Saturday, 12 April 2008

Open Evangelical website posters compare Principal of Wycliffe Hall with Robert Mugabe

Read here.

Note the disclaimers on the website:

The opinions expressed are the authors, and not necessarily those of the Fulcrum leadership team.

Messages are subject to approval before they appear online.

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Friday, 11 April 2008

Times: The flame of democracy fading

[...] Today China, with its vast store of US Treasury bonds has American prosperity in its grip. Russia, with its stranglehold on continental energy resources, can intimidate Europeans. That's why George Bush would never boycott the Beijing Olympics and why the Europeans, in a cringing genuflection to Russian “concerns”, recoiled energetically last week from proposals to expand Nato.

Meanwhile, the global struggle against Islamism weakens the resolve, resources and unity of the West, while Russia and China deflect jihadism's ambitions through useful accommodations with its practitioners in Iran, Syria and Palestine.

Above all, we in the democratic world, fattened by prosperity and complacent in the inevitability of the victory of our values, are more prone than ever to the corrosive luxury of self-questioning: the sort of domestic posturing that results in a mayor of London extolling the virtues of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.

For liberalism to prevail it will not necessarily require open confrontation or military buildup, or even the empty gestures of Olympic boycotts. But it will require a good deal more willingness by the West to defend itself and its interests and to stand up for liberal democracy around the world rather more effectively and enthusiastically than of late.

We shouldn't forget that the outcomes of the struggles between liberal democracy and its enemies were no more predetermined in the 20th century - look at where we stood in 1940 or 1979 - than they are today. It was only thanks to the resilience of Western populations and brilliant statesmanship that our values triumphed then.

Who can be so confident, surveying the state of morale and leadership today, that such a triumph is inevitable in this century? Read more
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The Way we Live Now: Council admits spying on family over school application

A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment.

A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks.

The council admitted using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) on six occasions in total.

Three of those were for suspected fraudulent school place applications.

It said two offers of school places were withdrawn as a consequence.

Human rights pressure group Liberty called the spying "ridiculously disproportionate" and "intrusive".

James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: "It's one thing to use covert surveillance in operations investigating terrorism and other serious crimes, but it has come to a pretty pass when this kind of intrusive activity is used to police school catchment areas.

"This is a ridiculously disproportionate use of RIPA and will undermine public trust in necessary and lawful surveillance."

RIPA legislation allows councils to carry out surveillance if it suspects criminal activity. Read more
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ABp Peter Jensen: Say your Creed with joy

Almost the first thing I did this morning was to say the Apostles’ Creed to myself – joyfully.


Why would I say this joyfully? For a number of reasons.

First, my belief in the truths of the Creed identifies me as a Christian, and I love being a Christian. Many of the reasons for my enthusiasm are referred to in the Creed – knowing the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and experiencing the forgiveness of sins and the communion of the saints.

Second, it reminds me of our fundamental worldview – that we live in a world created by the one sovereign and almighty God. This is a wonderful contrast to the belief that we live in a chaotic world subject to the powers of many competing gods or spiritual forces. It is also a wonderful contrast to the opinion that we live in an accidental universe, in which matter is the final impersonal power. The world is meaningful because it completely depends on a God of purpose. Read more
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Religious Intelligence: UK loses interest in marriage

THE DECLINING interest in marriage, revealed in official figures last week, has been blamed on economic pressure by leading Christian marriage experts.

Financial worries are a particular concern, with fewer and fewer young couples even able to afford a wedding after battling rising house prices and student loans.

Their comments come after the figures released by the Office of National Statistics revealed marriage rates in England and Wales for 2006 are the lowest since records began in 1862.

Speaking to The Church of England Newspaper Carol Davies of the Anglican marriage support group Family Life and Marriage Education Network (FLAME) said she was very concerned about the financial pressures. “People have said that couples don’t get married because they can’t afford the increasing wedding costs but now they also have the situation of rising house prices,” she said. “Getting your foot on the housing market is now nigh on impossible.”

She said this was a product of a money-making culture in which young people were being pushed out of the market. “Young couples in the market simply can’t afford a wedding and after student debts it is even harder,” she said. Read more
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Virtue Online: UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Bishop Demands Decision from Orthodox Parish to Stay or Go

An orthodox Episcopal congregation in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has been asked to make a decision by its Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, whether to stay or go. They have till the Feast of Pentecost to make up their minds.

Recalling that he was once called the "savior of the Anglican Communion," Bishop Henderson told St. Christopher's of Spartanburg, SC, that it was time to be in a "normal" and "committed" relationship with The Episcopal Church (TEC). St. Christopher's is the only Anglican Network parish in Upper South Carolina. It must decide whether to commit itself to the plan outlined by Henderson or leave.

Henderson, the chair of the Title IV Review Committee, a committee responsible for issuing certifications (Duncan/Schofield/Cox) and presentments (MacBurney), has been busy, in recent days. Many of these deposed have been current and former bishops of the Network of Anglican Dioceses and Parishes, including a deposition against the moderator of the Network, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. Henderson is now going after his one Network parish telling St. Christopher's that it must conform and fully support The Episcopal Church.

"The bishop is no longer counseling members to be patient. He is requesting a decision to be in conformity with TEC," the Rev. Dr. George Naff Gray told VirtueOnline. The 275-member congregation has begun a 40-day discernment process in response to Henderson's request to make a decision by May 11, 2008. St. Christopher's shortened the 40 Days program in order to meet the Bishop's deadline of Pentecost. Read more
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New Statesman: Article on Tom Wright

[...] No one could accuse [former Bishop of Durham, Dr] Jenkins's distant successor Tom Wright of laxity in matters of dogma. The current Bishop of Durham, fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England (after Canterbury, York and London), is also its leading evangelical theologian. Time magazine recently described him as "one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought" and "a hero to conservative Christians worldwide". He has also just written a book, Surprised by Hope, in which he spells out a view many will find extraordinary.

It is not just that, as an evangelical, he believes forcefully in the authority of scripture and the historical truth of the Gos pels. Nor is it that, like most on that conservative wing of the Church, he is strongly opposed to gay priests. The Right Reverend Wright believes in the literal truth of the Resurrection.

The day will come, he says, when Christ will come to join the heavens and the earth in a new creation and the dead will rise. All those who think of heaven as the endpoint are wrong, especially if they're thinking about "sitting on clouds playing harps". According to him, heaven is less a location, more a state: a kind of first-class transit lounge whereby our physical bodies sleep while the "real person" continues in the presence of Christ. What we will be waiting for is what he calls "life after life after death": the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement, when we will be not only physically re-embodied but transformed, on a new version of this earth with plenty of room for everyone.

There are no metaphors involved here, no decoding, no poetics to be interpreted. Wright's line, which will be news to a huge number of Christians as well as way beyond the realms of credibility to non-believers, is to be taken entirely at face value. If this man is a hero to millions of conservative Christians, then belief is certainly back.

"It is actually what the New Testament is about," says Wright in his emollient, Radio 4-friendly tones as we sit in the spring sun outside his cottage in Alnmouth, Northumberland, a family refuge away from the grandeur of his official residence, Auckland Castle. "An awful lot of western Christians have just accepted that when they say 'the resurrection of the body' they think, 'You don't really mean body. That's just the way they put it in olden days.' They don't realise it is actually the key thing. We are talking about a good physical world which is to be remade, not a bad physical world which is going to be trashed in favour of a purely spiritual sphere." Read more
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Perth Now: Bishop Kay Goldsworthy - up close and personal

FORMER students of Perth College fondly remember their chaplain, Kay Goldsworthy, roaring off from the school on her husband Jeri's motor bike with smoke trailing from the exhaust pipe.

Today Kay Goldsworthy -- mother of two teenage boys -- is blazing a trail of another sort with her appointment as Australia's first woman bishop. She was ordained this morning by Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft.

The former Archdeacon at St George's Cathedral has been waiting for this moment since the age of 16 when she rang Anglican Church authorities in Melbourne to find out how to join the ministry.

Then after years of staring -- like her clergical sisters -- at the stained glass ceiling, it finally came about after a meeting of bishops in Newcastle, New South Wales, this week cleared the way for her appointment.

Ms Goldsworthy is part of a Perth vanguard, led by Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft, which promotes women leaders in the Anglican church.

The highpoint in her career for the woman who started her career in Melbourne came after she had endured parishioners leaving her church, bomb scares and in some cases being spat on before she came to work in pastoral care at St George's Cathedral.

Ms Goldsworthy was one of 10 female priests ordained by the former Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Peter Carnley, in 1992. At that time there was an exodus from the church of those who opposed the move.

Sydney Archibishop Peter Jensen, who heads Australia's most influential diocese, was one of those opposed on conscientious grounds.

But he does not plan to force a formal breakaway from the Anglican Church of Australia, as is occurring in Canada and the USA. Read more
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Telegraph: In a land without morals, it's no wonder children kill each other

[...] The breakdown of the traditional family was likened last Saturday by a High Court judge, Mr Justice Coleridge, to an out-of-control cancerous body, posing more of a threat to our futures than global warming.

The family courts, he said, are witnessing "a never-ending carnival of human misery". So, too, are hospitals and clinics, as the number of abortions in Britain continues to rise.

When young hoodlums are prepared to hack someone to death in broad daylight, I suppose we should not be surprised that their teenage girlfriends switch off unborn life without remorse.

I spoke to a leading female academic who said "more education" was needed to ease the problem. She was, I'm afraid, making excuses for many who are comfortable with abortion as a form of contraception.

About 200,000 terminations take place in England and Wales every year. The numbers have been rising steadily for a long time. Are we saying that the availability of information about safe sex and reproduction is diminishing? Hardly. What's missing is a code of ethics.

While Court of Appeal judges fret over the human rights of terrorist suspects, blocking their extradition in case they don't get a fair trial, British law is happy to approve the extermination of unwanted foetuses at 24 weeks.

The state protects Abu Qatada, but not semi-formed babies. Their lives are no longer precious, not even cheap. They are deemed to be worthless.

When our legal system loses its moral compass, it is only to be expected that on the mean streets of Britain many impressionable children will do the same. Read more
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First Australian Woman Bishop Announced

(Ed: And that didn't take so long, did it?)

Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, has announced that his nomination of his Vicar-General, Archdeacon Kay Goldsworthy, to be an assistant bishop in his diocese was unanimously endorsed by his Diocesan Council last night. Read more

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Thursday, 10 April 2008

Australian Anglicans reach agreement on women bishops

(Ed: There, that wasn't so hard, was it?)

The bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia have unanimously agreed to a way forward together on the divisive issue of the introduction of women bishops. This followed a long but constructive debate during the bishops annual meeting in Newcastle this week.

In adopting the “Women in the Episcopate” protocol the bishops recognised “the good faith” of those in the church who support the new development of women bishops and of those who find that they cannot do so.

They resolved to “nurture the highest possible level of collegiality as bishops” in the future. The bishops agreed to make special provision in situations where the ministry of a woman bishop would not be welcome. Read more
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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Telegraph: Cathedral bans popular hymn Jerusalem

(Ed: Best reason I've come across for singing it, though I do remember Colin Buchanan, when he lectured us in liturgy, pointing out that Jerusalem was probably the only hymn in the English language whose first verse consisted entirely of rhetorical questions to which the answer is "No".)

Jerusalem, one of the country's best-loved hymns and the favourite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has been banned from services at one of Britain's foremost churches.

The verses, which were written by William Blake more than two centuries ago, cannot be sung by choirs or congregations at Southwark Cathedral because the words do not praise God and are too nationalistic, according to senior clergy.

Last week the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, advised guests at a private memorial service that the hymn would not be sung because it was "not in the glory of God".

A spokesman for the Diocese of Southwark disclosed that the Dean had not allowed the verses to be sung during services for some time.

"The Dean, on common with all other cathedral deans, has the authority to decide what material is used in liturgy in the cathedral," he said.

"The hymn Jerusalem is often used on national occasions, although rarely in Southwark, even on such occasions.

"The Dean of Southwark does not believe that it is to the glory of God and it is not therefore used in private memorial services." Read more
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Bp Michael Reid, Peniel Church Brentwood, quits over affair

(Ed: And what all of us should be thinking is, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." See further reflections on this here.)

With his reputation for charismatic sermons, Bishop Michael Reid held sway over a huge congregation on subjects including the virtues of fidelity and family values.

The 64-year-old came to national prominence in 2005 when he spearheaded a campaign against the BBC's broadcast of the musical Jerry Springer: The Opera.

But his Pentecostal church in Brentwood, Essex - one of two ministries he runs with a collective turnover of millions - has been left in disarray after it emerged the married father of three did not practise what he preached.

His flock were left in shock on Saturday after he admitted he had "sinned by committing adultery" and was quitting after more than three decades of service.

His wife of 36 years, Ruth, is standing by him and is understood to have accompanied him abroad to his other ministry, in the American state of Arizona.

This is despite the revelations about the eight-year affair and rumours she caught her husband with his lover at the £600,000 family home in Brentwood.

Scandal: Sheila Graziano, the 49-year-old mother of two who is the choirmistress at Bishop Reid's church, is believed to be 'the other woman'

The other woman is believed to be 49-year-old married mother-of-two Sheila Graziano, who worked alongside Bishop Reid as music director at the Peniel Church in Brentwood.

There was no answer yesterday at her £300,000, 1930s semi-detached house a mile from the church.

In a statement to his congregation, Bishop Reid said: "I confess that I have sinned by committing adultery. I recognise that I have failed in my duties and acted in a way that harmed the church.

"I apologise to my wife and family and all of you whose trust I have betrayed and ask for your forgiveness and prayers." Read more
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Sydney Morning Herald: Admit your sins to the Lord, priest tells gay judge

A SENIOR minister of a Sydney Anglican parish has made an extraordinary attack on the High Court judge Michael Kirby, warning he would face the wrath of God if he remained unrepentant as a gay man.

The rector of St Stephen's Church in Bellevue Hill, the Reverend Richard Lane, denounced the judge for calling himself a Christian Anglican while living in an openly gay relationship and warned as a "messenger, watchman and steward of the Lord in the Anglican Church of Australia", he faced God's judgment. Read more
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Changing Attitude: Open Letter to GAFCON leaders

(Ed: Bishop John Gladwin's signature is not on this letter.)

Open Letter to the Leadership Team of GAFCON

Dear friends in Christ,

You may know that there were several instances of actual physical violence and threats of violence and death enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders of Changing Attitude in Nigeria over the Easter Weekend 2008. The leader of a Changing Attitude group was violently beaten. Subsequently, death threats have been issued against the Directors of Changing Attitude in Nigeria and England.

The discourse taking place in the Anglican Communion about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches must be conducted in the context of Christian love and mutual respect. If it is not, then people will continue to perpetrate abuse and violence against LGBT people.

Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We know that is not your intention, but it is the reality as many experience it. Read more

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Alamagordo Daily News: Cloudcroft church, diocese part ways

[...] The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande announced in a news release Tuesday that vicar the Rev. Fred Griffin and the congregation of the Church of the Ascension in Cloudcroft have left the church in the United States and joined the Anglican Province of Uganda.

A number of dioceses and churches in this country have split off and joined member churches of the Anglican Communion in Africa and Asia, after a gay bishop was elected in this country in 2003 and a female bishop was chosen in 2006.

According to the news release, the Rio Grande diocese in Albuquerque was informed Friday that the Cloudcroft church had been received into the Ugandan Anglican church.

Representatives of the Cloudcroft church met diocese officials Saturday and established that the final service for the breakaway congregation would be held the following day.

This was done, and the former congregation will vacate the premises and relocate within the week. Read more
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Virtue Online: Is Evangelism an "Un Anglican Thing To Do"

[...] Is evangelism "Un-Anglican?" Answer: hardly, it is a part of our shared history as Anglo-Catholics, evangelicals, and broad churchmen. Evangelism can take many forms that can range from preaching the gospel in front of thousands on television, to talking to people in coffee houses who are "spiritual", but yet do not know Jesus, to simply taking prayer books and beginning a simple prayer service on a college campus. Several years ago, the Anglican Digest covered the story of a New Zealand Anglican priest who had a congregation of 80 in a beach community and added 420 more to the Faith by ministering to the surfers on the beach.

In many ways, we as Anglicans, along with other Christians, face the same challenges that the saints encountered: paganism, and parts of the Church that have departed from the apostolic Faith. In times such as these, the Great Commission is so crucial, and as necessary as it was 2,000 years ago. We have the responsibility to bring the "light of Christ" "to a dark and broken world. Let us draw on the example of Christ Himself, the saints of the Undivided Church, and our Anglican antecedents, who have clearly demonstrated that despite your stripe of churchmanship evangelism is a very "Anglican " thing to do. As a result of this, we should go out into the world and bring the light of Christ to those who are so in need of it. Read more

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Virtue Online: Forward in Faith North America reacts to the inhibition of Bishop MacBurney

[...] Today the Right Reverend Edward MacBurney, the bishop retired of the Diocese of Quincy (Episcopal) received a Letter of Inhibition from Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the USA (TEC). The Inhibition forbids MacBurney from functioning as a bishop of TEC.

Last year MacBurney was invited by the Presiding Bishop & Primate of the Southern Cone, the Most Reverend Gregory Venables, to make a pastoral visit to a Southern Cone parish in San Diego, California, on his behalf. In a spirit of Anglican unity and Christian generosity, Bishop MacBurney agreed to respond to the pastoral needs of those outside TEC with whom TEC claims fellowship. Read more
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The Relativity of Dialogue

It is not only in physics that the principle of Relativity applies, but also in the business of dialogue, the meaning of which depends on whether we are talking about you or me:

I dialogue with you, means: “I am willing to engage in conversation with you, in the sincere belief that I am right and with the hope and expectation that you may change your mind.”

You dialogue with me, means: “You are willing to engage in conversation with me, on the understanding that you might be wrong and open to the possibility that you may change your mind.”

You refuse to dialogue with me, means: “You are not willing to admit you may be wrong and I may be right.”

I do not refuse to dialogue with you, means: “I am always open to the possibility that you may admit you are wrong, and want to share with you why I think I am right.”

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The religious initiative behind progress in Iraq

(Ed: This (rather long) article is commended by Andrew White, writing from Baghdad. Personally I always thought the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland were exacerbated and prolonged by the refusal or inability of politicians on this side of the water to understand, admit to or engage with the religious dimension of the situation. Who knows if thirty years could have been ten without this refusal?)

[...] After a slow and painful learning process, U.S. government civil and military authorities in Iraq came to the conclusion that they must engage with religion. Since then, they have been very supportive and began funding the process from the beginning of 2007. What is unique about this reconciliation initiative is that the U.S. military has participated directly in the entire process by working through the religious dynamic. By using the Office of the Command Chaplain, the engagement has military involvement and reports directly back to Commanding General David Patraeus. Relying on a shared identity as religious leaders, the Command Chaplain is able to work with Canon White's FRRME and the senior Iraqi religious leaders to help advise the process in support of U.S. military campaign objectives in Iraq.

The results have been electric. In June 2007 at the inaugural meeting of this process in Baghdad, more than 60 religious and tribal leaders attended from every corner of Iraq, including Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit, Sulimaniyah, Fallujah, and other regions, some traveling several hours with intensive security. Participants varied from across all Iraqi religious divides — Sunni and Shia as well as minority groups such as Christian, Yazidee, and Mandean — in what became the most diverse gathering for a reconciliation initiative in Iraq in over six decades. With transport and access facilitated by the U.S. military, the delegates met in the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad for several days to begin discussions on how to reduce religiously motivated violence in Iraq. The Minister of Human Rights, members of the Iraqi Reconciliation Committee, representatives of the National Security Council of Iraq, and various Iraqi Parliament members attended the sessions. All delegates showed tremendous courage amidst threats of violence and regular power outages on days in which the temperature rarely dropped below 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

On the final day after intensive discussions, the Iraqi Inter-Religious Accords (reprinted at the end of this article) were signed at the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad in the presence of a wide-ranging diplomatic community including the U.S., British, Danish, and Italian ambassadors. The agreement was the first of its kind in many ways and received the personal endorsement of the Prime Minister and his directed signature on the Accords, which were signed by Sayyid Dr. Fadel Al Shara, his personal representative and advisor on religious affairs. It is the first broad-based religious accord to recognize the government of Iraq and call for integration and action by the Iraqi government on all previous and future tribal or religious formal conferences to achieve reconciliation. The Accords are the first religious document to publicly renounce Al Qaeda by name, and to declare the spread of arms and unauthorized weapons as a criminal act. Crucially, the document provides a way ahead for committed public action by religious leaders to denounce violence, deny terrorism, demonstrate support for democratic principles and the constitution, and display national unity. The event was the first religious conference facilitated by a non-governmental organization with the coordinated support of the U.S. Mission-Iraq and the Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Read more

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Tuesday, 8 April 2008

AIDS and the Churches: Getting the Story Right

[...] Thus far, research has produced no evidence that promotion—or indeed any of the range of risk-reduction interventions popular with donors—has had the desired impact on HIV-infection rates at a population level in high-prevalence generalized epidemics. This is true for treatment of ually ­transmitted infections, voluntary counseling and ­testing, diaphragm use, use of experimental l microbicides, safer-sex counseling, and even income-­generation projects. The interventions relying on these measures have failed to decrease HIV-infection rates, whether implemented singly or as a package. One recent randomized, controlled trial in Zimbabwe found that even possible synergies that might be achieved through “integrated implementation” of “control strategies” had no impact in slowing new infections at the population level. In fact, in this trial there was a somewhat higher rate of new infections in the intervention group compared to the control group.

The one medical intervention that has now been proven effective according to the highest standards of scientific research is male circumcision, which reduces a man’s risk of HIV transmission by more than half. Lack of male circumcision, along with high rates of long-term concurrent ual partnerships, likely accounts for the hyperepidemics of southern Africa. But even many advocates of male circumcision believe that it needs to be promoted along with partner ­reduction.

Meanwhile, the other interventions that have generally been called “best practices” simply do not seem to work in generalized epidemics, even though they are still applauded loudly at global AIDS conferences, while mention of fidelity and abstinence is received by booing, as Bill Gates discovered at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006. If we are to progress beyond science-by-popular-acclaim, we must accept that the evidence is much stronger for fidelity or partner reduction than for any of the standard-package HIV-prevention measures—in Africa at least—and so we need to rethink and reprogram AIDS-prevention interventions. Read more
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Independent: Anti-abortion campaigner sparks violent clashes in Italy

[...] Mr Ferrara's crusade was prompted by Romano Prodi's government's success in persuading the United Nations General Assembly to vote in December for a global moratorium on capital punishment. The following day Mr Ferrara trumped it by proposing a global moratorium on abortion as well.

At the time it seemed another piece of capricious mischief by one of Italy's most accomplished self-publicists. But now it appears he was in earnest. "Abortion is the greatest scandal of our times," he says. "It has become a habit with no cultural or moral implications. This is unacceptable."

In his stump speeches he claims that 50 million foetuses are aborted per year, and that one billion have been aborted in the past 30 years. "This scar on our society has made us all sadder," he claims, "whether we are aware of it or not."

He launched his Pro-Life List with candidates standing for election across the country, though only for the Camera dei Deputati, Italy's lower house.

Mr Ferrara denies he is campaigning for the repeal of Italy's abortion law, Article 194, but rather for it to be applied in the way it was intended. "Article 194 was enacted to fight backstreet abortion," he says. "Its title is 'the law for the protection of maternity'; it also refers to the duty to protect life from its beginning.

"It was not a law passed in favour of abortion, and once backstreet abortion was eliminated its effect should have been to put a brake on abortion. But instead abortion was brought into the open and became a symbol of freedom, a typical example of ideological idiocy from the Sixties."

Rather than calling for the abolition of the law, he says he is appealing for more resources to help women have children. "Thirty to 40 per cent of women who have abortions do so because it's difficult to raise children in this society," he says. "This is a society opposed to childbirth, where people don't have children any more, there is no reverence towards them, not enough resources for them ... These attitudes are typical of a decadent society, a society in decline." Read more

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Times: Hybrids: separating hope from the hype

See also: The case for, 'we have a moral duty to cure illness', the case against, 'benefits based on fantasy, not fact'.

[...] Prof Scolding points out that, thanks to pioneering work in Japan, there is now an egg and embryo-free alternative source of stem cells, albeit one that might present other ethical issues (such as the ability of men to make eggs).

"That has led scientists all over the place (including Sir Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly) to embrace this technology. Which makes it all the more inexplicable why a small minority of UK stem cell scientists wants to pursue the extraordinarily complex and frankly speculative hybrid approach."

For many scientists, such as British stem cell pioneer and Nobel prizewinner Sir Martin Evans, resolving such issues provides a clear scientific rationale for using cybrids to find out more about the basic role of mitochondria in development and in disease.

There is, for example, research at Newcastle to transplant healthy human mitochondria to treat serious metabolic diseases that could benefit from that. However, the hard sell has been about the medical use of cybrid stem cells - not by using the cells themselves in human bodies, but to test drugs and study disease.

When even human stem cells are poorly understood, it will take a lot of slogging to show whether cybrid stem cells will behave properly. Here, even Sir Martin feels the immediate potential has been hyped and claims about cures "overheated". Read more
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Times obituary: The Right Rev John Yates, Bishop who served Gloucester for 16 years and challenged the Church's view of homosexuality

[...] He criticised churches that had no access for the disabled, gave warning against excessive rigidity in doctrine and commended the saying “we should believe more and more about less and less”. He aimed at an ecumenical and less authoritarian Church. He urged the Church “to travel light, unencumbered as far as possible by dogmatic or liturgical baggage acquired centuries ago”. He sought a more human Church that proclaimed a gospel of costly self-giving on behalf of the poor and powerless.

In 1974 Yates chaired a working party of scholars who wrote Homosexual Relationships, the first significant Anglican study of homosexuality after the Wolfenden Report (1957) and the consequent legislation in 1967. Traditional teaching, emphasising Old Testament attitudes and Pauline prohibitions, was thoroughly re-examined and legal perspectives, social implications and pastoral care were re-evaluated. Critics urged that the report should not even be distributed and its republication was prevented by conservatives.

Fortunately, the British Council of Churches sponsored another report, God’s Yes to Sexuality, and Quakers, Methodists and some Roman Catholic scholars supported the Gloucester report’s view that the tradition hostile to homosexuality needed to be reassessed.

It was unfortunate that the Gloucester report was not made available to members of the 1998 Lambeth Conference during which homosexual relationships were a main topic. Yates was premature to say that the churches had emerged from “a long period of darkness in which the whole subject was regarded as shameful and unmentionable”. Read more
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Times: Tony Blair didn’t do God in Downing Street. Now he’s making up for lost time

[...] He says that he does not wish his foundation to get bogged down in arguments about doctrines.

Then he gets to the heart of the matter. He looks around the room and sees two Jews, a Muslim and a Catholic, all of us with our own faiths but all at home in a liberal democratic society. We, he says, are his audience. The Faith Foundation, in other words, is another chapter in Blairite triangulation. There are the fundamentalists (old Conservatives), the radical secularists (old Labour) and the Blair Faith Foundation (new Labour, new faith).

So does this mean he is developing what amounts to a new religion?

No, he replies. Not at all. “This is not about chucking all the faiths in a doctrinal melting pot and coming out with the world religion as it were, that’s not what it’s about.

“It’s about defining those two issues: that faith is under attack from without; an aggressive secularism that sees faith as basically a historical relic, and it’s under attack from within; from people who see their own faith as excluding the other.”

Which presents Mr Blair with a problem. Does he want to be honest broker, bringing together traditionalists, helping them to understand each other but not challenging them. Or does he want to champion liberal ideas in faith communities? Read more
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Monday, 7 April 2008

Virtue Online: Florida Bishop has fired 22 priests

On March 25, the Bishop of Florida, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, formally fired 22 priests from the Diocese of Florida the largest single group of priests to be deposed in the history of the Episcopal Church at one time.

In a letter obtained by VirtueOnline, Howard wrote, "By my action today, with the advice and the consent of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Florida, and pursuant to Canon IV.10.2.ii, I hereby release from the obligations of priests (for causes which do not affect the person's moral character) and deprive of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in ordination upon: Read more

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Sunday, 6 April 2008

Stick with the Church of England, urges REFORM trustee

A senior anglican evangelical leader and trustee of Reform, the Revd Jonathan Fletcher, has urged evangelicals not to forsake the Church of England.

In a new Reform publication, Back To The Future: Reforming the Church of England - Learning From The Past, Mr Fletcher argues that the Church of England was in a far worse state in the eighteenth century and yet was regenerated by evangelicals remaining within it.

Mr Fletcher, who participated in the watershed National Evangelical Anglican Congress at Keele in 1967, said: 'My generation gave assent to the Thirty-nine Articles ex animo because they express the official legal, historical, and theological position of the Church of England - not the Lambeth Conference, or the debates of Synod, or the deeply-flawed Issues in Human Sexuality. This is where we must stand and it is a heritage that we must not forsake. I believe that the Church of England belongs to us and that we belong to it.'

He continued: 'We must realise that what those heroes of the eighteenth century did was to go to funny little places and make them strategic through teaching the Bible, and if we want to win the country, that is what we must do.

'It is rather sad that evangelicals have got a bad reputation of not going to Urban Priority Areas, such that when St Nicholas' Tooting was advertised as an evangelical church only two people applied for it. We will not win the country unless we can stick with those sorts of places. The model that Holy Trinity Brompton in London has given us of planting in existing parish churches that are about to close and giving them new life is remarkable. We must not lose those opportunities.'

He concluded: 'We have got an enormous battle on our hands. It is vast. The situation is not as bad as it was in the eighteenth century, but we are campaigning for the reform of the Church of England and our sights are set on the evangelisation of our nation.

'The lesson from the past is that we must hold fast to our theological convictions; we must continue to strive for that holiness without which no-one will see the Lord; we must have a loyalty to the Church of England and remember that this is the place to be; there must be a boldness as we think outside the box with principled irregularity; and we must stand together.'

Julian Mann, vicar of Oughtibridge Parish Church and a founder of Reform Sheffield, said: 'Mr Fletcher's comments are hugely significant in their timing. In the short term, evangelicals are facing a period of uncertainty over attitudes to their bishops attending the Lambeth Conference this summer. More fundamentally, many evangelicals are unconvinced that the parish system of the Church of England is an effective way of reaching the nation for Christ. Mr Fletcher makes a convincing historical and contemporary case that evangelicals should not forsake the Church of the nation.'

The full text of the Jonathan Fletcher booklet, based on his address to the Reform national conference in October 2007, is available on this link:

For further information please contact Revd Julian Mann, Reform Sheffield press officer, on 0114 286 2317.

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BBC: 'Anti-gay views' JP investigated

A magistrate has agreed not to hear cases as an inquiry gets underway into comments he made about gay men in a BBC Wales documentary.

Byron Butler is being investigated by the Advisory Committee on Justices of the Peace in Mid Glamorgan after being interviewed by Week In Week Out.

In the programme, the Bridgend JP said many thought gay men were paedophiles.

Hosted by former Steps singer, Ian 'H' Watkins, the programme looked at changing attitudes to homosexuality.

Mr Butler, 67, a magistrate for 30 years, is a former Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Mid Glamorgan, who would have deputised for the Queen's official representative in the county.

He was one of many people interviewed in the street by Watkins, who grew up in the Rhondda, for his views on homosexuality.

Mr Butler, a retired butcher, said: "We haven't got much time for them."

He continued: "Well, I think probably it's a suspicion of the mainstream that they perhaps will interfere with young people and so on and that's historically been the case. That is the danger.

"Paedophiles, solidophiles [sic], not necessarily, but they do, don't they. That's the reality." Read more
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Guardian: Rethink over Christ 'porn' film ban

(Ed: Note, the producer has been invited to resubmit his film. Big question: WHY? The answer given in the article: "A board spokeswoman stressed the invitation to Wingrove to resubmit his film for classification was [Craig, head of the British Board of Film Classification's examining body] Lapper's personal decision. 'Craig was being helpful,' the spokeswoman said ..." Yeah, right.)

A landmark decision to ban a film showing Christ being caressed on the cross on the grounds that it was blasphemous could be reversed after almost 20 years.

The 1989 ruling by the British Board of Film Classification to refuse a release licence for Visions of Ecstasy, a low- budget film depicting the 16th-century Spanish mystic St Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the cross provoked a national furore.

While the film's director, Nigel Wingrove, believed he was making art, the board, under its heavily censorious director James Ferman, took a different view and said its mix of pornography and religion risked upsetting the Anglican Church. Now, however, in a sign that Britain's social mores have moved on, Craig Lapper, of the board's examining body, has invited Wingrove to resubmit the film for classification. Read more

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