Saturday, 28 June 2008

‘Gay row’ ordinand to be ordained in July

Richard Wood, the ordinand at the centre of a ‘gay row’ last year in the Diocese of Chelmsford, is to be ordained on Saturday 5th July by the Bishop of Barking acting on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Richard’s ordination was halted at the last minute in 2007 when he said that he could not receive communion with the Bishop of Chelmsford over the latter’s role as a patron of the pro-gay campaign group, Changing Attitude. Richard, and his vicar, the Revd Mike Reith of Dagenham Parish Church, made it quite clear that although they accepted the lawful authority of the Bishop in his office, they did not feel able to share personal fellowship in the Lord’s Supper with someone they felt was imperilling people’s salvation and denying biblical teaching.

For the past twelve months, however, Richard has been working in Dagenham and living in the curate’s accommodation, whilst negotiations and discussions continued about his position.

It has now been accepted on all sides that there is no challenge to the Bishop’s authority from either Richard or Mike Reith, and no impediment to Richard’s ordination. The Bishop has accordingly given his direction that the ordination may proceed.

The ordination will take place at Dagenham Parish Church at 7.30pm.

Revd John Richardson

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Thursday, 26 June 2008

GAFCON: Principles, not personalities says British Bishop

Bishop Wallace Benn says the GAFCON discussions about the future of the Anglican Church will be about biblical principles, not personalities.

Bishop Benn of Lewes, England gave a GAFCON media briefing an update on the work being done by the Gospel and Leadership workshop and also explained why he turned down the invitation to attend the Lambeth conference. He said that skipping the decennial meeting is much less about personalities than principles.

“Servant leadership is not about status or elevation. It is following the steps of Jesus, being gospel-focussed and remaining faithful to apostolic teaching” he told international media.

“I do not think I can pretend to be in fellowship with those who have persecuted my friend Dr. Packer in the Diocese New Westminster, Canada. I cannot be in fellowship with those who have denied the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. But I also respect those faithful brethren who are going to Lambeth; I respect their decision and will not condemn it.”

Asked whether there were any other challenges the Anglican Communion was grappling with, other than the ordination of an openly gay bishop and blessings of same sex unions, Bishop Benn named the questioning in some quarters of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the contention in some others that, “the church wrote the Bible and therefore the church can re-write the Bible according to 21st Century fashion”. Read more

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Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Times: Anglican Church schism recedes over gay issue with African leaders

The prospect of schism in the worldwide Anglican Church receded as African leaders meeting in Jerusalem stepped back from the brink and declared they are not seeking to start a new church.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya and leader of that country's four million Anglicans, and the Ugandan Primate Archbishop Henry Orombi confirmed last night that there will be no split.

Archbishop Nzimbi's comments are especially significant because he is heading the committee that will draw up the final communique to be issued on Sunday night.

It also confirms the word behind the scenes in Israel and as disclosed by The Times on Monday, that the agenda is now reform from within rather than starting a breakaway conservative Anglican church that excludes homosexuals or tried to "convert" them to heterosexuality.

The emerging figure that is crucial in the softening of the line on schism is the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US and African conservatives to Australia. Significantly, the Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who heads the US conservative grouping Common Cause, is not in Israel although he is named as one of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) leadership team in the programme. Read more
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GAFCON Live Video Stream

Go here (though my Virgin 0.5mbps broadband doesn't make this a realistic possibility out here in the sticks).

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Guardian: Vicious hot air currents

Maybe it's being in a company of saints - a most un-Anglican communion of the like-minded. But the rhetoric of the gathering of conservative churchmen in Jerusalem seeking to wrest control of worldwide Anglicanism from the woolly nuances of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the wicked, gay-friendly liberalism of the Church of England and US Episcopal Church is already spiralling upwards on a vicious current of hot air.

Two days into the great realignment, we've already had the archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda denying that gays are ever persecuted in their countries - and failing to find the words to condemn the violence if they are; voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals; and lip-smacking assertions that the old church has fallen prey to apostasy, brokenness and turmoil, in its attempt to "acquiesce to destructive modern, cultural and political dictates".

Adding to the fervour, Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester (who flies in today), has announced his tender conscience will not allow him to associate with those Americans who ordained the openly (as opposed to privately) gay bishop Gene Robinson five years ago. He also says he will boycott next month's gathering of the world's Anglican bishops, called by Williams in Canterbury.

You may find it hard to recognise the C of E in all this. It runs counter to most of the tolerant traditions Anglicanism espouses as part of its constitutional accommodation with the secular state that founded it. The trouble with the coalition of interests meeting in the Middle East - in defiance of the wishes of local bishops who thought more religious conflict was the last thing Jerusalem needed - is they have Got Religion. Read more
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Clergy find Anglican Church's investigation of gay ceremony 'disgraceful'

[...] The Church of England, like many other religious institutions, is experiencing a shuffling of policy towards the LGBT community. The consecration of openly gay priest Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire by the U.S. Episcopal Church—the U.S. branch of the Anglican Church—caused movements toward a potential schism by more socially conservative bishops.

In October 2007, an Anglican Church diocese in Canada voted for the approval of same-sex blessings. The vote is not binding since the Canadian church does not allow dioceses to decide whether or not perform gay blessings on the basis of "preserving unity." Nevertheless, the vote reflects the ongoing internal struggle within the church.

The Church of England is facing more internal strife after bishops voted to approve the consecration of women. Over 500 priests have threatened to leave the church in protest. Two women in Australia have already been ordained as bishops.

There is a struggle within the Church of England, but behind its religious veneer there is a struggle for equality and justice. The contradiction between backward religious beliefs and the advances made toward the liberation of women and the LGBT community has allowed more progressive clergy members to force a debate on topics long considered taboo.

Traditional institutions under capitalism represent the reactionary ideologies of a class system based on division and exploitation. A united, working-class movement against the system that espouses such ideologies must counter it with a scientific view of the world and wage a struggle against all forms of bigotry and inequality. Read more
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Guardian: Clerical errors

[...] Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria called on the church to "banish the errors plaguing our communion", not to "acquiesce to destructive modern cultural and political dictates" and to rescue the communion from "apostates". If significant sections of the communion cannot now even bring themselves to sit in the same room with the rest because of disagreements - a Lambeth boycott movement is gathering pace - then one has to ask if the ties that once bound are now meaningful. In that case, what is the point of keeping the communion together any longer?

The issue on which all of this currently hinges is the status of openly gay people. Over the past half century, civil society in many parts of the world, including ours, has broken free from the long tradition of hostility and discrimination against gay people - and both society and individual lives are immeasurably the better for it. Now, inevitably and rightly, the same process is taking place in the churches, with pressure for the election of openly gay clergy and bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. In the past, the church has managed such issues by covering them up. But on this issue in these times, that is no longer possible.
insert blockquote
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has battled to hold both his church and the wider communion together in the face of these pressures. That is one of his jobs - and it has not been a dishonourable effort. Yet it seems clear that it has only delayed an inevitable - and ultimately necessary - confrontation over this issue. Dr Williams has not, contrary to the views of Archishop Akinola, led the church into this. But, now that it is coming, he has a profound responsibility to lead the church out of it, happily and without fear. The question facing Anglicans - and facing other religious groups too - is whether theirs is a faith that is loving enough to treat gay people as equals. If the communion cannot hold together in the face of this question, then so be it. Unity matters as long as the cause is a good one. If the cause is not good, then maybe nor is the unity. Read more

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Monday, 23 June 2008

The Guardian: An unheavenly silence on homophobia

Barely 24 hours into the Global Anglican Futures conference (Gafcon) in Jerusalem and the assembled leaders have already exhausted every synonym for schism, without uttering the word itself, to describe the impact of actions taken by the US Episcopal church and the Anglican church of Canada. The meeting, lasting eight days and costing £2.5m, is the climax of ultimatums and summits, spanning a decade, about the ordination and consecration of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Last night, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, said the Gafcon movement would liberate people from religious bondage and would offer a spiritual haven for those who could not live under a "revisionist leadership". It sounds appealing to the millions of Anglicans disillusioned with western churches. But a press conference revealed acute differences of opinion between the bishops, especially, and most worryingly, on the subject of raping and torturing homosexuals.

A question from Iain Baxter, a media representative from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, aroused expressions of disbelief and outright denial from the primates. The name of his organisation raised a discomfiting titter. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or death.

Archbishops from these countries were on the panel. They said they could not influence government policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation, nor could they condone homosexual behaviour because their churches would be shut down. They added one could not break the taboos of African society without suffering the consequences.

Presumably, these cultural constraints justify the punishment meted out to Prossy Kakooza, Baxter's example of someone tortured because of her sexual orientation. She was arrested, marched naked for two miles to a police station, raped and beaten. Read more
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The Guardian: Williams accused of leading church into crisis

A senior Anglican archbishop last night accused Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, of apostasy, manipulation and leading the church into turmoil, as a summit of traditionalists convened in Jerusalem with a mission to "rescue" the Anglican church from its liberal leadership.

The Rt Rev Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, called for a new "roadmap" for the 77-million-strong Anglican communion on the opening day of an eight-day meeting that threatens to upstage next month's Lambeth conference, the summit meeting of Anglican bishops held every 10 years.

In the latest blow to Williams's plans for Lambeth, the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, became the most senior Church of England figure to decline an invitation, joining a growing boycott movement by scores of bishops unhappy with the liberal agenda of some provinces of the church.

Most of the 280 bishops at the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon) have declared their intention to stay away from Lambeth, but Nazir-Ali's rebellion is the greatest victory yet for conservative African and American religious leaders opposed to gay priests and same-sex marriages.

In a speech last night, Akinola set out the conservative case with an excoriating attack on Williams. During an hour-long address, he criticised Williams for his "revisionist leadership" and for leaving the communion in an "unprecedented brokenness and turmoil". Read more
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A N Wilsom: Gay Bishops have changed my mind

[...] For 30 years, Bishop Moore had a secret lover - whom Honor met after her father's death. The bishop dated other women, as well as having an alcohol-fuelled gay life. Obviously, for the daughter who revered her father, it was shattering stuff.

But the novelistic complexity of it all never once made me feel that he would have been a better man if - an impossible thing at that date - he had "come out" and continued in office as a practising gay bishop. Indeed, the "hypocrisy" and the torment were almost certainly part of what made him such a powerful pastor, preacher and bishop.

Then I turned to Bishop Gene Robinson's In the Eye of the Storm (Canterbury Press). This is the famous Bishop of New Hampshire, who is not being asked to the Lambeth Conference for fear of upsetting the bigots. Whereas I felt that the tormented Bishop Moore's life was marked with the sign of the cross, Bishop Gene's ministry appeared to come marked with one of those smiley faces with which some soppy girls dot their i's.

Like Bishop Moore, Bishop Robinson was married with children. Like Bishop Moore, he is alcoholic. But instead of thinking that torment and concealment and self-criticism are part of life, he seems to believe that the Christian gospel means God accepting everyone as they are - with no suggestion of denying the self, and taking up the cross.

Rather than seeing the collapse of his marriage as central to the story, he raises the issue of "sexuality" to a pinnacle of importance which makes it seem ridiculous. His book is that of an advanced egomaniac. He quotes 1 John 4:18 - "Perfect love casteth out fear" - thereby unintentionally reminding us of the old joke about the person who missed out the numeral 1 in that text, giving the quote not from John's First Epistle, but from the 18th verse of the fourth chapter of the Gospel: "The man whom thou now hast is not thy husband". Read more
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GAFCON/Lambeth Update

(Ed: Interesting comparison of three speeches.)

Normally, Sunday is a sleepy news day in the Anglican communion. Not today, as several Anglican leaders put down markers about the future of the Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes to his home Diocese about his hopes for the upcoming Lambeth Conference:

But what we can say a bit about is the way in which the business is going to be done. The programme, devised by a very gifted and dedicated international team, responds to the widely felt concerns that we ought to get away from too 'parliamentary' and formal a style. It's going to be important that no-one goes home feeling they haven't ever been listened to. So it's important to devise structures that guarantee everyone has a chance to be heard. It's also crucial to build the sort of trust that allows deep and passionate differences to be stated and explored together, with time allowed for getting past the slogans and the surface emotions.

Read it all here.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, there were two notable addresses to the GAFCON conference. First, the Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, Bishop of Jerusalem, urged the participants to act with humility toward unity in Anglican Communion:

I look forward to the Lambeth Conference which is so important to our ongoing life together and for the mission of the Church. Since its inception in 1867, the Lambeth Conference has been the setting for invaluable dialogue about many aspects of our Church’s life, particularly in relation to the changes in the world around us. Together, we have dialogued at Lambeth about war and peace, about industrialization and ecumenism, about poverty and disease, about the faith and order of the Church, and about how together we can overcome the injustices of our world. Throughout its history, the Lambeth Conference has dealt with many difficult issues. At times these issues looked as if they might divide us, but they did not because we persevered in prayer and fellowship, together, with respect and patience.
Read the full text here.

Finally, the Right Rev'd Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, gave opening remarks at GAFCON that took on the Archbishop of Caterbury, as well as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada:
The last major meeting that considered this issue was the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania in February 2007. After long and painful hours of deliberations the primates gave TEC a last chance to clarify unequivocally and adequately their stand by 30th September, 2007.

Strangely, before the deadline, and before the Primates could get the opportunity of meeting to assess the adequacy of the response of TEC and in a clear demonstration of unwillingness to follow through our collective decisions which for many of us was an apparent lack of regard for the Primates, Lambeth Palace in July 2007 issued invitations to TEC bishops including those who consecrated Gene Robinson to attend the Lambeth 2008 conference.

At this point, it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.
Go to Episcopal Cafe here.

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UK Schools: Church expands the holy grail of middle class

Christian state schools – the holy grail of middle-class parents trying to avoid crippling private school fees – are rapidly expanding their numbers.

Oasis Education and the United Learning Trust, two Christian charities, plan a leap in the number of academies they sponsor to 25 each. Their ambitious plans would boost the numbers able to send their children to religious schools, helping to fill pent-up demand for this educational niche.

But the Church of England is to top this. It plans an increase to 30 academies by September next year that would make it England’s biggest academy sponsor.

It is also in discussions on a further 54. David Whittington, head of school development, said the Church expected to meet its 2003 target of creating 100 new secondaries, including academies, by September 2008. Currently the Church of England has 12 open academies, the ULT 13 and Oasis three. Read more
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German Lutherans poised to elect homosexual bishop

German Lutherans may elect their first openly homosexual bishop. Horst Gorski is a senior cleric from Hamburg and is standing for the post of bishop of Schleswig in northern Germany.

The possibility of Gorski's being elected a bishop is dividing German Lutherans. Die Welt newspaper quoted Ulrich Ruess, a pastor in the northern city of Hamburg, who warned, "Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle."

Reuters reports that Gorski is a homosexual activist theologian who has set up "centres" for homosexual clergy. Lutheran officials refuse to take Gorski out of the running, saying that the church has no official stand on homosexuality. The Lutheran World Federation has said it does not intend to get involved in a controversy. LWF General Secretary Reverend Ishmael Noko told Reuters, "We have no position on this issue at the moment." He added that the LWF has commissioned a study on marriage, family and sexuality.

Lutheranism in general is besieged with demands from the homosexual movement for acceptance of their "lifestyle." In 2007, the national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America passed a resolution urging bishops to "refrain from or demonstrate restraint" in disciplining homosexual clergy in "faithful committed same-gender relationships."

Since at least 2007, Swedish Lutherans have offered "blessings" for homosexual partnerings. While Sweden's Lutheran Church has not made any official decision on performing "gay marriages," the church has "blessed" homosexual civil partnerships and welcomed actively homosexual clergy. Read more
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Daily Telegraph: Primate of Nigeria vows to rescue Anglican church from crisis over sexuality

One of the most powerful figures in Anglicanism, the Primate of Nigeria, has vowed to rescue the worldwide church from its crisis over sexuality.

In a rallying cry to the hundreds of traditionalists who have gathered in Jerusalem for a critical summit, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said many in the Communion were "apostates" who were going against their religion by tolerating homosexuality.

He poured scorn on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for his "misleading" comments on Islamic law and claimed he was not interested in what he and other African leaders had to say.

But Archbishop Akinola pledged that he would help Anglican worshippers break free from the spiritual "slavery" they had been placed in by the liberal West, and said the Gafcon conference would answer important questions about what should happen next in the church. Read more
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Minority Report: Gafcon, the gay elephant in the Anglican Church's room

[...] For the next few days all eyes will be on Gafcon to see what kind of statement the conference eventually decides upon. Insiders say it is extremely unlikely that any type of split will be announced but the language will almost certainly be a clear indication that a sizeable proportion of the global Anglican leadership want to see the church's attitudes towards homosexuality and other controversial issues realigned towards a more conservative interpretation.

Then in two weeks time we have the General Synod in York which will begin tentative discussions into the ordination of women bishops. The Church of England has already effectively given the go ahead to women bishops during previous Synods but this year's meeting in York will be the first step towards making that actually happen.

Traditionalists, including many of those going to Gafcon, see women bishops as yet another attack on their conservative beliefs and will undoubtedly fuel those schismist threats further. Others are pushing to create separate parishes and dioceses that can opt out of having a woman bishop should they wish to.

Either way the Anglican Church is looking forward to a summer of discontent and intrigue. Who knows whether the Communion will remain a communion for much longer if the currents disagreements are not figured out soon? Read more
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