Friday, 8 February 2008

Archbishop Ben Kwashi - “Our people are in shock that an Anglican Archbishop is calling for Sharia law”

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos in Northern Nigeria, was interviewed about the interview that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave on the unavoidability of Sharia Law.

BBC: Although the Archbishop was talking to a British audience about British law, his status as leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion means that his comments have been reported around the world. I spoke to Archbishop Ben Kwashi and he says that Rowan Williams has damaged his international reputation.

Archbishop Ben Kwashi: Our people here are in shock that an Anglican Archbishop is calling for Sharia Law. If the Christians are the ones asking for Sharia Law, now that will be used against us who are saying that we do not think Sharia law will help the cause of freedom and the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Northern Nigeria. So if he, the primate of England, is the one asking for it, now what he has done is to arm those who will now have more arguments against us who are saying “We don’t need Sharia law.” Read more
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Gay Christian wins £47k pay-out from diocese

A gay Christian who won a discrimination claim against the Church of England was awarded more than £47,000 in compensation today, the organisation backing him said.

John Reaney, a 42-year-old from North Wales, took the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance to an employment tribunal after his appointment to the role of youth worker was blocked on the grounds of his sexuality by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis.

Stonewall, the gay equality organisation which funded the claim, said the Diocese of Hereford was today ordered to pay Mr Reaney £47,345.

A spokesman for Stonewall said this included £33,000 for loss of future earnings and £7,000 damages specifically awarded for "psychiatric injury".

Mr Reaney said: "I’m delighted that this case is finally over. Lesbian and gay Christians working within the Church of England are entitled to be treated with humanity. I’m very grateful to Stonewall for supporting this case throughout."

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: "We’re delighted that the tribunal has sent such a robust signal, both to the bishop and other employers.

"The substantial level of compensation sends out a very clear message. Not even a bishop is above this law." Read more
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What the Archbishop said

The full text of the Archbishop's speech touching on the place of Sharia may be found here. A transcript of his interview with the BBC may be found here.

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Telegraph Opinion: The Archbishop of Canterbury's inept intervention

The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday used a lecture in the Royal Courts of Justice to propose that sharia law should be applied in certain circumstances. The idea is not as outlandish as it may first appear.

There are already sharia councils in this country to which Muslims turn for advice and religious sanction in matters such as divorce. Likewise, Orthodox Jews have recourse to the Beth Din over, for example, dietary laws, divorce and tenancy disputes.

A further instance of legal sensitivity to religious belief is the ability of Christian doctors to opt out of abortions. So Dr Rowan Williams's argument that there should be "a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law" is, to a certain extent, recognition of a situation which already exists.

The problem lies, rather, in the status of the messenger and the timing of his intervention. If there is a case for the creation of sharia courts, it would be better made by a joint group representing the three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Coming from the senior bishop in the Church of England, it is vulnerable to interpretation as appeasement of Islamic extremism prompted by fear of social unrest. Read more
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Bishop of Rochester: Impossible to have Sharia law in UK

The Bishop of Rochester has become the latest critic of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments on sharia law, saying it would be "simply impossible" to have sharia and UK law running side by side.

The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who holds dual British and Pakistani citizenship, said Britain should learn from the example of Canada, where Muslim women's groups managed to crush attempts to introduce Islamic law in matrimonial cases.

He added that sharia would be "in tension" with fundamental aspects of our current legal system, such as the rights of women, and debates on sharia law "are not an argument for disturbing the integrity of a legal tradition which is rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible".

Dr Rowan Williams has been widely criticised after he said that it "seems inevitable" that elements of the Muslim law, such as divorce proceedings, would be incorporated into British legislation.

The Archbishop's controversial stance has received widespread criticism from Christian and secular groups, the head of the equality watchdog, several high-profile Muslims and MPs from all parties. Read more
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Ruth Gledhill: Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?

Ed: No, but I'm not sure about his advisors.

Forgive the stark clarity of my headline, but sometimes when writing about the Archbishop of Canterbury, clarity is what is needed. I ask this of readers here, because this is the question put to me time after time this afternoon by incredulous commentators of every variety, stunned into blunt expression by the Archbishop of Canterbury's uncharacteristically clear comments on Sharia in Britain. The Archbishop believes adopting aspects of sharia law into British law would help maintain social cohesion. But who exactly is asking for this? No Muslim organisation in Britain has requested it, I could not find any who even wanted it. Instead, Muslims I spoke to this afternoon seem fearful of the effects the Archbishop's latest remarks will have on those already prejudiced against their community. As well they might be. His speech was delivered this evening at the Royal Courts of Justice in Strand, London. (Update: do read this interesting analaysis from Propaganda Box.) Read more

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Williams is snared in a trap of his own making

Ed: Paul Vallely's article gets it right.

Rowan Williams bridles when anyone suggests that he is the Anglican church's equivalent of the Pope. But he has made the same mistake in discussing sharia law that Pope Benedict XVI made in his ill-fated foray on the subject of Islam at the University of Regensburg two years ago, which sparked protests around the world, the murder of a nun and much else.

The error is assuming that the leader of a major church has the same intellectual freedom that he had when he was merely an eminent theologian. The cold fact is that the semiotics are entirely different. An academic may call for a nuanced renegotiation of society's attitudes to the internal laws of religious communities. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury does that the headline follows, as night follows day: "Sharia law in UK is unavoidable, says Archbishop."

This is not what he was saying, and yet it is. News has little room for the subtleties of academic gavottes around delicate subjects. A canny religious leader – or at any rate his press office – ought to know that. Read more

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Thursday, 7 February 2008

Legal opinion: "To what extent is is permissible for Sharia law to be part of English law?"

To what extent is is permissible for Sharia law to be part of English law?

Sharia law is not part of English law. Sharia law is treated by English law as a foreign law. The courts sometimes need evidence of what foreign law is on a particular matter, in order to decide rights in accordance with English law. Foreign law is a matter of evidence to be brought before the English Court.

For example, if the question arises in an English Court as to the validity of a will made by a Muslim in Pakistan, evidence will be admitted as to the law which would be applied in Pakistan. The English courts would then apply English law to determine whether, if the will was validly made in Pakistan, it should be treated as a valid will in English law. The answer in fact is yes – see the Wills Act 1963, a part of English law.

Similarly, if the question arises in an English Court as to whether two persons were validly married in a Muslim country, the court would receive evidence of the marriage laws of that country, and then decide, as a matter of English law, whether or not the couple are validly married. See the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 s. 14 and the Foreign Marriage Act 1892.

Although the English Courts may thus have to enquire what the foreign law is on a matter, this is a matter of evidence, a matter of fact. They will determine that as a matter of fact the foreign law says such and such. Then, applying English law to this fact, the court reaches its conclusion as a matter of English law on the issue it has to decide.

There is no question of the English Court applying Sharia law in this process. The English Court applies English law, and would not consider itself competent to apply any other law. In the same way, the English Court would be incompetent to apply French law to a dispute about a French property. Instead the English Court would receive evidence as to French property law, and apply that to the issue the English Court had to decide.

The foundations of English law include of course Acts of Parliament and the common law. Ecclesiastical law (the law of the Church of England) is part of the law of English Law, partly because the Church of England is the Established Church. The law of other Christian denominations is not part of English Law, but is treated as a foreign law. So, too, is Jewish and Muslim law. If the question arises as to the validity of a Jewish or a Muslim divorce, the court will hear evidence on the matter and decide as a matter of English law the answer.

An example of the English Court ascertaining Sharia law but applying English law is Basma Sulaiman Al Sulaiman v Walid Ahmed Al Juffali reported (2002) 1 FLR 479 and The Times, November 28, 2001. In this case the court heard and accepted the evidence of two experts on Sharia law that a Muslim talaq pronounced in England and Wales had the effect under Sharia Law of dissolving a marriage as soon as it was pronounced. However the court held that as a matter of English law a Muslim talaq was an informal divorce obtained otherwise than through a court and therefore could not be recognised in English law as validly dissolving the marriage.

The whole of England and Wales is under the jurisdiction of the Courts. The only way Sharia law could apply directly to a particular area would be for the jurisdiction of the Courts over that area to be removed, and for a Sharia court system to replace it. That would require an Act of Parliament to create a separate jurisdiction (from the Latin ius, iuris meaning "law" and dicere meaning "to speak") in which the Queen's rule no longer applied. The constitutional and political implications of this are immense.

Dr James Behrens, Barrister
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CDEA re-launch venue

Please note, the CDEA relaunch is to be held in the Large Hall in St Michaels Church House in St Michael's Lane, Braintree, not in the church itself. St Michael's Lane is alongside the church.

If you want lunch, please bring your own.

View Larger Map

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Sex education vs the contraceptive jab

Every time I read about a new Government proposal to cut teenage pregnancies, a little bit of me dies inside. It's that "here we go again" feeling, similar, I suppose, to seeing the Spice Girls reform, or being at a party and listening to an inebriated guest repeat ad infinitum the reasons they think that Hillary should win the Democratic nomination, as if they were a senior political analyst from Washington DC and not an accountant from Guildford.

The thing about teenage pregnancies is that the Government has been trying to lower them since I was a teenager, and yet the numbers continue to get higher and higher, until you wonder if there is a youth in the land not wheeling a buggy around the streets. I'm sure that if you plotted a graph showing the relation between the number of Government initiatives to prevent teen pregnancies and the number of child mothers, you would see that there is a direct correlation.

If I were Dawn Primarolo, I'd give up. I'd say "Go at it like rabbits, then, and jolly well forget about contraception. I've always disliked it anyway, and babies are super cute!" and sit back and watch as the nation's adolescents returned to wholesome activities such as exploring the great outdoors and playing pick-up sticks.

But I am not Dawn Primarolo; she has announced that, as the next step in the war on children bearing children, GPs will soon recommend that instead of the Pill, young women take "long-acting" methods of contraception such as injections and implants. This is because most girls are so stupid or drunk or both that they often forget to take their pill, resulting in nasty, unwanted pregnancies. Now, with just one jab, a GP can provide a teenage girl with hassle-free sex for months on end. A mini-sterilisation, if you will. Read more
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General Synod member says orthodox attendance at Lambeth would give impression of being “double-faced”

Letter to the Church of England Newspaper

Sir, I attended an international conference of orthodox Anglicans some months back. There was a lot of heated debate on the wisdom, or otherwise, of attending, or not attending, Lambeth 2008. A lot of the arguments revolved around strategy. Recent letters in The Church of England Newspaper are of the same mould. The arguments for attending are as strong as the arguments for boycotting the conference. It seems to me, that under such circumstances, we need to consider three key issues.

Firstly, the question of integrity. If I am unpersuaded as to the best course of any action, then I must act in accordance with my conscience. Which course of action would best reflect what I truly believe in my heart? If orthodox bishops really believe that Anglicanism as practised in many parts of the Western world is a denial of Scripture and is inconsistent with apostolic teachings, then they cannot, indeed must not, share communion with the leaders of that new pseudo-Christian religion. On that count, I cannot but express my highest regard for those primates and bishops who choose, at great personal cost, not to attend Lambeth 2008.

Secondly, the symbolism of gathering together. I am of Chinese origin and grew up in Asia. Like many Eastern cultures, eating together is more often than not a symbol of friendship, oneness and agreement. To my Asian eyes, to see orthodox and heterodox ‘princes’ of the church spending 3 weeks together in an apparent show of unity distresses me, as it would many in the Global South. It gives the impression of being ‘double-faced’. So I salute those primates and bishops who mean what they say and say what they mean and stay away. Not to attend speaks more of the intent and desire of their hearts to be faithful to Scripture than to attend.

Thirdly, loyalty to fellow Christians in the battlefield. It must not be forgotten that there are thousands of faithful Anglicans in hundreds of parishes, and one diocese, who are in the midst of spiritual warfare and have been scarred by the wounds inflicted by those self-same heretical bishops going to Lambeth. Rightly, primates and bishops from the Global South and Sydney have extended their right hand of fellowship and Africa and the Southern Cone have graciously granted them ecclesiastical protection. To ask for these primates and bishops to attend Lambeth is to ask them to forsake and abandon their suffering brothers and sisters who are one with them in heart and mind. So I salute the loyalty of those primates and bishops who have chosen to be faithful to their true brethren and not attend Lambeth.

Even at this late stage, the Archbishop of Canterbury has in his power the make the one decision that would persuade the majority of primates and bishops to attend, thus saving the worldwide Anglican Communion. If he were to declare that three days or more would be dedicated to debating the issues that are tearing the Anglican Communion apart, with the intention of approving, or otherwise, a resolution based on Lambeth 1.10, I believe there would be majority attendance. But, as the Archbishop himself has acknowledged, it would not be that kind of conference. 1998 might prove to be the last of that type of Lambeth Conference.

Dr Chik Kaw Tan Member of the General Synod Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs

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What sort of Province do Traditionalists in the CofE want?

[...] The Third Province Movement maintains that it is working in the same direction as Forward In Faith UK and that is undoubtedly true. It says that it has somewhat different emphases, for instance it states that it began among lay people, "many of whom have been unchurched by the new legislation" (i.e. the C. of E. Measure which permitted women to become priests). It says that it wants a solution for all shades of churchmanship (not unlike Forward In Faith UK). But it claims to be different in that its proposals "do not involve the Roman Catholic church or any unilateral action".

The Movement talks about the third province being divided into dioceses and deaneries. It is however somewhat premature to discuss the former as we do not really know what the take-up might be on "inauguration day". As for deaneries, the wide scattering of opting-in parishes across the country might well make the notion of a deanery unworkable (which is probably why deaneries are not mentioned in "Consecrated Women?"). The Movement also suggests that Provincial Synod clerical and lay members would also sit in the General Synod, a proposal at variance with the Forward In Faith UK blueprint. And then there is the method of appointing future bishops. The Movement wants the existing procedure of the Crown Nominations Commission to be used. Forward In Faith UK however is adamant that its proposed method of selection of orthodox bishops in the new province would be essential and therefore the NP would have to have the main say.

Most of this tells us that Forward In Faith UK and the Third Province Movement are "batting on the same side" in respect of advocating another province. And yet it is patently clear that there are a number of practical matters where they see things differently. Probably it all boils down to whether an additional province could be made to work within the existing Church of England or whether the new structures inevitably would take it outside the Church and even outside the Anglican Communion.

When the Rochester Report, "Women Bishops in the Church of England?" was published in November 2004 (about the same time as publication of "Consecrated Women?") it addressed the issue of a third province and raised a number of pertinent matters which still require answering, viz:-

 Would the NP be slanted towards Anglo-Catholics rather than Evangelicals?  If so, how could the two groups, essentially conservative, be made to work in harmony?  How could the NP province be streamlined administratively and stripped of baggage that it brought from the other two provinces?  How could the NP remain Anglican in any real sense if the ABC consecrated women to the episcopate and/or was a woman?  How could the NP be pared down financially to avoid putting additional expense on the other two provinces?  If the NP developed (as has now been suggested) its own canon law, how could it realistically still claim to be part of the C. of E?  If the parishes opting in to the NP which continued to be part of the C. of E. "by law established", how would a parish deal with people (not necessarily members of the C. of E.) living in it who wanted a say in the governance of those parishes, e.g. in election of churchwardens?

It must seem to some traditionalists whether in Forward In Faith UK or the Third Province Movement that any meaningful resolution of these issues to their satisfaction may well tip the balance and take the new province in the direction of independence. Read more
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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bishop of Liverpool 'apologises for opposing gay cleric'

The full text of the essay can be found here (thanks to Phil Ritchie for the information). And blogged here.

One of the country's most senior bishops has argued that the Bible sanctions same-sex relationships, using the bonds between Jesus and John the disciple, and David and Jonathan as examples.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, a conservative evangelical, expressed the views in a book, A Fallible Church, in which he apologised for objecting to the appointment of the gay cleric Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. He was one of nine bishops to sign a public letter criticising the proposed consecration. Read more

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Monday, 4 February 2008

Chelmsford DEA relaunch this Saturday

No need to book. Bring your own packed lunch if you want to stay on after the meeting.

The Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association, which has not met for over two years, is to be re-launched at a meeting on Saturday February 9th, 2008, at St Michael’s church, Braintree.

The guest speaker at the meeting will be the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, who will speak on the theme ‘United We Stand’.

Anyone who thinks of themselves as an Anglican Evangelical, whether lay or clergy, is welcome to come along from 10.00 am. Bishop Pete will address the meeting at 10.30am.

Later in the morning, it is proposed to appoint a ‘holding’ committee, which will draw up a new list of members and decide a programme for the remainder of the year. This will allow the CDEA to become re-established before more formal elections take place for a longer-term committee.

In the past, the CDEA provided a regular opportunity for Evangelicals to come together from across the Diocese to encourage one another in ministry and evangelism. With so many challenges facing us today, it is a great time to be uniting again with the aim of bringing the gospel through our churches to our world.

St Michael’s is near the centre of Braintree, just off the High Street, in St Michael’s Lane. There is a regular train service from London and from the east of the county. It is expected that the meeting will finish at 12.30 with the opportunity to stay on over lunch. For further details, please contact Revd John P Richardson on 01279 813703 or by e-mail,

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Archbishop of West Indies aims to save divided Church

The Anglican archbishop in charge of drawing up the document intended to reunite his warring Church said he believes that schism can still be averted in spite of divisions over the issue of homosexuals.

The Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev Drexel Gomez, said that a new formula had been found that would allow the disciplining of errant churches while respecting the traditional autonomy of the 38 worldwide Anglican provinces. Urging all Anglican bishops to attend the Lambeth Conference this year, he said that it would be a “tremendous tragedy” if the Church fell apart.

A new document to be published this week would form “a basic way of holding each other accountable as a Communion”, he said. But he indicated that the Episcopal Church of the United States was unlikely to face discipline or any form of exclusion from the Anglican Communion as a result of consecrating Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The first draft of the Covenant, known as the Nassau draft – after the location in which it was drawn up – was criticised by the liberal leadership of the Episcopal Church because it effectively allowed for the expulsion of provinces that stepped out of line. The new draft is expected to introduce greater autonomy for individual provinces to do what they believe to be right. The US church believes that. in pursuing gay rights for clergy, it is following a Gospel-led agenda similar to that which inspired the civil rights movement on race. Read more
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Sunday, 3 February 2008

Honeymoon over for gay weddings

The number of gay weddings has plummeted by more than 50 per cent in the past year. Civil partnerships became legal for homosexuals in December 2005, allowing them to acquire the same sorts of tax and pension rights as straight married couples.

Initially, thousands of gay and lesbian couples held ceremonies. However, a survey by the Local Government Association found that all the 40 councils across England they surveyed had experienced a fall in the number taking place - the figures show an average drop of 55 per cent in 2007 from 2006.

The largest fall was 90 per cent in Bracknell, Berkshire, and the smallest was 31 per cent in Barnet, north London. Brighton recently celebrated becoming the first place to host 1,000 civil partnerships. But while 636 gay couples tied the knot in Brighton and Hove in 2006, only 320 did so in 2007. Read more
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Multiple wives will mean multiple benefits

Ed: Technically this should be 'multiple spouses mean multiple benefits'.

Husbands with multiple wives have been given the go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal.

The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.

The decision has been condemned by the Tories, who accused the Government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.

New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: "Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate ... The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently £33.65."

Income support for all of the wives may be paid directly into the husband's bank account, if the family so choose. Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family. Read more
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