Thursday, 16 October 2008

Wycliffe theologian: Forcing clergy to wear robes "absurd"

Clergy should not have to wear robes during services because such rules are "absurd in the 21st century", according to a leading theologian.

Garments such as the cassock and surplice are a form of "power dressing" which reinforce class divisions and prevent the wearer getting the Lord's message across, said the Rev Andrew Atherstone.

In a report titled Clergy Robes and Mission Priorities he called on the Church of England to allow ministers and parishioners to decide what dress code was appropriate.

"The existing law, which makes robes obligatory for all, belongs to a bygone world. In the 21st century Anglican ministers must at last be given the freedom to decide their own clothing, in consultation with their congregations, based on their local setting," said Mr Atherstone, a tutor at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University.

"Robes can be a barrier to mission, a hindrance rather than a help." Read more

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A Jewish argument for monarchy

[...] The Whig statesmen who framed the Act of Settlement did not object to the presence of Roman Catholics, and if they scoffed at Catholic beliefs (which they did), in practice they tolerated those who followed the Catholic religion. But that religion was and had for centuries been associated with tyrannical and absolute government throughout Europe. Moreover, Catholics owed their ultimate allegiance on this earth to the Bishop of Rome, and to his laws, not those enacted at Westminster.

You may say that the concept of dual nationality is now well understood. So it is. But the papacy has never been the friend of the Jews. We British Jews had our liberties secured in this country by a Protestant establishment, not a Catholic one.

On the back of the latest proposals, the celebrated constitutional lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC is now to be found at the head of those who are arguing for a reform even more radical. Damning the exclusion of Catholics from the throne and the rule of male primogeniture as "blatant contraventions" of the Sex Discrimination and Human Rights Acts - as if these measures possessed some divine right of precedence (so to speak) - Mr Robertson has nailed his colours to the mast: "The next stage", he has declared, is "for the government to challenge the notion of a head of state who achieved the position through inheritance" - in other words, the abolition of the hereditary monarchy and its replacement by an elected presidency.

A gender-neutral monarchy is one thing. But a politicised headship of state is quite another. The strength of the hereditary monarchy is precisely that its succession is not open to political shenanigans. In this way, it gives immeasurable political stability where none might otherwise exist. And if history shows anything, it is that political instability is never good for us diaspora Jews.

British Jewry has prospered under the umbrella of a hereditary monarchy that owes allegiance neither to a domestic politics nor to any foreign potentate. Long may that continue. Read more
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Petition to support Anglican Network in Canada parishes in Vancouver


We, the undersigned, as active clergy and lay members of the Church of England, stand with those parishes in Vancouver that are part of the Anglican Network in Canada, affirming that they are authentically Anglican.
Sign here

Background Description/History:

The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) is an ecclesial (church) body under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, one of 38 jurisdictions in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The ANiC grew out of the Anglican Church in Canada, largely (though not exclusively) because of the latter’s shift in its attitude towards same-sex relationships, away from that of previously-accepted biblical orthodoxy.

Difficulties in the Diocese of New Westminster resulted in a number of Vancouver churches aligning themselves with the ANiC. On July 10, 2008, the bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster invoked Diocesan Canon 15 against the ANiC parishes of St. Matthew’s Abbotsford and St. Matthias and St. Luke’s in Vancouver, effective as of August 25, 2008.

The bishop has purported to dismiss all the Wardens, Trustees and Parish Council members of both parishes and has ordered the clergy to leave the buildings by mid-September. Earlier letters from the diocese demanding the clergy leave the church buildings, suggested that parishioners who support their clergy should leave with them.

The bank accounts of both parishes have been frozen and cheques for staff salaries and payments to missions (among other expenses) cannot be cashed.

It is believed that the two remaining ANiC parishes in Vancouver – Good Shepherd and St. John’s, Shaughnessy – will also be acted against in the near future. (Source:

Revd David Short, the Rector of St John’s Shaughnessy, addressed the REFORM Conference in London on the 15 October 2008, outlining some of the problems they were experiencing.

It was subsequently proposed that a petition should be made available online for those in the Church of England who wished to express the view that the ANiC parishes in Vancouver remain part of the Anglican Communion, despite the actions being taken against them.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The BBC will tackle Islam differently to Christianity, admits its Director General

BBC director general Mark Thompson has admitted that the broadcaster has to tackle Islam differently to Christianity and is reluctant to broadcast jokes about it.

He suggested that coverage needed to consider the feelings of Muslims because they are a religious minority, and had not fully integrated in to British society.

Mr Thompson was responding to comments made by comedian Ben Elton earlier this year who accused the BBC of being too scared to joke about Islam.

He said the corporation was too concerned with political correctness to poke fun at imams but were happy to satirise vicars.

Speaking at an annual theology lecture for religious think tank Theos, Mr Thompson said: 'My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC's religion coverage and widely respected and followed.

'What Christian identity feels like to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.

'There's no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don't want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.'

Elton made his comments earlier this year in an interview with Christian magazine Third Way when he was asked if too much deference was shown to religious people.

'I think it all starts with people nodding whenever anybody says, 'As a person of faith ...',' he said.

'And I believe that part of it is due to the genuine fear that the authorities and the community have about provoking the radical elements of Islam," he said.

'There's no doubt about it, the BBC will let vicar gags pass but they would not let imam gags pass. They might pretend that it's, you know, something to do with their moral sensibilities, but it isn't. It's because they're scared. I know these people.' Read more
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3,000 Church of England worshippers may defect to overseas provinces, Reform warns

Up to 3,000 worshippers may defect from the Church of England to become part of more traditional Anglican provinces overseas, a leading conservative has warned.

The Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform network of evangelicals, said some clergy and congregations may make the "radical" move of secession from the established church because of the liberal direction in which it is moving on women bishops and homosexuality.

He claimed the differences are now so great that there effectively two religions within the church, one liberal and one conservative, and that at least 25 parishes are already seeking "alternative oversight" because their bishop does not share their beliefs in tradition and the Bible.

He said he hoped this could be provided by creating new "religious communities", by getting conservative bishops from other dioceses to provide oversight, or by employing retired English bishops to take over the care of those who did not want to be led by a liberal prelate.

But Mr Thomas added that if this were not possible, clergy could be consecrated by orthodox Anglican bishops in foreign countries before returning to their parishes - which may then lose their Church of England name.

This has already happened in the USA as clergy have abandoned the ultra-liberal Episcopal Church, which is run by a woman and where an openly gay bishop has been elected and same-sex unions blessed, in favour of churches in Africa and South America.

But it would break the moratorium on "border-crossing" demanded by the Archbishop of Canterbury as part of a rescue plan to save the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion from a complete split.

Speaking during the annual conference of Reform in central London, where the plans are being debated, Mr Thomas said: "We are actively going to take forward the agenda of alternative episcopal oversight. We are no longer able to sit back and wait to see what happens.

"The most radical scenario which I don't discount, but neither am I saying we are pressing for, is where you have a shortlist of names and ask overseas persons to consecrate them so they cater for individuals in this country." Read more

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Church of England Evangelical Council expresses support for Bishop Bob Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Church of England Evangelical Council issued this statement after their meeting on October 10th.

CEEC deplores the recent deposition of Bishop Bob Duncan and expresses full support for him and sends warm greetings and prayers to him, the Diocese of Pittsburgh and their new home in the province of the Southern Cone.

We endorse the following two statements from six diocesan bishops of the Church of England and Anglican Mainstream.

"We declare that we continue to believe that Bishop Bob is a bishop in the Church of God and a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion."


"It is with great sadness that we have learned of the recent vote of TEC House of Bishops to depose the Bishop of Pittsburgh for abandonment of communion. To take such action is hardly in the spirit of the reflections at this year’s Lambeth Conference or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s final presidential address.

"We see this vote as further evidence that The Episcopal Church in the USA in its formal decisions and structures ‘have denied the orthodox faith.’ As the Jerusalem Declaration on behalf of 1100 Anglican church leaders around the world said: ‘We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.’

"Anglicans who adhere to the orthodox faith will continue to welcome and receive the ministry of Bishop Bob Duncan as a faithful Bishop and wish him and the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh the Lord’s blessing in their faithful witness to the gospel."

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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Inquiry established into Lambeth Conference finances

Following reports of a £1.2m shortfall in the funding of this year’s Lambeth Conference, the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners have set up a review, under the independent chairmanship of John Ormerod, a former senior partner of Deloitte, to examine the financial management of the Lambeth Conference.

The team has also been asked to make recommendations regarding the future involvement of the Council and the Board of the Church Commissioners in assisting the financing of meetings of the Lambeth Conference. A spokesman for the Church of England told the Gazette: "The inquiry is due to report back to the Council and the Board early in 2009 with a preliminary report on the financial difficulties and how these arose. A final report, examining the way forward, will be produced in summer 2009. The Council and Board have indicated that the inquiry’s report should be published." The membership of the inquiry will be: John Ormerod; the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and Christina Baxter (both Archbishops’ Council); and Timothy Walker, Third Church Estates Commissioner.

Last August, the Board and the Council met to discuss an approach from the Lambeth Conference Company - the body with responsibility for the finances and administration of the Lambeth Conference 2008 - for financial help.

The Company had assured the Board and the Council that it was making approaches throughout the Anglican Communion to meet the full cost of this year’s Conference. However, it was not confident that these would generate funds sufficiently quickly for it to meet all of its obligations as they fell due.

The Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council agreed in August to make available to the Company up to £600,000 each as required to enable the Company to honour its commitments while fundraising efforts continued. Read more
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Monday, 13 October 2008

Iraqi Christians under threat

From Canon Andrew White in Baghdad


It is with great sadness that we report the growing violence against Christians in Iraq’s Northern region of Mosul which includes the dominant Christian area of Nineveh. Whilst violence against Christians has abated in Baghdad, the success of the "Surge" has resulted in terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda moving North.

Although Christianity has been in this land since its beginning nearly 2000 years ago, the Christian faith is often associated with the West and thus Iraqi Christians are often wrongly seen as being in relationship with the Coalition forces. In the last few days many Christians have been killed in the Mosul/Nineveh region and several thousand have tried to flee to the Kurdish areas. The Iraqi Government has responded by dramatically increasing the Police presence in the area and we wait to see if this will have any effect on the reduction of violence in the area.

In our own Anglican church in Baghdad many people today expressed their grave fear and concern about their relatives in the Nineveh area. Some have been killed and others have had their homes destroyed and all their possessions taken.

We are in a very serious situation and the quiet of the past few weeks has now gone.

The Rev'd Canon Andrew P B White

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Sunday, 12 October 2008

Hanged for being a Christian in Iran

A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.
Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the European Convention of Human Rights. It is even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution, which states that no one may be molested simply for his beliefs.
And yet few politicians or clerics in Iran see any contradiction between a law mandating the death penalty for changing religion and Iran's constitution. There has been no public protest in Iran against it.
David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing. Read more
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