Friday, 20 March 2009

The Anglican Network in Canada - a great burden lifted

[...] The 76 clergy, including four archdeacons and the three bishops, of the Anglican Network in Canada met in the first week of March for their fourth annual clergy retreat at a beautiful retreat centre just inside the USA south of Vancouver. They came from across Canada. Many had been part of the Network for just over a year. Some had joined in the last few months when their churches had voted to leave the ACoC. Had it been a painful experience? Those I spoke with said it had been just the opposite - a sense that a great burden had been lifted from their shoulders in dealing with a church that was well on the way to apostasy. It was such a new experience for them to attend a clergy retreat where they were not intimidated into silence for fear of what people might say from the front, or might say about them in response to their straightforward biblical faith.

A significant strength to this movement is St John’s Church Shaughnessy where a succession of evangelical pastors - Harry Robinson, now retired, Steve James, now a vicar in Manchester and now David Short from Australia - have not only built up a congregation of 700, but trained young people in leading churches and church plants so that many of these orthodox clergy are people who at some stage have been through St Johns. A teacher at St Johns for over 20 years has been Dr Jim Packer. While he was a great loss to Evangelical Anglicans in England when he migrated to teach in Vancouver, it can now be seen that God had his purpose in placing him at a strategic situation for when this crisis developed. Read more

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NI: No prosecution over 'gay' remarks

A Northern Ireland assembly member will not face prosecution over comments she made about homosexuals last year.

Iris Robinson, chair of the Stormont health committee, called for homosexuals to seek psychiatric counselling. Read more

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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Church of England on brink of 'losing' 24 million 'members'

Watch this Sky video and read the news report at Times Online about nurse John Hunt who is trying to get his baptism into the Church of England rescinded, with the support of the National Secular Society.

The case is significant because it could ultimately cost the Church of England and the other Anglican churches in the UK nearly all of their 25,336,000 official members, as recorded by the World Council of Churches, as counted by the Wakeham Commission on reform of the House of Lords and even by the Anglican Communion itself.

The Church of England claims it does not use baptismal figures in counting its membership, but clearly they are used by other bodies, and where bodies do use these figures, they are supplied by the church.

Dr Hunt does not want the Church of England to enjoy special privileges based on 25 million members counted by baptisms carried out on babies when, judging by church attendance of 1.1 million, most of these grown-up babies no longer profess. Read more
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Melanie Phillips: Beware The New Axis Of Evangelicals And Islamists

Melanie Phillips says there is a dangerous new alliance between anti-Israel Christians and radical Muslim groups, often plotting in secret against their common enemy

Last weekend the Revd Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water appeared at an anti-Israel meeting with an Islamist called Ismail Patel. Patel has not only accused Israel of ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’ but considers Disney to be a Jewish plot and supports Hamas, Iran and Syria.

Sizer is a virulent opponent of Christian Zionism and of Israel, which he has said he hopes will disappear just as did the apartheid regime in South Africa. He has also applauded Iranian President Ahmadinejad for having ‘looked forward to the day when Zionism ceased to exist’. Nevertheless, the appearance of an Anglican churchman on a pro-Islamist platform in Britain is a new and significant development. The Church of England recently banned its clergy from joining the BNP; should it not equally ban them from siding with the forces of Islamofascism?

Sizer’s participation, however, must be seen in the context of a disturbing realignment in the services of the forces of darkness against the free world: the emergence of an axis between a body of evangelicals, the hard left, the Islamists — and the far right.

Last July, a discreet meeting was held by a group of influential Anglican evangelicals to co-ordinate a new church approach towards Islam. The meeting was convened by Bryan Knell, head of the missionary organisation Global Connections, and others from a group calling itself Christian Responses to Islam in Britain. The 22 participants, who met at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire, were sworn to secrecy. The aim of the meeting was to develop the ‘grace approach to Islam’, which ‘tries to let Muslims interpret Islam rather than telling them what their religion teaches’. The meeting had in its sights those ‘aggressive’ Christians who were ‘increasing the level of fear’ in many others by talking about the threat posed by radical Islam.

The aim was thus to discredit and stifle those Christians who warn against the Islamisation of Britain and Islam’s threat to the church. Those who do so include the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, the Africa specialist Baroness Cox, the Islam expert Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and the Maranatha Ministry. A few weeks ago, Dr Sookhdeo became a spectacular victim of precisely such a discrediting process. Dr Sookhdeo, an Anglican canon, a Muslim convert and one of this country’s premier authorities on Islam, runs the Barnabas Fund, an aid agency helping persecuted Christians. He has written many books about Islam of which the latest is Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam. Read more

Read some responses here.

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Libby Purves: Josef Fritzl is the limit, the death of hope

It is a disconcerting moment when your liberal conscience hits the buffers and you are consumed by pure rage and hatred for a stranger. I supposed that I had typically modern, moderate, evolved ideas about civilisation and justice; I support prison reform, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation, am glad to live in a society whose criminal justice system takes account of serious mental illness.

Yet when those beliefs come up against Josef Fritzl, I and many other women I talk to find that every ideal goes up like straw, destroyed in the heat of pure, unadulterated hatred.

Intellectually, I am glad he has had a trial and a defence lawyer to speak for him. Emotionally - and it is real emotion - I want him dead. No, worse than dead: tormented for life, not snugged down in some cosy mental hospital but imprisoned, humiliated, preferably flogged, confronted daily by what he did. I can raise no enthusiasm for the “suicide watch” he is on, and would blame his guards not one bit if they turned away to eat their sandwiches. Nor am I glad a psychiatrist has been standing by to cheer him up in the gaps during his trial.

I do not believe, as he would like us to, that the experience of watching the video evidence from his daughter was punishment enough, and made him realise “for the first time” what his “unfulfilled needs” forced - ha! forced! - him to do. I think that is a load of self-serving hooey. Read more
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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Confessing Anglicans plan summer UK meeting

From the latest REFORM newsletter:

Confessing Anglicans

Following the meeting at All Souls last July which informed us about the results of GAFCON (the Anglican meeting in Jerusalem last June), steps are being taken to build a movement here in the UK to put orthodox belief back at the centre of Anglicanism. Some planning meetings have already been held under the chairmanship of Paul Perkin and a big event to launch the movement is planned for 6th July in London. If you are in a position of church leadership or have a major role in your church (eg church warden), then please put the date in your diary. You will not want to miss this. It is hoped that we will have encouragement from international speakers and then clear examples of how we can make progress in the British Isles. The focus of the day will be very much on making the most of our Anglican identity to promote the gospel.

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Philip Pullman faces his daemons

[...] His anger towards God remains undimmed. It can sound frightening and immoderate, given his impeccably polite diction. The occasional thud of an F-word is really very funny. His rage comes across as that of someone with an authority problem - someone who has evidently exercised his own as a teacher and a father with restraint. Was there a clue about all this when he mentioned the man who helped to bring him up before his mother remarried and took him off to North Wales - his grandfather, a Norfolk clergyman of the old school? No; it's unlikely that he's responsible for Pullman's take on the Almighty since he was “a man I really loved, one whom people looked up to and trusted”.

Besides, it's not really God he vilifies but the people who do terrible things in the name of religion. Yet aren't there other belief systems he should be fingering? The Magisterium of his trilogy is analogous to the historic Roman Catholic Church, which is arguably less menacing than modern Islamic extremism. “Well,” he replies, “it would be dishonest of me to start writing about Muslims or Jews, as I don't know about them. I don't even know the Catholic tradition. You call it a soft target. It is now, but go back a few hundred years and it was that that burnt you if you got on the wrong side. We are living in a little bubble of time. It might not last much longer, but it is a bubble of time that is still warmed by background radiation from the Enlightenment. We are very fortunate to live in a time and place where you don't get dismembered for having the wrong political convictions, and we should be thoroughly grateful for it every day of our lives.”

When people talk of his books and about those characters of his who carry their daemons like visible souls, they talk also of spirituality. They may know less of his views than of his creations, but it is a good job he can't hear them as this is what he says of the S-word: “I never use it. I never know what it means. It could mean any one of a whole raft of things, from vague feelings of emotional uplift...and then you're off into the realms of the ‘intense inane', as Shelley called it. I find it almost unbearably stupid when people talk about exploring their spirituality because I don't know what the f*** they mean. I think they mean ‘I'm no end of a fine fellow and you ought to respect me because I've got a higher dimension than you material people'.” Read more
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Jade Goody and sons baptized by Buckhurst Hill minister

Read here on the Diocesan Website.

Jade Goody and her sons, Bobby and Freddie, were baptised today at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea by The Revd Corinne Brixton, Associate Minister of St John the Baptist Church in Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

The Revd Corinne Brixton has said: "Baptism is a sign of trust in Jesus and a sign of God’s immense love for us. We hope and pray that taking this step of baptism will bring new comfort and hope to Jade, Bobby, Freddie and the rest of the family."

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Chelmsford Diocese votes against 'racist' BNP

From Hope not hate (this does not appear to be on the Diocesan website yet):

That the Synod of the Diocese of Chelmsford calls upon the parishes and people of the diocese to respond to God's call to love our neighbour, to serve all His people and to build His Kingdom. As we live this out, we urge that all take an active part in responding to the challenge posed by the BNP and similar racist political parties.

Church members are reminded to encourage all people of goodwill to register and cast their votes, not least because this reduces the proportion of votes which go a political party whose racist foundation is incompatible with Christian discipleship.

Parishes and people are urged to work with ecumenical and other partners to promote Christian values in all political dialogue and in particular:

* To ensure that respect, equality and justice for all people is part of the contribution made by parishes to local dialogue;
* To ensure that no literature or promotional material from any racist political party is permitted in any parish building nor placed on any parish notice board;
* To make respect for all people a component of regular Christian teaching, including through the observance of Racial Justice Sunday;
* To promote participation in public life, including standing for political office, as a vocation for some Christians;
* To co-operate with other groups and organisations working towards these goals;
* To urge all major political parties to address the issues which draw people to vote for far-right political parties.

This Synod agrees that this motion be circulated to all parishes and shared ecumenically in advance of forthcoming elections in Essex and East London.

Passed overwhelmingly by Chelmsford Diocesan Synod on March 7th 2009.

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Monday, 16 March 2009

Words not what they used to be in the post-Windsor Anglican Communion

Friday, Mar 13, 2009 – Church of England newspaper

Playing with words

Words are no longer what they used to be in the post-Windsor Anglican Communion.

Am I just being nostalgic or can I really remember a time when we more or less knew the meaning of words across the Church?

Now it seems we are locked into a war over words as much as a battle of theological ideas. The Windsor Report pretty much started this by delivering an imprecise, committee-driven document by which words like ‘regret’ as opposed to more traditional ones like ‘repent’ were carefully inserted in order to secure agreement around a process, rather than a conclusion.

In the American House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans when The Episcopal Church faced its deadline to deal with terms like moratoria, ‘words’ were fiercely debated. How far could the House of Bishops go to deliver words which might placate the Anglican Communion without giving anything away? This was a studied course of dishonesty.

Now we have the most egregious example of all in the declaration by the Canadian diocese of Ottawa that it will allow a parish to perform same-sex blessings in order to ‘discern’ the way forward. Needless to say, it’s an odd kind of ‘discernment’ to do something you are not agreed upon in order to reach agreement. It seems like a recipe for division and conflict.

Furthermore, the diocese claims that it is not violating the moratorium on samesex blessings. “There is nothing in the moratorium that says we cannot continue to discern,” said Archdeacon Ross Moulton of Ottawa. It seems unnecessary to point out that the very meaning of the word ‘moratorium’ rules out this kind of discernment. But Archdeacon Moulton has a different dictionary it seems.

The press release from the diocese explaining its actions is even more ludicrous:

“Just as the Church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the benefits of the ordination of women to the priesthood until it experienced the priestly ministry of women, Bishop Chapman has taken the process of discernment with regards to same-sex blessings to a place beyond discussion.”

This is, of course, simply not true in either the Anglican Church of Canada or the Church of England. Only in America did irregular and illegal ordinations of women occur leading later to the church being bounced into making a decision.

And here was I thinking that theological discussion was how the church reached conclusions. Instead it seems that ‘actions’ take the church to a ‘place beyond discussion’.

So here is the beginning of a glossary of words which have taken on a new slippery meaning in the post-Windsor Communion.

Authorise - This is a code word in modern Anglican documents. The call by Windsor for a moratorium on same-blessings might seem pretty plain and simple. If you insert the word ‘authorise’ the moratorium takes on a completely new meaning. In other words same-sex blessings can continue as long as new liturgies for same-sex blessings are not ‘authorised’. It’s a ‘get out of jail’ free card for the American Church.

Baptism - the most basic sacrament of the worldwide church and one on which previously there was almost universal, ecumenical agreement. ‘Baptism’ now has become mixed up with a ‘rights-based’ philosophy. If you are ‘baptised’, there is no further need for transformation, you have arrived. To deny any of the ministries, sacraments of the Church to anyone who is baptized is to question their baptism as well as their basic human rights. This is despite a very strong authoritative tradition in Anglicanism of excluding, both from sacraments and ministry, those whose lifestyle does not conform to gospel standards.

Listening - another word which has taken on a new meaning in the context of ‘listening’ to the ‘experience of homosexual persons’. ‘Listening’ isn’t just about ‘hearing’ what other people say and being allowed to disagree with them. After all, you haven’t ‘listened’ properly, you haven’t ‘heard’ about the authenticity and integrity of their experience, if you continue to disagree. The only way to ‘listen’ properly is to agree with those you are ‘hearing’ from. Needless to say ‘listening’ goes on and on until there is universal agreement.

Process - perhaps the slipperiest word of all cf. the listening process, the Windsor process. You might think there was something open-ended about a process, but not in Anglicanism. Process is clearly designed to avoid conflict, in fact to avoid divisive discussion altogether. Consequently, the Episcopal Church can say with confidence that in the election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson the process was followed as though this legitimized the decision. Process is therefore a means both of avoiding conflict and of delegitimizing opposition. So ‘process’ means to avoid conflict, and to trump theological decisionmaking. The final aspect of ‘process’ is a tactic of delay. The unending process (eg the Windsor process) delays any principled decision-making until hopefully we’ve all forgotten what decisions needed to be taken.

I intend to continue this glossary of Anglicanism in future weeks. Readers with further ‘slippery words’ can email me:

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Sunday, 15 March 2009

Hindu extremists wreck plans for statue of "Christian" Charlie Chaplin

He fought fascism in the 1940s armed with little more than a crumpled suit, a bemused look and funny walk. Now Charlie Chaplin is embroiled in another battle of beliefs, this time with India’s Hindu extremists.

On Friday, Hindu radicals in the southern state of Karnataka stymied plans to erect a 20m (67ft) statue of the film star, on the grounds that he was a Christian. The move came amid a backlash against Western culture that has raised concerns that parts of India are at risk of being "Talebanised" by Hinduism’s far Right.

The Chaplin sculpture was being built at a cost of about 3.5 million rupees (£48,600) near the town of Udupi, the site of several Hindu temples. The structure was to form part of a film set, but work ground to a halt when Hindu activists chased the workers away and buried the building materials.

Hemant Hegde, the film-maker, told local reporters that he abandoned the project after being threatened by a mob of about 50 people, whose leader told him: "We will not allow you to construct a statue of a Christian actor." Read more
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Inside the sex club for girls (or, how St Paul was right)

Camilla asked me first. “Would you go to Killing Kittens?” she said, curling her long legs into her chest conspiratorially and squaring her large green eyes up to mine. She had heard about the club, an exclusive members-only sex club run by and targeted at women and couples, and held in opulent splendour — a business that sells itself as a playpen for “the world’s sexual elite”. “Absolutely not,” I said, wondering when it became the norm for a night with the girls to end in a three-way with a criminal barrister and a Fulham blonde in an edible playsuit. “I’d never do anything like that.” And, before I could catch myself, I added a resounding “ever”.

But, since that question, I’d been approached by friends giggling into drinks, or confiding in me over supper, four times. All these girls are public-school products: intelligent, beautiful, high-flying. Girls I thought would dismiss out of hand the concept of going to a club to, as far as I could grasp, dress up, titillate and have sex with numerous men and women. Nonetheless, a month later I’m in a silky pink dress and a sparkling eye mask, surrounded by women in a towering Mayfair mansion ticking my name off the guest list on a table strewn with condoms and — bizarrely — Quality Street chocolates. I got in not, sadly, because I am in any way “sexually elite”, but because the club is run by Emma Sayle, an old roommate of mine from school — now a 30-year-old, 6ft blonde business entrepreneur, but back then a super-bright, sporty girls’ girl.

A week earlier, I’d caught up with her in a London cafe to try and grasp what she was up to.

If I had got the basics right — that she had chosen to profit from women by creating an environment for them to have sex with men — then this didn’t tally with the girl I knew at all. She explained the club rules, rules shared by Belle Baise, a similar swinging club based in Nottingham. Members — single women and couples from an AB demographic, but no single men — have to be conventionally good-looking; they must arrive masked, a man can’t get in unless he’s taken there by a woman; if a woman doesn’t bat her lashes and lead him away for a spot of “playing” then there’s not much he can do but watch. Even this he has to do in a couple, as parties have minders circulating to ensure there aren’t any lone males perving quietly in a corner. No drugs — you get thrown out if you’re found taking them. No cameras or mobile phones — this is a strictly secret event, so much so that the location of the venue is only released the day before a party — which makes it somewhat odd that she has allowed the Sunday Times Magazine photographer in at all.

Ed: And that's probably about all you need to read if you take St Paul's word for it, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

But if you ever thought he was exaggerating,
read more

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