Saturday, 19 April 2008

Independent: Almost 3,000 children now held in custody

A drive to cut the number of children behind bars in England and Wales – the highest in western Europe – has failed.

The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has missed its target to reduce by 10 per cent the number of youngsters in custody between 2005 and 2008, it will announce later this month.

The board had aimed to lower the juvenile prison population in England and Wales from 2,676 in March 2005 to 2,408 by last month, appealing to youth courts to use community sentences instead of custody.

Instead the board has presided over a rise of 8 per cent over the period, with the numbers of youngsters in custody reaching 2,883 by February. Read more
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Church Times: Covenant will protect male power, says critic

A MEMBER of the Lambeth Commission that first proposed an Anglican Covenant has changed her mind.

Speaking at a conference in New York last week, the Dean of St John’s College, in Auckland, New Zealand, Dr Jenny Plane Te Paa, said that events since the launch of the commission’s report had “caused me to reconsider my initial support for the development of covenant”.

Among the events she cited was the behaviour at the Primates’ Meetings, which had gone from being a gathering for “leisurely thought [and] prayer” to being a “quasi-governance body universally perceived as inappropriate, unbidden, and unhelpful”.

Covenant drafts served to “protect and enhance . . . dominant male leadership, privilege, and power”, she said. In her view, the “fussing with and about one another” needed to stop, in order to reaffirm the bonds that already exist within the Communion.

By contrast, the proposed Covenant was defended by the Archishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez. “If we can covenant with our ecumenical partners . . . it seems to me to be a pretty pass indeed if we Anglicans decide we cannot covenant with each other.” Read more
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Salt Lake Tribune: Episcopal leader: We need to talk about sexuality

[...] one issue continues to divide Anglicans among themselves: the 2003 ordination of New Hampshire's Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a committed relationship. Some congregations already have pulled out of the denomination, including the entire Nigerian Diocese, to voice their objections.
Ultimately, Jefferts Schori does not believe the Anglican Communion will splinter over it.
"It's a very, very small part of this church, less than 1 percent, that sees this of sufficient concern to want to leave over it," she said. "Our job is to bless their going and reassure them our door is always open and that we'll keep the light on for them."
Those remaining need to keep talking about issues such as sexuality, even when they disagree.
Jefferts Schori takes her lead from the "Elizabethan Settlement" of Britain's Queen Elizabeth I, which said the country's Christians didn't have to believe exactly the same thing but they had to worship together.
"That's still one of our central tenets," Jefferts Schori said. "We see sexual issues in the same light but the particular context may require a different focus."
In the developing nations, such as Nigeria, Anglicans are more interested in life and death issues, she said, while those in the developed world also can focus on broader social issues such as fair treatment of homosexuals.
"We see that as one of the fundamental tasks of the church - to help us all live holy lives," she said. "The challenge comes because there are different understandings of what that means."
To Jefferts Schori, the larger challenges include rampant consumerism, environmental change, and growing polarization in society. Read more
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Church Times: The C of E is losing its own history

[...] A generation ago, Anglican priests could count in their ranks historians of the scholarly stature of Henry Chadwick, Owen Chadwick, and Jack McManners; today, their number is diminishing radically, and their lack of preferment is almost assured. It is a trend that has been going on for some time.

Instead, film and television set the pace; and the rehabilitation of Catherine of Aragon is the straw in the wind. Yet, from this rebranding, it is not a radical Protestant interpretation of the Church that benefits, but the Roman Catholic interpretation. Appropriately, the Prime Minister now leaks his intentions to end the ban on RCs’ ascending the throne: implicitly, the prospect is disestablishment.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church has just raised £2 million from its scarcely affluent diocese of Hexham & Newcastle to endow the Bede chair in Catholic Theology at Durham University, whose holder must be a communicant member. Not only would the Church of England be unlikely now to endow such a post; if an endowment arrived by accident, it would bend over backwards to be “fair” — to ensure that its holder had no such partial commitment. Again: good or bad, this is telling historical evidence.

Resources now go elsewhere: the staffs of Anglican archbishops and bishops include secretaries for public affairs, media managers, press officers, and communications directors. Church House boasts a 24/7 Media Centre. In 2006, bishops’ staff costs amounted to almost £6 million. Despite this burgeoning bureaucracy, it is worth asking whether the Church has lost control of its own history. Read more

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Thursday, 17 April 2008

Developing Evangelical Women as Leaders: CPAS and AWESOME

By Elisabeth Goddard

Rosie Ward is Leadership Development Advisor at the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS). CPAS had noticed that there were relatively few women applying for the Arrow Leadership Programme developed and spearheaded by James Laurence and which Rosie now co-leads. Their department also saw that women either weren't applying for jobs (particularly the larger churches) and/or weren't being appointed. So Rosie's job was born. She has a particular brief for developing women as leaders, including encouraging vocations among women and raising the profile of women in the application process for traditional evangelical posts.

As part of her job Rosie has written her latest book ‘Growing women leaders: nurturing women’s leadership in the church’ which is due to be published in September 2008. This topic brings important insights into our understanding of the developing role of women in leadership in our churches from an evangelical perspective.

Connecting with her CPAS role, Rosie is also Membership Secretary on the Committee of Awesome, of which I am the Chair. AWESOME (‘Anglican Women Evangelicals: Supporting Our Ordained Ministry’) is a network for ordained women who are Anglican and evangelical where they can meet with other like-minded women for support and encouragement in their gospel ministries. Read more
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Science Daily: What Are The Odds Of Finding Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life?

Is there anybody out there? Probably not, according to a scientist from the University of East Anglia. A mathematical model produced by Prof Andrew Watson suggests that the odds of finding new life on other Earth-like planets are low, given the time it has taken for beings such as humans to evolve and the remaining life span of Earth.

Structurally complex and intelligent life evolved late on Earth and it has already been suggested that this process might be governed by a small number of very difficult evolutionary steps.

Prof Watson, from the School of Environmental Sciences, takes this idea further by looking at the probability of each of these critical steps occurring in relation to the life span of Earth, giving an improved mathematical model for the evolution of intelligent life.

According to Prof Watson a limit to evolution is the habitability of Earth, and any other Earth-like planets, which will end as the sun brightens. Solar models predict that the brightness of the sun is increasing, while temperature models suggest that because of this the future life span of Earth will be ‘only’ about another billion years, a short time compared to the four billion years since life first appeared on the planet.

“The Earth’s biosphere is now in its old age and this has implications for our understanding of the likelihood of complex life and intelligence arising on any given planet,” said Prof Watson.

“At present, Earth is the only example we have of a planet with life. If we learned the planet would be habitable for a set period and that we had evolved early in this period, then even with a sample of one, we’d suspect that evolution from simple to complex and intelligent life was quite likely to occur. By contrast, we now believe that we evolved late in the habitable period, and this suggests that our evolution is rather unlikely. In fact, the timing of events is consistent with it being very rare indeed.” Read more
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Monday, 14 April 2008

Independent: Union accuses bishops of failing to help bullied vicars

Bishops are failing to support Church of England priests who are increasingly being bullied by powerful parishioners, according to a trade union.

Clergy are experiencing psychological, emotional, verbal and even physical abuse, according to Unite, Britain's largest union, but bishops are "crossing the road to the other side" rather than offering help.

The Church of England acknowledged bullying did happen but said it was "certainly not as widespread as suggested" by the union.

Rachel Maskell, of Unite, said the "pressures of modern society" were leading to an increase in cases of bullying of ministers by their own flock.

"A group of one or two powerful people in any congregation may not like the style of worship, the times of meetings and even when the main activities are taking place in the church," Ms Maskell said. "But these campaigns seem to get out of control and rapidly turn into a little campaign against the minister. Read more
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Guardian: God is behind some of our greatest art

And so the stellar casting in Doctor Who continues with the news that Professor Richard Dawkins, biologist and bestselling author of The God Delusion, is to appear in the current series as himself. On Outpost Gallifrey, the definitive Doctor Who website, I read that Russell T Davies, the show's executive producer, and all the crew were delighted to see Dawkins. "People were falling at his feet," says Davies. "We've had Kylie Minogue on that set, but it was Dawkins that people were worshipping."

It's a great tribute to our age that a scientist can still be greeted with more adulation than a pop princess. But I can't help noting the irony of the imagery that Dawkins' reception has conjured up. Falling at his feet? Worshipping? Read more
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Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to bishops may prompt rethink about Lambeth attendance

This from Bishop Tom Wright's talk to the Fulcrum Conference on Saturday:

[...] After a summer and autumn of various tangled and unsatisfactory events, the Archbishop then wrote an Advent pastoral letter in which he reiterated the terms of his initial invitation and declared that he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation. Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching but also with apostolic necessity. I am well aware that many will say this is far too little, far too late - just as many others will be livid to think that the Archbishop, having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, should be suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it. Read the whole talk here.

See also this comment here.

Any suggestions who might be on the list? Akinola? Schori? Wright? (Only kidding!)

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Sunday, 13 April 2008

Talks from the Fulcrum Conference 'Conflict and Covenant '

... may be downloaded here (for Tom Wright) and here for Andrew Goddard.

Tom Wright, unfortunately, compares the organizers of GAFCON with the super-apostles denounced by St Paul in 2 Corinthians:

... we have seen, predictably but sadly, the rise of the super-apostles, who have wanted everything to be cut and dried in ways for which our existing polity simply did not, and does not, allow. Please note, I do not for one moment underestimate the awful situation that many of our American and Canadian friends have found themselves in, vilified, attacked and undermined by ecclesiastical authority figures who seem to have lost all grip on the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be eager only for lawsuits and property squabbles. I pray daily for many friends over there who are in intolerable situations and I don't underestimate the pressures and strains. But I do have to say, as well, that these situations have been exploited by those who have long wanted to shift the balance of power in the Anglican Communion and who have used this awful situation as an opportunity to do so. And now, just as the super-apostles were conveying the message to Paul that if he wanted to return to Corinth he'd need letters of recommendation, we are told that, if we want to go on being thought of as evangelicals, we should withdraw from Lambeth and join the super-gathering which, though not officially, is clearly designed as an alternative, and which of course hands an apparent moral victory to those who can cheerfully wave goodbye to the 'secessionists'. I have written about this elsewhere, and it is of course a very sad situation which none of us (I trust) would wish but which seems to be worsening by the day.
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