Saturday, 7 June 2008

English House of Bishop proposes minimal provision, repeal of protection, for opponents of women bishops

As first reported in the Daily Telegraph, the House of Bishops of the Church of England is indeed bringing a proposal to the General Synod in July to adopt the first approach outlined in the Manchester Report to provide for the consecration of women bishops, which will remove the legislative provisions put in place in 1993 and replace them with a 'Code of Practice'. This will mean either the so-called 'Single Clause' approach, discussed here, or the first of the options in the second approach suggested in the Manchester Report which would make the 'Code of Practice' mandatory.

The relevant paragraphs from the accompanying document are these:

12. It would mean that the existing provisions (in part II of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993) for parishes unable to accept the ministry of women as celebrant or incumbent would be repealed, to be replaced by arrangements made under the proposed national code of practice. In addition, the natural consequence of such legislation and a code of practice would be the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993.

13. The House noted that a code of practice included a spectrum of possibilities between, at one end, an entirely informal code and at the other one secured by legislation, which itself set out in some detail the ground a code would need to cover. The majority of the House concluded that the next stage of the drafting group's work would have to involve the production of a draft code and a proposal about the extent of its statutory underpinning. There was, however, agreement that the code should be national and that there should be a clear requirement that all concerned should have regard to the code’s provision.

Credit for this news to the Thinking Anglicans website, here:

The document GS 1685A has been released, though not yet on the CofE website. This is the covering Note from the Presidents explaining what the House of Bishops has decided to do.

The full text of the document can be read here.

The text of the motion to be put is below, but do read this in the context of the whole document:

A member of the House of Bishops to move:

‘That this Synod:

(a) reaffirm its wish for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;

(c) affirm that these should be contained in a national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’

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The Times: Without gay priests Church would be lost claims Bishop Gene

Ed: There is one thing about this interview which strikes me as completely implausible (and raises some questions about the rest of Gene Robinson's assertions) which is this: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, etc". The troubling thing is not the news that there are large numbers of gay clergy, but that there are bishops regularly dining out with them. In all my thirty years in ministry, I have not once had the diocesan bishop to dinner (nor have I invited him, on the grounds that I've presumed he would be far too busy), nor do I know of any other member of the clergy who has entertained the bishop in this way. Yet if Gene Robinson is to be believed, there are substantial numbers of clergy who having done precisely this (it surely cannot be that only the gay clergy invite the bishop to dinner), and in the case of the gay ones, having had the bishop accept, have been told over the postprandrial coffee that if a word of their relationship's real nature gets out they're sunk. The impression Robinson gives is this happens all the time. The feeling I've got is that it actually happens very rarely. Indeed, my personal guess would be once, but that it was a good anecdote. I would venture further to suggest that Robinson's own situation, and the circles he moves in, the groups and meetings he gets invited to, and so on, give him an entirely misleading view of the Church. It would be like me concluding that without it's disgruntled Evangelicals the Church of England would collapse, just because I go to Reform meetings.


The openly gay bishop whose ordination sparked the crisis in the Anglican Communion has claimed the Church of England would be close to shutting down if it was forced to manage without its gay clergy.

The Bishop of New Hampshire in the US, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, who is divorced and lives openly in partnership with a gay man, said he found it "mystifying" that the mother church of the Anglican Communion was unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks.

He said many of the English church's clergy lived openly in their rectories with gay partners, with the full knowledge of their bishops. But he criticised the stance of bishops who threaten the clergy with emnity should their relationships become public.

Speaking in an interview in London, Bishop Gene said: "I have met so many gay partnered clergy here and it is so troubling to hear them tell me that their bishop comes to their house for dinner, knows fully about their relationship, is wonderfully supportive but has also said if this ever becomes public then I’m your worst enemy.

"It’s a terrible way to live your life and I think it’s a terrible way to be a church. I think integrity is so important. What does it mean for a clergy person to be in a pulpit calling the parishioners to a life of integrity when they can’t even live a life of integrity with their own bishop and their own church? So I would feel better about the Church of England’s stance, its reluctance to support The Episcopal Church in what it has done if it would at least admit that this not an American problem and just an American challenge. If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its just seems less than humble not to admit that." Read more
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Damian Thompson: Islam, not gays, will split the Church

Will Islam replace homosexuality as the big issue that sets Anglicans – and Christians in general – at each other’s throats? It’s beginning to look that way.

My guess is that the Bishop of Rochester’s fiery opposition to radical Islam will prove a louder rallying cry for conservative Anglicans attending (or boycotting) the Lambeth Conference than African anti-gay rhetoric. Bishop Gene Robinson’s wedding arrangements pale into insignificance compared to the persecution of Christians by Muslims – and the liberal establishment’s myopic response to it.

The rise of the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has taken everyone by surprise. As our religion editor George Pitcher points out, he is now an internationally celebrated but divisive figure, regarded in some circles as a Right-wing bigot. That isn’t why he was passed over for Canterbury, however: he didn’t get the job because he campaigned too hard for it and put people’s backs up with his pomposity.

He’s no great scholar, but he did study Islamic history at Karachi University, and that has enabled him to understand the essentially intransigent nature of Islam. This is his great contribution to public life – for, so far as I am aware, no other Church of England diocesan bishop is prepared to accept that “radical” Islam is more historically authentic and representative of the modern Islamic world than the “moderate” variety. Read more
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Daily Telegraph: Christianity 'discriminated against by Gordon Brown's Government'

Christianity is being discriminated against by the Government in favour of Islam and other minority faiths, according to a landmark Church of England report.

The damning critique of Labour, which is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, says ministers are only paying "lip service" to the Anglican Church while "focusing intently" on other religions.

It claims Gordon Brown's Government is failing society and lacks a moral vision for the country.

And in an end to decades of tension between the Church and the Conservatives, the comprehensive study praises the Tories for their "strident" approach to combating poverty.

Instead it says it is Labour which is failing to acknowledge the breakdown in society and excluding vital religious voices.

The report urges the Government to appoint a minister for religion, who would serve as the Prime Minister's faith envoy and utilise the untapped reserves of volunteers in churches and charities. Read more
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The Telegraph: Bishop Gene Robinson to 'marry' gay partner

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop, is about to "marry" his partner, further inflaming tensions in the church ahead of a series of critical meetings this summer.

The bishop, whose appointment has driven the worldwide church to the brink of collapse, is to have a civil union with his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew.

They will have a private ceremony carried out by a lawyer in front of family and friends on Saturday, followed by a service of celebration in a church nearby in New Hampshire, northeast USA. Read more
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Catholic Online: Traditional Anglicans Coming Home?

In October of 2007 the College of Bishops for the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) unanimously decided to seek communion with the Roman Catholic Church and dispatched a letter to the Vatican verbalizing their request.

According to Bishop John Hepworth, Primate of the TAC, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith received the official letter cordially when it was presented.

On Friday, David Virtue reported on that the Church of England Newspaper learned from Rome that decision concerning the TAC might come sometime after the Lambeth Conference, which will be held July 16 – August 3, 2008.

Speculation has been that the decision to wait until after the conference came from the recent talks held between the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The Archbishop, however, has stated clearly that the issue of the TAC did not even come up in their conversation. Read more
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Kent News: Odds cut on possible successor to Rowan Williams

Bookmakers have slashed the odds on Dr John Sentamu becoming the next Archbishop of Canterbury after he did a parachute jump.

Dr Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, jumped out of a plane at 13,000ft on Friday to raise money for Britain's Armed Forces.

In March, odds were being given by bookmakers on various bishops replacing Rowan Williams after he made controversial remarks on aspects of Sharia law being introduced in the UK and gambling laws

Now, the odds have been cut from 3/1 to 2/1 by William Hill on Dr Sentamu to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury following his fund-raising jump. Read more
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The Times Leader: Church and State

Ed: I've blogged on this here.

[...] there are many in government who not only see little place for faith-based organisations in secular society but are also actively hostile to the influence in multicultural Britain of an established Church seen as a fading remnant of hierarchical, class-based authority.

Such thinking is sharply attacked in a polemic report, published on Monday (see page 1), which champions the continuing role of the Church in social provision, mocks the religious illiteracy of local bureaucrats and insists that British society will be “infinitely poorer” if the Labour Government continues to ignore the Church while focusing obsessively on the demands and grievances of minority faith groups. The report, commissioned from the University of Cambridge by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, is sweeping in its condemnation. It accuses the Government of paying only lip service to the Church's role, lacking understanding or interest in the Church and “planning blind”, without a moral compass. Controversially, it contrasts this wilful disregard by Labour to the more sympathetic attitude of the Conservatives, who, it says, are readier to acknowledge that Christian churches had something unique to bring to the table as strong local leaders.

Many of these strictures hit home. Taking for granted the still-important role of the Church in education and social provision is insulting. Still more inflammatory is the Government's courting of faith minorities, including some extremist Islamic groups, to buy off discontent. What has angered many bishops is the dismissal of the churches in the Government's championing of interfaith “dialogue”, when they are best placed to understand the religious basis of reaching out.

The report is on more slippery ground when it calls for the Church to be put back at the heart of social provision. However valid the contention that voluntary bodies are more effective than government bureaucracies, there is no sense in calling for a return to a bygone age by giving new social powers to the churches. The partisan tone of the report would confirm the quip that the Church of England is the Tory party at prayer. It raises the question of where the Church thinks its influence is best felt: in the corridors of power, or in the housing estates and youth clubs. The report pleads for the Church to be taken seriously as a service deliverer; but its establishment as a state organisation makes such independent delivery very difficult. Surely, the Church should increase the effectiveness of its welfare services not because it is seeking good PR or because it will earn recognition from Government because because it is the right and moral thing to do. Read more
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The Times: Ignored and spurned, the Church has lost its faith - in government

The Church of England feels itself to be marginalised, excluded and neglected. This message, gathered from every diocese in the country, including dozens of bishops, members of Parliament, peers and academics, is relentlessly consistent.

It comes in a landmark report, to be published next Monday, which marks the most damning critique by the Church of a serving Government since the 1980s.

While Muslim communities are courted, funded and feted, the country’s majority Christian communities are barely given a second thought when it comes to Government focus on “faith”, the report says.

The report, called Moral, Without a Compass, says the attitude of ministers is particularly galling for the Church, which, the authors of the report say, has spent centuries pioneering welfare provision, in particular in health, education and care for the poor and marginalised of society. Read more
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The Times: Church attacks Labour for betraying Christians

The policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have helped to generate a spiritual, civic and economic crisis in Britain, according to an important Church of England report.

Labour is failing society and lacks the vision to restore a sense of British identity, the report says in the Church’s strongest attack on the Government for decades. It accuses the Government of “deep religious illiteracy” and of having “no convincing moral direction”.

The report, commissioned for the Church of England and to be published on Monday, accuses the Government of discriminating against the Christian Churches in favour of other faiths, including Islam. It calls for the appointment of a “Minister for Religion”, who would act as the Prime Minister’s personal “faith envoy” and who would recognise the contribution of faith communities to Britain across every government department.

The 180-page report, seen by The Times,describes the Government as moral, but lacking a “compass” and reflects an attempt by the Church to carve out an effective role for itself in the 21st century as a provider of welfare for young and old.

The report was commissioned by the Bishop of Hulme, the Right Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Health, with the support of the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu. Read more
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Virtue Online: ALBANY, NY: Bishop Affirms Heterosexual Marriage, Condemns Homosexual Lifestyle

The Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love, told more than 900 delegates to the 140th Annual Diocesan Convention in Speculator, NY, last night that the appropriateness or inappropriateness of homosexual relations is really a symptom of a far greater issue centered on one's understanding of Holy Scripture and its authority in our life.

"Is the Bible really the Word of God, or is it simply a creation of man? Does it apply to us today, or was it simply for the people at the time in which it was first spoken or written? Does it have authority over our lives, or can we simply pick and choose those parts we like and ignore the rest? Depending on one's answer to these questions, determines to a great extent how we understand the other issues that are dividing and threatening to destroy the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion," he said.

Love condemned culturally relativistic interpretations of Scripture saying that God was not limited in His understanding of human sexuality when He condemned homosexual behavior in Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 and modern societies' enlightened understanding of human sexuality.

Love reminded the delegates of the Nicene Creed regarding the words of creation and condemned notions that same sex relationships is a "gift" and shot down the so-called scientific notion that homosexuals are born that way.

"To the best of my knowledge, there is no genetic link that has been discovered. In regard to God creating people homosexual in orientation, Matthew 19 makes a strong case against such an argument. 'Haven't you read, 'that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female...for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'" Read more
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Thursday, 5 June 2008

ABp Jensen: the old church is finished

AS THE Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, prepares to leave for the conference that will decide the fate of the worldwide Anglican church, fresh trouble in North America suggests the 450-year old communion has little hope of holding together.

Archbishop Jensen is one of the leaders of 1000 conservative churchmen from 17 Anglican provinces who will gather at the Jerusalem Global Anglican Futures Conference this month. Mainly from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, they are united on one principal issue: hostility to homosexuality.

But Archbishop Jensen argues: "This dispute is not really about homosexuality. It's really about authority and who runs the church. And fairly clearly, to most of the rest of us, God runs the church through the Bible." Read more

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ABC interview with George Conger

Stephen Crittenden: While we have you here, Canon Conger, as well as being one of the senior correspondents for the truly excellent Church of England Newspaper, you have your own very fine blog site on all matters Anglican, and it seems like a good opportunity to catch up on what's going on in North America in the lead-up to the Lambeth conference. It seems that things are being ramped up to quite a considerable degree in the lead-up to Lambeth. I notice that the church in California is preparing to conduct its first gay marriages, Bishop G. Robinson of New Hampshire who's the gay bishop at the centre of the whole crisis, has recently announced that he wants to marry. A number of dioceses in Canada seem to be moving in the direction of same sex blessings. It really does look like Lambeth could be a real showdown would you agree? Or is that not how you read the situation?

George Conger: Well the Archbishop of Canterbury is desperate that nothing happen at Lambeth. He wants to prevent any sort of showdown, and so he's devised a program that minimises any opportunity for collective mass action on particular issues. Using the tool of small groups and face-to-face discussion, a cynic would say that's the way to prevent real action from taking place. What you're seeing in the US are people as I say, establishing facts on the ground, going into the conference saying 'Well this is the situation where I am', and basically playing a political gamesmanship. 'This is how far we're going to go and get what we want, be it same sex blessings, the normalisation of gay clergy, or from the conservative side, we're going to have parallel churches overseen by African archbishops in the US', and basically saying, 'What are you going to do about it?' It's a game of brinksmanship right now in the run-up to Lambeth. And there could be an explosion. Neither side is backing away, and for conservatives this is an issue of salvation; that the liberals are teaching a false doctrine, a false Christ; for liberals, the conservatives are blind to the call of justice and the prophetic words of the gospel. There are two religions in one church. There's no sanction for bad behaviour in the Anglican communion. Read more

Read George Conger's blog

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'Forward in Faith' petition: a correction

Yesterday I posted an item about an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which I mistakenly attributed to Forward in Faith, when in fact it has come from several sources as now indicated.

I made the appropriate changes and reposted the item as soon as this was pointed out to me by the Forward in Faith office.

Unfortunately at least one other website, namely that run by Fulcrum, seems to have picked up this item before I made the changes, and has started a discussion thread which not only reflects my headline "Forward in Faith petition" but now contains various (uncomplimentary) comments about Forward in Faith in consequence of this false attribution.

I have pointed out the error to them (twice) by e-mails, and hope that eventually they will make the appropriate response.

Revd John Richardson

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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Daily Telegraph: Church of England accused of censoring debate on Islam

The Church of England has been accused of censorship for shelving a controversial debate about Islam.

A meeting of the Church's "parliament" was due to discuss whether clergy should be doing more to convert British Muslims to Christianity.

The sensitive issue was highlighted last week by a senior bishop who accused Church leaders of failing to reach out to other faiths, and warned that radical Islam is filling a gap in society caused by the decline of traditional Christian values.

But now the Church has put off the debate on recruiting Muslims until next February at the earliest and will discuss the promotion of churches as tourist attractions instead.

Paul Eddy, a lay member of the General Synod, said his Private Members' Motion should have been on the agenda at next month's meeting in York as more than 100 other members had supported it including three bishops.

He believes it has been shelved because it would have shown up wide divisions in the Church over its attitude to converting believers in other faiths, at the same time as it faces schisms over the appointment of women bishops and homosexuality.

The debate would have taken place just 12 days before the once-a-decade summit of Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conference. It would have piled more pressure on the embattled Archbishop of Canterbury, who earlier this year sparked a storm by claiming some parts of Islamic law would be adopted in Britain.

Mr Eddy said yesterday (tue): "I think they're censoring it on theological grounds and because of the timing.

"Ten days before Lambeth there would be lots of bishops who would not be comfortable voting on the uniqueness of Christ.

"I believe after the Archbishop's comments on sharia he would know there would be such press interest in it."

He went on: "From the telephone calls and emails I have received, people feel very aggrieved that, at this particular time in the church's history, Synod was not given an opportunity to be debate evangelism.

"Now that Synod has electronic voting, it would have been very easy to show how many of our bishops believed in the uniqueness of Christ as the only means of salvation, something which would have shown the division on orthodox views in the House." Read more
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Women Bishops: An open letter to the Archbishops

Following the Southern Synod of the Society of the Sacred Cross, the Provisional Episcopal Visitors (Flying Bishops), the Bishop of Fulham and the Master of SSC are circulating the following letter for signature by clergy. Apart from anything else, it very clearly states where they are on this matter (and where they have been in the last decade and a half):

Most Reverend Fathers in God,

We write as bishops, priests and deacons of the Provinces of Canterbury and York, who have sought, by God’s grace, in our various ministries, to celebrate the Sacraments and preach the Word faithfully; to form, nurture and catechise new Christians; to pastor the people of God entrusted to our care; and, through the work of our dioceses, parishes and institutions, to build up the Kingdom and to further God’s mission to the world in this land.

Our theological convictions, grounded in obedience to Scripture and Tradition, and attentive to the need to discern the mind of the whole Church Catholic in matters touching on Faith and Order, lead us to doubt the sacramental ministry of those women ordained to the priesthood by the Church of England since 1994. Having said that, we have engaged with the life of the Church of England in a myriad of ways, nationally and locally, and have made sincere efforts to work courteously and carefully with those with whom we disagree. In the midst of this disagreement over Holy Order, we have, we believe, borne particular witness to the cause of Christian unity, and to the imperative of Our Lord’s command that ‘all may be one.’

We include those who have given many years service to the Church in the ordained ministry, and others who are very newly ordained. We believe that we demonstrate the vitality of the tradition which we represent and which has formed us in our discipleship and ministry – a tradition which, we believe, constitutes an essential and invaluable part of the life and character of the Church of England, without which it would be deeply impoverished.

Since the ordination of women to the priesthood began in 1994, we have been able to exercise our ministry in the context of the solemn assurances given at that time that our understanding of Holy Order was one entirely consonant with the faith and practice of the Church of England, and secure in the knowledge that those assurances were embodied in the legislation passed in 1993, and in the Act of Synod which followed that legislation.

That legislation, together with the Act, has been the framework which has allowed us to continue to live and work in a church which has taken the decision to allow women to be ordained, but which has also made room for us, and honoured our beliefs and convictions. We have been further encouraged and affirmed by the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference 1998, endorsed by the General Synod in July 2006, that “those who dissent from as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans.”

We believe that, should the Church of England move to the ordination of women to the episcopate, our ability to continue to minister in the church to which we have been called will depend on provision being made to allow us to do so with the same theological integrity which we have been able to hold since 1994. We recognise that, much as we might hope things to be otherwise, the Church of England is set upon the path of ordaining women as bishops. We will strive to honour their calling as ministers of the Gospel, and to respect the offices which they will hold, despite our profound reservations about the Church of England’s decision to ordain and consecrate them. We do not look for ‘protection’ from the ministry of ordained women. Rather, we ask that our theological convictions continue to be accorded that respect which was promised fifteen years ago.

We believe that priests must be able to look to bishops about whose ministry they can be assured; and that bishops in turn must be able to carry out their ministry in a way consonant with the traditional exercise of Episcopal office. Only a structural solution to the new problems which will inevitably be created for the Church by the ordination of women to the episcopate can, we believe, allow us to flourish and to contribute to the life of the whole Church as we believe the Spirit continues to call us to do.

It is with sadness that we conclude that, should the Church of England indeed go ahead with the ordination of women to the episcopate, without at the same time making provision which offers us real ecclesial integrity and security, many of us will be thinking very hard about the way ahead. We will inevitably be asking whether we can, in conscience, continue to minister as bishops, priests and deacons in the Church of England which has been our home. We do not write this in a spirit of making threats or throwing down gauntlets. Rather, we believe that the time has come to make our concerns plain, so that the possible consequences of a failure to make provision which allows us to flourish and to grow are clear. Your Graces will know that the cost of such a choice would be both spiritual and material.

We know that all members of the Church of England and of the General Synod in particular, will be looking to you for wisdom, guidance and leadership in this matter. We urge you, as our Fathers in God, to lead the whole Church in making generous and coherent provision for us. This will not only allow us to continue to play our part in that mission, under God, to which we are all committed, but also ensure that the Church of England continues to encompass, in her polity, an understanding of Holy Orders consonant with that of the great Churches of East and West with whom we share the historic episcopate.

We assure you of our prayers at this time.

Sign electronically here.

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How to defeat the BNP: from Searchlight Magazine

(Ed: Compare this with my own comments in 'How to Get the BNP Elected', in March 2002: "Surely what is needed, is rather for the truly decent to listen to the voices of those who feel unheard, however unpalatable their opinions may be, but then to provide real solutions which are consistent with the justice and righteousness of God’s kingdom.")

[...] Liam Smith, deputy leader of the council, believes the government must do far more. “We need to give people a reason not to vote for the BNP and that has to do with policy.

“It is no good to say just don’t vote for the BNP because they are racist. People are feeling squeezed and are struggling.”

In addition to addressing the housing issue, Smith says that the Government needs to do more to support local councils with facilities for young people. “Crime in the borough is coming down but the perception and fear of crime is still very high. We need to encourage young people to get off the streets.

“It is no good building all these new sports facilities if local people are then priced out of using them. Surely if we want young people to stop carrying knives, to stop hanging round on street corners and to show more respect to other people then we have to offer them something to do as part of the bargain.”

For anti-fascists the work for the 2010 elections must start now. Racist myths over housing, crime and health need to be confronted in new and more focused ways. Leafleting can only achieve so much, but we need to find ways to truly engage with people directly.

Likewise the trade unions, which together have over 30,000 members in the borough, must look at new ways to engage their membership and on a level that addresses the underlying issues rather than just superficial anti-racism.

Anti-fascists have to continue to monitor the activities of the BNP councillors and highlight their mistakes and behaviour, but, if we are honest, we have not been good at letting people know. This has to change. To this end, Searchlight will begin to produce a quarterly newsletter.

Rebuilding local communities and a sense of community that unites people of different backgrounds must be a job for everyone and the faith groups could be central in this.

There is also a job for the other main parties. Even though they are hardly represented on the council (there are no Liberal Democrats and only one Conservative), both parties need to be encouraged to rebuild their local organisations. There is a strong anti-Labour vote out there and in the absence of an alternative it will go to the BNP.

None of this work is going to be easy and success requires all the elements to come together. However, it is work that has to be done. Without it we might be heading towards a nightmare scenario. Read more
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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

BBC News: Brigitte Bardot fined over anti-Muslim remarks

A French court has fined former film star Brigitte Bardot 15,000 euros (£12,000) for inciting racial hatred.

She was prosecuted over a letter published on her website that complained Muslims were "destroying our country by imposing their ways".

It is the fifth time Ms Bardot been convicted over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers. This is her heaviest fine so far. Read more
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Fulcrum in the North Conference: Sunday 1 June 2008

Sixty people attended the first Fulcrum in the North Conference at Great Horton, Bradford, Sunday 1 June. Our host was the vicar of Great Horton, Nick Jones and chairing proceedings was the Rev Denise Poole, chaplain to the Bishop of Bradford. A big thankyou to them and to the team that led worship.

The conference drew a combination of locals plus people who travelled in from the dioceses of Durham, Wakefield, Sheffield and York - including 12 from Cranmer Hall, Durham. In attendance too was the Bishop of Bradford and the Rt Rev Clive Handford, former President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East who is a member of the Windsor Continuation Groups, due to meet shortly. Read more

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Monday, 2 June 2008

The Times: Bishop compares those who ignore climate change to Josef Fritzl

A senior bishop in the Church of England has compared people who ignore climate change to Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who kept his daughter locked in a cellar for 24 years, repeatedly raping her and fathering seven of her children.

The Bishop of Stafford, the Right Rev Gordon Mursell, made the extreme comparison in a parish newsletter and said that people who fail to act to prevent global warming are “as guilty as” Fritzl and “destroying the future of our children”.

The bishop today denied he was accusing those who ignore climate change of being child abusers, but said Fritzl was “the most extreme form” of a common selfish streak in humankind. “In fact you could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is - we are in effect locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key,” he wrote in the letter distributed around the Diocese of Lichfield. Read more

And Libby Purves asks the right question:


This is the Bishop of Stafford. And today's burning question is "Why do they do it?" Why are Anglican bishops (in particular) so desperate to claw at public attention that they use the most extreme, inappropriate, tasteless analogies to make their point? In the whole history and literature of Christianity, is there nothing else they can draw on? Or are they compelled to leap on the bandwagon of the latest (preferably sexual) atrocity? Read more

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Is Fair Trade unfair?

From the Christian Research Briefing:

FairTrade is “unfair”

The Adam Smith Institute (ASI), a leading free market think-tank has published a report “Unfair Trade” that criticises Fairtrade for doing little to aid economic development, focusing instead on sustaining farmers in their current state. ASI argues that free trade is the most effective poverty reduction strategy. However, Christian organisations in support of Fairtrade products have slammed ASI’s claims that the scheme is little more than ‘marketing hype’. Both Christian Aid and Tearfund say the criticisms are unfounded and that Fairtrade is improving the lives of thousands in developing countries. “Unfair Trade” can be download from and some of the criticisms of it can be found on

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Daily Telegraph: The death throes of 20th-century ideology

(Ed: Brilliant. If you read one article today, make it this one.)

[...] I would like to get inside the head of that person - that self-important, officious nebbish of a council official - who actually believes that these are appropriate uses of the anti-terror legislation designed to prevent mass murder. But I can't. I am reduced to the helpless cry of the more excitable sections of the popular prints: "Has the world gone mad?" To which the answer is obviously "No".

You and I, and the millions of despairing Britons who are either personally victimised by these idiotic policies or who sympathise with those who have been, can see clearly not only that common sense and proportionality are vanishing commodities in public policy, but that those in power seem to be losing their grip on recognisable reality.

So who is it, then, that is technically insane? Lots of people, obviously: this mania has infected whole swaths of the governing and public administrative classes.

In order to understand how perfectly ordinary functionaries - and even some seemingly lucid politicians - have come to be swept up in mass psychosis, we need to understand what all these various instances of it (not to mention dozens of others, which there is no space to list here) have in common. What is the thread that runs through the obtuse failure to understand the consequences of not collecting rubbish, of making the police (and the hospitals) conform to Soviet-style production targets, and of using draconian espionage techniques on blameless citizens?

It is the confusion, the desperate disorientation of a collapsing belief system. What we are living through is nothing other than the death throes of 20th-century ideology: the idea that the state is the only repository of civic virtue and moral authority.

The notion that Big Government (whether in the central or the local form) could solve all social problems, and through its interventions achieve absolute justice and harmony, is collapsing. And in its last moments, in its disbelief and agony at its own failure, it is lashing out in every direction: if the earlier measures haven't dealt with crime/public disorder/anti-social behaviour/under-performing hospitals/insufficient recycling, we must add yet more layers of official interference.

If government fails to achieve its objectives, it must be because it isn't doing enough, isn't being sufficiently pro-active - so let's pass another law, bring in a further layer of intrusion, take away another dimension of personal responsibility from community life.

But somehow, everything that government does makes things worse: leads to more perverse consequences and unforeseen complications. And the panic increases and the desperation grows and we get yet more laws and rules and targets and misapplied regulations.

Because they have taken so much power over our lives, we feel free to blame the governing classes for everything that goes wrong. And they feel they must address our every difficulty because everything is their fault. (Indeed, their interventions so frequently exacerbate our problems that we are actually quite right to blame them much of the time.)

When there is a real crisis - not just dog poo or over-loaded wheelie bins - the solution always follows the same formula: take more power away from the people. Read more
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