ecumenical in openness to brothers and sisters in Christ

· Vigilant in guarding the faith and awaiting the return of the Lord

I have attempted to sketch a blueprint of a Global Anglican orthodoxy that will embody the best elements of our tradition and mobilize Anglicans to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I believe that if the Global South churches and their allies will take bold action at this time, we shall see a new reformation in the Anglican tradition, one which reflects the movement of the Spirit of God in our day. If these churches, like the Church of Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), remain faithful, Christ will give abundant life. Jesus Christ is Lord and His kingdom reigns over all. The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, which is His Body. Once we lift up our eyes from our own troubles and look at the worldwide scene, we shall realize that the Gospel is not in retreat but is beckoning to the uttermost corners of the globe. As Anglicans we have a stake in the global mission of Christ, and we have something to offer it from the riches of our heritage and our worldwide fellowship of churches.

Brothers and sisters, remember Lot’s wife. The present order is passing away. Behold the Global Anglican Communion is coming.

28 January 2008

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CofE churches swell at Christmas, Easter, but smaller turnout on Sundays

Figures just released by the Church of England for 2006 show larger congregations at Christmas and Easter, but smaller Sunday congregations.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance increased in 2006 by seven per cent and attendance at Easter by five per cent compared to 2005 in the latest provisional statistics.

Total attendance at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services in 2006 was 2,994,100, the highest figure since data were first collected in 2000, when 2,852,000 attended such services.

The number taking Communion increased by four per cent, to 1,258,300, while numbers at Easter services rose by five per cent from 1,417,600 in 2005 to 1,484,700 in 2006.

In contrast, regular Sunday, weekly and monthly attendance each fell by one per cent. The provisional statistics confirm that around 1.7 million people attend Church of England church and cathedral worship each month, while around 1.2 million attend services each week – on Sunday or during the week - and just under one million each Sunday. Read more
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English Evangelical Bishops urge Primates attendance at Lambeth Conference

AN OPEN letter from a group of evangelical bishops in the Church of England has urged those Primates threatening to boycott this year's Lambeth Conference to attend the 10- yearly meeting. In an open letter to the Archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the clerics, who describe themselves as 'the evangelical bishops in the Church of England', say they share the Primates' 'increasing sorrow and alarm at the developing situation around the Anglican Communion', and highlight their support for the Windsor process and the idea of a pan-Anglican Covenant.

The bishops give their backing to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter which encouraged the Global South Primates to attend Lambeth, and point to Dr Williams' determination to base the conference on Scripture. They go on to offer their support to the Archbishop 'in his immensely difficult task of developing the life of our Communion in new ways of mutual understanding and support', and urge the Primates 'to be present to help us do this'.

The Bishops acknowledge that the whole Windsor process has been 'tortuous and frustrating and much slower than we would all have wished', but warn if it is abandoned it 'would inevitably split apart those who share an equally high regard for Scriptures and for the historic faith of the Church'.

They continue: "We cannot believe this to be the mind of the Spirit or indeed that you yourselves would really want such a result. "We urge you therefore to take the long route, waiting for God to work through the processes that are already in train and praying for him to work his purposes in us and through us together. "We long to share with you in fellowship and long to share with you in fellowship and in celebration at Lambeth and, beyond that, we look to sharing with you in our common calling to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord throughout the world." Read more
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Virginia continues exploration of same-sex blessings, suing for property

Ed: Remind me, exactly which part of the Windsor process is this again?

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, meeting as its 213th annual Council January 25-26 in Reston committed to a continuing discernment process about the full inclusion in the life of the diocese of people living in same-gender relationships and heard its bishop defend ongoing property litigation.

Bishop Peter Lee told the Council that the litigation is "required to secure churches occupied by individuals who have abandoned the Episcopal Church."

"The shadow of that litigation is a present reality and I want to address it first so that we can move on to the more important matters of the mission and ministry required by God’s abundant love," he said in his address.

Lee explained that the litigation stems from the decisions of 11 congregations to leave the Episcopal Church. Those congregations "continue to use the Church’s property to the exclusion of those members who chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church," he said.

Saying that "defending our heritage and securing our future is expensive," Lee told the Council that the diocese has spent nearly $2 million thus far. Interest on a line of credit obtained to cover those costs is being paid from endowment income and not pledge money, the bishop added.

"At the conclusion of this litigation, we expect to pay off the line of credit by selling undeveloped and unconsecrated property, a process that is already under way," Lee said. "No one likes lawsuits but at the same time, our generation has a stewardship responsibility to protect the property of our churches for Episcopalians in the next 400 years."

Lee said the case "involves Virginia’s historic tradition of religious liberty."

"The recent motion of Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell to intervene in the case represents an intrusion by the state into the freedom of the church," he said.

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, as well as other faith communities in the state, have opposed the attorney general's move. The judge in the case is yet to rule on the attorney general's effort.

Lee noted that delegates from three of the continuing Episcopal congregations involved in the dispute -- St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; St. Stephen’s, Heathsville; and The Falls Church, Falls Church -- were seated at Council for the second year in a row. Delegates from Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, joined them this year for the first time.

In a report to the Council, the R-5 Commission, which emerged from a 212th Council resolution of that number, reported on its effort to discern a possible "emerging consensus" regarding the permitting of "local option" for the blessing of same-gender unions.

The commission recommended that a newly constituted group compile and make available theological, catechetical, and liturgical resources within the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion for the pastoral care and spiritual support of same-gender couples in committed relationships. It also suggested that the new group hold four town hall meetings to share resources for education and to "establish a better sense of an 'emerging consensus' pertaining to 'local option' for the blessing of same-gender unions," and report to the next Council. Read more
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Vinay Samuel tells Tom Wright, GAFCON is not following 'three white men'

Sir, Since I am now 65 and have not been active in Church of England affairs for some time, my letter needs an introduction to your readers. I was General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion between 1986 and 1989. I acted as consultant to the Lambeth Conference on Mission in 1998. For many years I have been secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians which included mission scholars from the “south” and the “west”, for example Dr Ron Sider. I also helped to found and led an institution in Oxford which has produced significant scholars for the non-western world.

I have read the concerns raised in the press by Bishop Tom Wright of Durham about the emerging network of orthodox Anglican primates, bishops and mission activists, especially in Africa and the “western” world who are calling a Global Anglican Future Conference. He has suggested in particular that that this whole movement is now following the lead and the agenda of three white men, Bishop Martyn Minns, Archbishop Peter Jensen and Canon Chris Sugden.

I am part of the leadership team of this movement. I have known and worked with Archbishops Akinola, Kolini, Mtetemela, Nzimbi and Orombi and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali for many years. I have to say that if the scenario were as BishopWright imagines it to be, neither I nor any leader of Christians in the non-western world who have stood for years for the identity, selfrespect and dignity of Christians from the “global south” and their right to self-theologise and organise their own networks independent of influence from the former metropolitan centres of power, would have anything to do with it. Read more
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Bishop of Rochester faces death threats

For the text of the statement by Bp Michael, mentioned in the article, click here.

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, is under police protection after he and his family received death threats over his claim that parts of Britain had become “no-go areas” for non-Muslims.

The Bishop is also facing anger from the most senior members of the Church of England hierarchy for his comments on Islam.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has made Islam a priority of his archiepiscopate and set up a Muslim-Christian forum to promote relations between the faiths in 2006. One senior cleric told The Times yesterday: “The Bishop of Rochester is in effect threatening to undo everything we have done.”

The cleric said that some congregations in cities such as Leicester, where interfaith work was a priority, were increasingly wary of donating money towards this work. Church leaders in towns with a large Muslim population were anxious that relations with their neighbours were being undermined.

Dr Nazir-Ali was in India when staff at his home in Rochester took a number of phone calls threatening his family and warning him that he would not “live long” if he continued to criticise Islam. He has been given an emergency number at Kent Police, along with other undisclosed protection measures, and said that the threats were being taken “seriously”.

Speaking to The Times, Dr Nazir-Ali, who is on the conservative evangelical wing of the Church and is Britain’s only Asian bishop, said: “The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan, but I never thought I would have them here. My point in saying what I did was that Britain had lost its Christian vision, which would have provided the resources to offer hospitality to others.”

He said that this absence of a Christian vision had led to multiculturalism. “Everyone agrees that multiculturalism has had disastrous consequences, and that segregation and extremism have arisen from this.” Read more
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Canadian Primate 'clarifies situation'

Saying that he hoped to “dispel rumour or misunderstanding,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to his fellow leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion explaining the developments around the blessing of same-sex unions, which has embroiled Canadian Anglicans in conflict.

In his four-page letter, which was sent to the other 33 Anglican primates and four moderators of the Anglican Communion’s United Churches on Jan. 9, Archbishop Hiltz underscored that the Canadian church has not yet agreed upon a definitive position on the issue. “It is important to note that the Anglican Church of Canada has not altered its doctrine of marriage as outlined in our prayer books and canons (church laws).”

However, he put the situation in context: Canadian Anglicans, he noted, “do live in a country where the federal government in 2005 approved legislation that allows the marriage of same-gender couples.”

Archbishop Hiltz also reaffirmed the Canadian church’s “commitment to full membership and participation in the life, witness and structures of the Anglican Communion.” He also called on Anglican leaders to respect each other’s boundaries and desist from intervening in the affairs of other provinces. Read more
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Monday, 28 January 2008

Abortion "under siege" in the UK

I am sitting with an abortionist in a counselling room in a central London clinic. Downstairs, on a padded surgical bed covered with blue paper, 5,000 pregnancies a year are ended. In the waiting room sit women and their male lovers. None of them is leafing through the magazines provided, but some are clutching Kleenex.

All look haunted. Don’t panic. This isn’t going to be a Me and My Abortion article, a grim Tracey Eminish journey through my harrowing gynaecological history.

I’m here because it’s the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade in the US, a country where a woman’s right to choose is far from constitutional and remains under constant attack from the pro-life, evangelical Christian Bible Belt and the Catholic church; a country where schoolchildren are encouraged to adopt, name and pray for the souls of blastocytes destined for termination, and where a bill signed by Governor Mike Rounds, in South Dakota almost two years ago, made abortion illegal in most cases, including rape or incest.

I’m here because the pro-life lobby is also making hay in Britain. Antiabortion lobby groups are attempting to hijack the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently going through the Lords, in the hope of introducing an amendment that would chop the time limit on legal abortion from the current 24 weeks down to 20 weeks. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act last year, there was a rally in Westminster and a ghoulish “service of remembrance” for the estimated 6.7m foetuses destroyed since 1967. Read more
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Bishop Benn: How egalitarian tactics swayed Evangelicals in the Church of England debate on women's ordination

Ed: This 1997 article came to my inbox via Francis Gardom's mail list, from "Fr Kim" - a circuitous route, and I'm not entirely sure why it was sent out now (though I have my suspicions). I hope you'll find it as interesting as I did.

November 1992 was a critical time for the Church of England. It was then that the General Synod voted in favour of women becoming priests/presbyters. Before the November vote, a preliminary discussion and vote was taken at the July synod. The Evangelical Group in General Synod (EGGS) arranged a debate and discussion about the whole issue. Everyone knew that it would be the evangelical vote that would cause the measure to succeed or fail, so the debate was important.

I was asked to be one of the speakers along with Colin Craston, a senior evangelical clergyman who is in favour of women priests. The debate had been carefully planned; we exchanged papers several months before and were meant to react to the final papers we each produced. It was set up to be as productive as possible and to minimise misunderstanding between us.

However, on the Monday of the week of the debate Canon Craston pulled out, stating that he had to be at a meeting of the synod Standing Committee, and without any consultation, he substituted for himself an able and popular laywoman theologian, Christina Baxter, the Dean of St. John's College, Nottingham. I respect and like Christina, but it was a clever debating substitution! Then Canon Craston arrived just after the debate started! We had a full, frank and irenic exchange of views that I hope and believe was helpful and instructive.

Both positions were fully and fairly represented. What surprised me were several factors: Read more
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